Nana Chkareuli, 39, Akhalgori/Tserovani
„I had a very ordinary life and ordinary childhood. I was not vigorous and there was nothing remarkable about me. However, after I graduated from university and went back to live in Akhalgori, I could see that the life was monotonous, especially for the young people. I suddenly had the urge to set up an organization for the youth to carry out activities locally. In 2002, I established an NGO in Akhalgori. We organized certain events and activities, but we were only a handful of enthusiasts, we had no idea how an NGO was supposed to function. Our efforts included mildly protesting against certain things, working at educational issues, opening a computer center, when computer was a rare treat, and others.
Later on, we opened the business consultation center and the war broke out. We had to leave Akhalgori and arrive here. It was a difficult period; I was disoriented and had no idea what to do. I had numerous ideas and plans, but I realized that they were meant for Akhalgori. For one year I lived in confusion. Luckily, in Tbilisi, IDP organizations established a coalition for the rights of internally displaced people. Actually, I feel that I lost those years because I should have been in Tserovani, not Tbilisi. However, on the other hand, work in coalition has given me large experience and has taught me many things. Later, I decided that I had to push my efforts in Tserovani as I lived there and I could see what was going on. So, together with my friends, I set up another NGO called “For Better Future”. The vision and the main purpose of the organization was integration and professional development of women and youth; we work towards creating a more convenient environment for women and youth to develop better skills of self-actualization and self-belief.
During this time, we implemented various projects, set up a woman’s club, carried out a project that taught young people skills of working with the self-government bodies, problem solution and other skills…
Later we saw that the biggest challenge for women was employment. At that time, we learned about social entrepreneurship and decided to set up a social enterprise. Today, we have three social enterprises in Tserovani – a folk-craft workshop, cloisonné enamel workshop and a social café. These enterprises employ 11 women. We work very hard to develop them so that they can actually be useful, bring actual income and contribute to the economic strength of the family.
At the same time, we are working with young people under the US Embassy project Bookmobile – a library on wheels that travels in four different settlements of internally displaced people. Bookmobile is equipped with English language books, access to internet, audio and video materials, fictional and documentary films. It also offers a space for discussion where people can meet and talk about various topics. Bookmobile is popular with children, but sometimes adolescents drop in too. The purpose is to bring books to young people so that the children, the future generation grows into an intelligent civil society.
Internally displaced people do not have peculiar, stand-alone problems. I always say that our women face the same problems as the women in whole Georgia. This is, of course, domestic abuse, low self-esteem, lack of information about their rights, and others. That’s why, we try to provide more information about their rights to the women and allow them to exercise these rights.
We always approach women from the standpoint that this is first and foremost important for their children, even if they have given up and are trying to be “a hero”, however…
For the victims of domestic abuse, it is almost impossible to take drastic steps. If you are living in a settlement for internally displaced people and have zero support from the Government, your only choice is to stay where you are and try to protect yourself somehow. As a rule, they are reluctant to talk about it, and, by the way, this settlement has blocked communication. If in a traditional Georgian village everyone is informed about everyone’s lives, it is different here, the information does not travel and it certainly does not help our efforts. The settlement is more like a township than a village. Everyone is locked in their shells. Despite the fact that all our village was displaced here, the relationships the neighbors used to have, is gone. We may all live here, but not run into each other for years.
We work in other settlements too and they have different social problems. These problems, for the most part, are closely linked with the problems the women face. For instance, if you open a bakery in Tserovani, you are sure to have customers all the time, but the same is not true for Prezeti, which is a much smaller settlement and everyone bakes bread at home. The prospect of a successful business is very dim and every time someone makes it, they try to escape that place. Sometimes I am under the impression that they are used to these problems.
We cooperate with the Ministry of Refugees. I constantly remind them that they cannot have a uniform approach to every settlement – what is needed in Tserovani may be completely irrelevant to Prezeti, and vice versa. No one listens to me. Tserovani is doing relatively well, it is close to the city, it is a large settlement surrounded by factories and there is an opportunity to get a job. However, there are families who have no job, no income and live on 45 GEL IDP benefit. Besides, they cannot farm as they do not have a piece of land, and are completely dependent on the financial income. In the village everyone had farms and managed to sustain themselves, but they don’t have such an opportunity here.
We happen to live in an interesting time… We have overcome many things, but more challenges are ahead. We don’t know how our life will be changed in the future… But I know for sure that one day, I will be able to cross the border, live in my village with my people and my each effort is a preparation for that moment.”