Nino Tchanishvili, 35 years old, village Bokhvauri, Ozurgeti Municipality

Woman in a minibus
I’m a diplomat by profession – I studied the history of international relations. Nowadays it is a common practice, but when I was a student it was rare for a student to study and work at the same time. Our family didn’t have financial difficulties, but to gain experience, I worked for four hours a day as a store clerk on minimum wage. I also worked as a ‘’promoter’’ in Bank of Georgia, as well as in an insurance company. While working in the bank, there were layoffs, after which I stayed unemployed for 6 months. I didn’t want to have too much free time, so I decided to get a driver’s license. At the same time, I was involved in agriculture – I had a vegetable garden, I grew nuts; I was working physically – I cut firewood with an electric saw. I love working with the land. When I got my driver’s license, I didn’t think I would be training anyone in the future. Then my aunt also decided to get a driver’s license and started to take lessons in one of the driving schools. However, one day she came to me and told me that she couldn’t understand anything and would like me to help her. We sat down together and practiced, I explained each step in detail and she told me that I had to forget everything else and do this job since I did it so well. I went to my teacher and asked to let me prepare one or two groups. I would try and see what would come out. I taught these people and all of them passed the exam successfully. At that time, I was planning to move to Batumi, but because of this success, I decided to stay in Ozurgeti for three more months to work and leave for Batumi after that. During these three months, I also met my future husband – he was my student, he came from Tbilisi and it turned out we would both stay in Ozurgeti.
When I started this profession, I didn’t have my own car. I told my father, who had two minibusses at that time, that I couldn’t buy a car yet, so I’d get the appropriate driver’s license for larger vehicles and just drive the minibus. My father wasn’t happy with this news, since I was a woman and he thought I wouldn’t do great driving a car this size. In the end, I got the driver’s license and everyone got to know me in Ozurgeti as a ‘’woman in a minibus’’. So, I drove with my minibus absolutely everywhere I wanted. Once I was going to a wedding and I had to stop at the gas station. I was dressed up – in high-heeled shoes; the cameraman told me mockingly, don’t tell me now that you’re going to a birthday party. I answered that I was going to a wedding, and even if it was a donkey, it was the only transport I had and I would go with what I got.
I had also such a case – my students wanted to go to Kobuleti to have some fun. Back then driving a car without a driver’s license wasn’t a big problem, but even then, I had my responsibilities – even though some of my students were of the same age as me, or even older. I told them that they’d drink there and someone would have to drive them back, so, I’d take them all with my minibus and I’d go with them. They were happy about my suggestion and we took the trip. There were a lot of people in the restaurant. Suddenly one of my students stood up and made a toast for me – cheers, teacher Nino! Sometimes others would stand up and do the same. Some of them were bald, some of them were young, some of them old… People around couldn’t understand what kind of teacher I was. When we had to go back, my minibus engine didn’t work. I lifted the hood, fixed it and we could leave already. People were outside looking at me and finally, they said, thank god, now we can understand what kind of teacher you are.
Driving School
When I already had enough savings, I started thinking that I needed a car. I thought, if I buy a car, my costs will increase, I need fuel, oil, car parts… I decided to buy a car and to use it for work training as well. So, if it wouldn’t leave a profit, it would at least leave me with so much that I wouldn’t ruin my finances. I bought a car and we already started practical training. After that, I decided to get a driving school license, and then I could already train people in all license categories. I registered in 2011 and I’m still in this business.
My business began to grow slowly. I rented a field and made it look exactly like the exam field. However, I couldn’t afford the appropriate cover, because it costs at least 20-25 thousand GEL and I couldn’t do it on someone else’s territory.
Consequently, I started taking care of myself and wanted to buy land and organize my own exam pitch. I bought a land with a loan. Later, I bought a second car, then the third. In 2016, I became a leader in the field of national business ratings – I won third place in the gold nomination, in 2018 and 2019 I took the first place. This also increased my motivation. I’m even told that no one in Ozurgeti has the same enthusiasm as me. I don’t think that it matters where you live, you can do everything you want, anywhere you live.
I was involved in this job when our village governor called me and told, that one of the NGOs entered the village, I had to gather women and they needed one woman to lead. I went there and got to know with the Foundation ‘’Taso’’. On the same day, we created a women’s group – ‘’women’s Unity’’ and I was elected the leader. This is a self-help group for women’s economic empowerment and then we received a grant, with which we built a small library in the village, bought inventory, and arranged a teaching room. When we had a conversation there, I was told the same day that the Georgian Farmers’ Association had announced a foundation program. I needed equipment for the driving school, but I never thought that someone would help, I never complained about it, I always thought about how I could procure enough finances myself. In short, I took this step, it wasn’t a big grant – I had to buy touch screens, two tablets, a laptop, and a projector. Before I was selected, the ‘’Taso’’ Foundation-funded my studies at the Academy of the Ministry of Finance. I got an interview at the Farmers’ Association and it was so emotional for me that I started crying. I really couldn’t imagine that anyone would see that a small girl in Ozurgeti was doing something. It happened so that there were negative days in my life when they called and announced that I won. I got finances and bought the equipment I really needed. I was also funded to study branding and website design – I will soon have my own logo and website.
In this business, there are cases when other schools are making students learn the program within ten days or even in a week, and finally, we got catastrophic results. Once, I was at a meeting at the ministry and all the representatives of the driving schools were suggesting how the law should be applied to their business. Finally, I stood up and said that I’m from the smallest region and maybe the state will make such a regulation that my driving school will be no longer profitable for me, but the main thing is to save more lives, the health of people, and so make sure that nobody gets hurt. It’s more of a priority for me than to make my business profitable and not having to think about what happens to people when they leave my school. There are people who prefer to be taught in a week or in ten days. If you let them, probably 99% of them would buy the driver’s license – and I don’t mean teenagers, I mean adults. If the situation in the driving schools won’t get sorted out and this attitude doesn’t change, a new generation will be left without knowledge. I think that driver’s profession is very important and difficult, and we should care about it.
Since I’m in the automotive business, I know all about cars. There are no cars that get repaired that I don’t know what happened to it or it broke down. In Tbilisi, in Kutaisi, and in Batumi I know all the car parts on sale. Recently, I decided to start car service. Wherever you go in Ozurgeti, whether it is vulcanization or car wash, there are no places for women. There are no places to sit down, and you have to stay on the highway. I’m not ashamed to do so, but is it nice when the car is being washed and you just stand on the highway and wait for it?! I want to make a small café there, where there will be a children’s corner, for mothers to enjoy. This is my future plan.
The stereotype that women can’t do everything, didn’t exist for me from the very beginning. I can’t imagine if I need to, why can’t I be a taxi driver, or if I don’t have a job, why can’t I work on the tractor – I actually have a tractor driver’s license as well. When my husband and I were in a relationship, in the beginning, I told him that I would never frighten my children. And he said that he hopes so too. I still joke about it. Nothing is impossible, I know for sure’’.
Author: Nino Gamisonia
Photo: Nino Baidauri
Translation: Mariam Kajrishvili