Nana Mamukashvili, 47 years old, Tbilisi

,,I grew up in a Catholic family. I lived in Abastumani. We were 2 sisters and 3 brothers in the family. Our grandmother often told us, that there are no differences between men and women and that everybody is responsible for their own actions. She believed in god and raised us with the same faith, however, we should believe in our strengths first. I knew from the very beginning that I had the same rights as my brothers did.

When I was in school, I often experienced injustice and had to protect not only myself but my friends too. I was a rebellious girl. I believed in myself and was actually strong too. Once when I was in the 5th grade, we had a dictation and my teacher graded me unfairly and gave me a 2. It had a big influence on my final grade. I asked her to change it, but she declined. I was so angry that I broke into the school, took grade books of four different classes and threw them in the river. My actions took my mother’s job down with them. The entire education system got involved, it became a Union scandal. The only person who took my side was my father.

My father raised his daughters in a Spartan way. He often said that education alone wasn’t enough, we also needed muscles. That’s why I exercised from an early age. Girls weren’t allowed in Abastumani’s gym, so I mostly worked out at home. My father also taught me how to ride a bike. When I was a teenager I could already do some extreme maneuvers. However, after getting married, I stopped riding bikes.

Loving yourself is the most important thing in a woman’s life. Society has its requirements, forces its stereotypes upon you, places you in the kitchen, but we have to realize, that our rebellion will be better for us. I got married at an early age and against my childhood beliefs, I still faced the fact, that I was dependent on my husband. I was raising my child and my only job was to care for the family. In the late 90s, my husband lost his job and we suddenly faced a financial crisis. We had to emigrate to Cyprus and spent several years there. I had to think about accumulating wealth to support my family. The exercises my father taught me turned out useful there and I started working as a fitness trainer. That was my first try at transitioning from household chores to paid work.

I had to return to Georgia due to my husband’s injury. He worked at construction, fell off and injured his lower back. He couldn’t continue his job but had to undergo treatment in Cyprus. Since education in Cyprus is very expensive, our kid had to continue learning in Georgia. I had to take on the responsibility of feeding my family – on one hand, I had to take care of my husband in Cyprus and support both of our parents, our kid and myself on the other. When I returned, I had to find the profession for myself – I had neither special training nor an age advantage, to find a job with a stable income. I got rejected from a lot of places, including Patrol Police because of my age. I really wanted.

A person has to do what she feels good doing and does a pretty good job at it. At this time, I got an idea to return to biking and try myself in the advertising business. Truth be told, I didn’t sit on a bike since childhood. My husband didn’t allow me and I complied. I could freely go back to my favorite profession. I sold my car and bought a 1000cc bike. By the way, at the time I wasn’t sure that my hobby would bring me money, but if you can imagine, a woman on a bike was so exotic, that I got business offers right away — from ads to movies, also taking brides for bike rides and I got a pretty good income doing this. But I recognized risks too. Imagine how society would react to a pretty biker woman with long hair and in good shape. It’s hard to escape oppression from men. But from me, it was a statement, that yes, I too, a woman, can be a professional in an extreme and dangerous sport and get paid for it. It wasn’t easy competing against men in tournaments. They don’t believe you, because you’re a woman and you have to work twice as hard to prove them that not only can you perform at their level, but actually you’re better than some of them. I’ve risked for it and stood on a running bike on one leg without any equipment.

My riskiness and sports skills let me find a stable job. Now I’m driving an emergency vehicle. It was not easy to get this job as a woman. First of all, I had to take the C category driver’s license, which would give me the opportunity to drive a high throughput car. Then I had to emotionally handle doubtful attitudes from others. They said I wouldn’t even survive for a month and leave. In addition, some people are looking at you like you’re a ”tasty bite”, because If you’re a woman, some circumstances should have forced you into choosing that profession and you’d be easier to persuade to agree to some conditions. I don’t think that predominantly male jobs are only for men. Physical and mental abilities are the result of training and men and women could possess equal skills. I was the only one of the 10 people taking the C category driver’s license test who passed it.

After a lot of struggle and endurance, I established myself as the best female driver among an all-male cast. It’s the fourth year that I’m an emergency driver and I’ve received four thank-you deeds. I have to work physically as well, e.g. I have to carry and store a 30 kg stretch alone, and protect the brigades of doctors in conflicting situations.

I’ve frequently found myself in extreme situations. On the 13th of June, I was on duty during the flood in Tbilisi and I was called to two toughest locations. The flood almost took us, it dragged our car for several meters. I was still able to retain control of the wheel. The patient was afraid not because the flood was taking us, but because there was a woman behind the wheel. When we took him to the hospital, he was bewildered — he hadn’t seen such bravery from a woman.

The same night we were sent to Akhaldaba and imagine, we had to get a complicated patient on time on a road that doesn’t really exist. There was a lot of danger on the road – pouring rain, darkness, gravel, downpour and constant reminders on the walkie-talkie to get there fast since there were a lot of emergency calls. The doctor stood up and didn’t sit down the whole road. He was afraid because the driver was a woman. But I handled this hardest mission successfully and now I’m the most desired driver for any brigade.

Even though I’m not inferior to any men, I still realize that men have an advantage. For example, after a night on duty, they go home to rest, sleep. When I come home I have to do the chores and I almost don’t have time for myself.

I’m often asked why I chose this profession. Obviously, at this stage, it was for my family’s well-being and my dream is to work in the field of law. I had a judge’s certificate, but while in emigration its validity period of seven years has expired. I hope I’ll be able to move at least to the law field, if not to be a judge. I don’t want to spend my whole life as a driver, although I like this job. For now, I’m doing everything I can. I like that I’m helping society and patrol police greet me with a salute.

It’s never late to make your dreams come true. I call on all the woman, to fight for their dreams and rights and to stand by each other’s side. We have a big potential, we just don’t know how to manage it, how to give it direction and we can help each other even by motivation and support.”