Keti Kajrishvili, 48, Tbilisi

„For years, I worked in the Tbilisi Public Healthcare Center. Let me tell you what those times were like. Sometimes I had to go from Vake to Saburtalo on foot. The small salary I received, in coupons, I gave to my mother for food. I tried to be better in my work and paid part of my tiny salary for professional training courses, which did not cost cheap. I kept myself informed about the healthcare systems of other countries, everything that was related to my field of work, as I worked as a manager in the healthcare system and had my own vision, which lay in the need for introduction of the then nonexistent insurance system.

In 2003, when the National Movement came into power, I was left without work like many of my co-workers. Without meeting us, without saying even hello, they laid us off by putting up the verdict in the form of a list of fired employees on Sunday morning. I had no other option but to take part in the competition as a complete outsider. I did not have any privileges as a former employee. I passed the test with top mark and I was welcomed back, which improved my self-esteem very much. They turned me into a successful and outstanding employee who was prepared to work late hours, plan new and innovative projects. The country slowly adopted the state-financed insurance service. I think I largely contributed to unification of the whole system.

My whole life was organized around my work, the morning started with the feeling that the country needs me. My obligation as that of a citizen outweighed every other responsibility. I felt even more obligated when we started oncoprevention program and I was appointed its coordinator.

It is not that easy for a woman to balance her private life and a successful but hectic working career. You may easily have to work at the weekend or work overtime. I remember once going home at 9:30 in the morning as the job needed to be done.

Because of various reasons, my private relationships did not lead to marriage. Once I had a stable income, I decided to have a baby. The years went by and my chances of marriage were reducing. They started paying bigger salaries in public sector so I decided that I would be able to raise one child somehow.
When I was pregnant, political fluctuations started all over again. I was not worried, because I was well known in my field, I could be called successful and I was free of any political ties.

When they appointed our new boss, my child was 1 year old. Of course, I had to accept the new reorganization with ostensible calmness. I was made to sign a paper and agree to be demoted by one level. Those who refused to give a written consent, were dismissed from work. I did not really have an option. I gave my consent and signature. Following that day, I was totally ignored as a co-worker. When they set the date for the test, I prepared diligently, I pulled all nighters and got quite high points. Many of others, including newly appointed employees failed the test. When I went to my boss’s office for some business, I was told “do you think you are safe because you passed the test?” I realized it was a provocation and did not start an argument.

I was under so much psychological pressure, that seeing other workers engaged in work and myself ignored, I had tears in my eyes.
Then they held an interview. At the interview, they asked me what motivated me, why I needed my work. I told them that firstly, I loved what I did, and secondly, I was a single mom and the salary was my only income.

When they showed me my interview results at the attestation commission, I found out that my answer to this question had been graded low. I was shocked at the lack of empathy they had given to me as a single mother and the disregard to my 21-year experience.
On that very day, I received sms on my phone about my dismissal. I was bottle-feeding my baby with yogurt before sleep…

After that, I had many unemployed months ahead; then I started to work in a call-center of an insurance company, which meant re-starting my career from scratch for a rather low salary. But there was nothing I could do. I desperately needed income to raise my child. At the same time, I sent my resume to various places, participated in a competition of two municipal governments, cooperated with the social service of the Patriarchate, and wrote healthcare projects that were ordered by private clients. Then I was interviewed for the position of a clinic manager of one of the hospitals and was accepted. It was another victory both for my child and myself.

I would like to address single mothers: do not wait for others to help you, do not rely on the government who has not even been able to count how many single moms there are in the country. There was a buzz that they were going to introduce some assistance for single mothers but they have not done anything yet. Do not be afraid of difficulties, including the fact that you could not place your kid in the nearest kindergarten… You will struggle, you will have to forego many things, but your heart will be filled with pride and love. You will feel what I feel when I look at my baby and celebrate my personal victory. Find strength in yourselves first, make firm steps, break down the walls, overcome every barrier, destroy the stereotypes, and confront everyone. Your child is not going to be a child of a single mom, because you will give him or her a success story, share love and receive it back through the words you will hear every time before sleep: “mom, I love you”, “I love you too, my sweetie”, “nope, I love you more”.