Mariam Buchukuri is the head of the organization Shida Kartli Community Foundation for Peace and Development. Mariam has been a community worker since 2010. She implements numerous projects for women’s empowerment.

* * *

I am originally from the village of Tirdznisi, Gori Municipality. Tirdznisi is just a few kilometers away from Ergneti. Living near the occupation line is not an easy thing to do. We regularly whiteness how the Russian military bases are lit every night. We often hear the sound of gunshots and explosions throwing us back to the pain and feeling of war. Locals are often detained on the charge of illegal crossing of so-called border. The beautiful nature left behind the boundary lines is forbidden for us to visit. It’s impossible to adapt to this lifestyle.

Our village got almost completely vacated during the August War of 2018. My family also left Tirdznisi. Initially, we were temporarily housed in one of the school buildings in Temka district, later for some time we lived in the refugee tents in Gori Municipality.

Upon returning to the village we faced a tough picture: The whole infrastructure has been damaged. People have lost hope and all happiness. The whole village was desperate – including both men and women, old or young residents.

The situation in Tirdznisi has been changed since the TASO Foundation and Women’s Information Center entered here.

I got involved in the project as a community worker first. Later in 2012 we established the Shida Kartli Community Foundation bringing together 8 different initiative groups from the village of Tirdznisi and launched more intense activities.

The geographical coverage of the Foundation’s work united 6 villages of Tirdznisi, Meghvrekisi, Tergvisi, Kordi, Flavi and Skra IDP settlement. The purpose of the community fund was to increase women’s participation in the local government and alter the existing environment with our activities.

We have implemented various social and infrastructural projects with the support from donor organizations. Everything was ruined in the village after the August War of 2008. Due to our initiative and with the support from donor organizations, internal roads were graveled and roads to agricultural fields were rehabilitated. We purchased kitchen equipment for the Tirdznisi kindergarten. We acquired a tractor for the population of the village of Tergvisi, Tirdznisi community – they still use this tractor for moving firewood.

We have also implemented the projects for women’s economic empowerment: We provided one woman with several bee families and supported a group of women uniting their own fields to grow maize. By the way, a very good harvest of corn they got that year.

Parts of the project were focused on youth needs and social problems. With the grants under the mentioned projects, we have opened a library in the village of Flavi near to the occupation line. We have arranged a library in the village of Meghvrekisi as well. A playground in the village of Tergvisi was organized and provided with the necessary equipment.

We have done a great job to actively engage women in the work of the local government. I would go from site to site and explain to women why they had to participate in the joint meeting of the village, how and why we had to set up a list of priority activities and how to demand what we wanted from the local government. I do not need to be such active any longer. The women do not need to be begged to attend joint meetings anymore. Some of the problems we have identified are already resolved by the local authorities: They have fixed the street lights, restored drinking water supply and cleaned the irrigation canals causing serious problems for the villagers.

Violence against women was as relevant here as in the rest of Georgia. Thus, we have worked hard to raise awareness of violence against women. We would visit the victims of domestic violence and explain in detail what they were entitled to. I am proud to say that we have achieved great progress in this direction. Now women are already well-informed whom to apply in case of violence.

I am an economist by profession. I teach economics to the 11th grade students of Tirdznisi Public School – it is an elective course. I often conduct the lessons to portray economics associated with women’s rights. I explain to girls that they should definitely acquire knowledge and a profession to solve their personal problems independently, without being forced to stay in a discomfort zone. One of the main causes of violence against women is the lack of proper education and professionalism among these women. Women victims of violence usually are not able to independently meet their own needs.

I wish I could run my own business. I desire to make a raspberry garden to employ local women.

I am also willing to form a social enterprise. Existence of a social enterprise is essential for the organization to achieve the goals with its own resources, separately from the grant supports.

Author: Manana Vardiashvili 

This article was prepared in the frame of the project ” Promoting new women leaders and ‘invisible women’ human rights activists” implemented by IREX Europe in partnership with Human Rights House Tbilisi, with financial support from the European Commission. The views in this article do not necessarily express the views of the European Commission.