Monika Kobalia, 15, Zugdidi

“I want to tell you the story of my life and I will be more than happy if my audience includes women.

I was 8 when my father passed away, leaving my mom and me behind. We needed income for me to go to school, buy clothes and school items. Before, father had provided for us, but after his death, we faced hardship. Mom started to work in a grocery store and she could only afford basic stuff that I needed. However, compared to my classmates I was dressed far worse. They wore better clothes, went on holidays and had private tutors. I never had that. There were times when I wore one set of clothes, and one pair of used and old-fashioned shoes all year round. I became a laughing stock of the class many times because of that. I have cried a lot and been hurt and I have complained to my mom for not having nice clothes.

I remember, once my classmate yelled at me: “My mom is a teacher, and your mom is just a seller.” I don’t think any profession deserves scoffing but because of that classmate’s sneering, scornful tone, I was very upset. In retrospect, I realized that such life has not embittered me, instead it has taught me to be down-to-earth. There’s nothing better than being down-to-earth, because when you rid of conceit, when you don’t look down on others, you become truly equal with the rest of them.

I was 11 when my mom left for Russia to work. After some time she stopped calling me. It turned out that she was very sick and they hid this fact from me. Once she called me late at night and told me about her illness. I knew at once that she was going to die soon. I was devastated.

After the death of my mother, I was numb and dazed. You know what else this experience has taught me? Ability to fight. I knew that in order to have a better life and establish myself, I needed to get education. As I decided I wanted to be a journalist, I started writing and would play make-believe games, as if I was recording interviews. Then I found a media course on the internet and took the lessons. Afterwards, I served as an intern in almost all publishing houses and radio stations operating in Samegrelo. I want to try everything. Sometimes my granny tells me to stop, she says it affects my mental state unfavorably, but I am that kind of person – I want to participate in everything and receive experience from everything. I want to build my own life myself. Every person must be responsible for his or her life choices, and I don’t think it is right to blame something on good fortune or ill fate.

You know what else breaks my heart? The more successful you are, the more appreciation you get from people around you. The classmates who laughed at me, now that I am involved in many activities, cooperate with NGOs and prepare radio broadcasts, call me their dear and close friend.

My advice to the girls of my age is to start making decisions independently from an early age. When your parents are there for you, you do not make an effort and grow up sheltered. It makes you blunt, you lose the ability to fight. I am currently reading Thoughts by Blaise Pascal. I like him because he started self-development at an early age too.

I want to find my place in the society, the place that will be rightfully mine and nobody can take it away from me. In the future I am planning to set up an organization that will support and strengthen orphaned and deprived children.”