Nuza Tchirakadze, 36, Tbilisi
“I want to start my story from the moment I started working at one of the European Embassies in Tbilisi. Soon after joining the embassy I found out I was pregnant. The unexpected joy was tainted by worries about what it meant for my work as I was still in my trial period. Finally, I decided that truthfulness was the best policy and approached my boss, the Ambassador, to disclose the news. His reaction was dry and reserved.
During the period that followed, I gave my all to work at the embassy, all the while struggling with the pregnancy that was not going well. By the end of each working day I was often so tired at home that I could not get up, but the next day I was back on my feet and went to work.
During one of the routine pregnancy check-ups, my doctor expressed his concerns that something was not right and advised to go to the hospital’s urgent care department at once. What followed was long ten days of personal hell on earth and ended with not being able to keep the baby.
When I was hospitalized, I informed my boss of the tragic circumstances explaining why I could not be at work for some time. He replied that it was sad, but also important for him to know, who would work at the embassy and that with my absence, everything was upside down.
I returned to work with a heavy heart. On the one hand from what I had experienced and on the other hand, frustrated by a man who has children of his own and who was able to tell his colleague in such a difficult moment that the most important thing was work and that he did not care that her pregnancy had ended.
But the real disappointment was still to be expected:
He called me for a sit-down to discuss my situation in his room. He began by saying that in fact, he could terminate my employment at any moment without even having to justify his decision as I was still in my trial period. But since “the problem was gone”, – that meant I was no longer pregnant – he would like to keep me on as he was satisfied with my performance. He said that he had consulted with his diplomat colleagues and everyone, especially women advised him to sack me because I would no doubt try for another child again. Having thought long and hard, my boss presented me with what seemed to him like a great solution. He would let me stay on the condition that my probation would be extended to a year and that I would not get pregnant during his tenure as an Ambassador in Georgia. Specifically, this meant that I should sign a contract with an extended trial period for another year so that I could be dismissed immediately if I got pregnant again.
This conversation left me speechless, insulted and hurt: Hurt because of the threat to be dismissed in case of pregnancy and insulted because I knew that he would never have dared to set such humiliating conditions for his employees in his home country. It seems that in Georgia foreign diplomats are allowed to behave in this way. It did not seem to concern him in the least that such extended probation periods were unheard of in Georgian labor legislation. The most important thing was that the employees work unconditionally without the right to private life.
I do not know yet whether I came out of this story as a winner or a victim, so far, the memories of the harshness, indifference, lack of empathy that I experienced are painful. And all of this happened for one simple reason – I wanted to be a mother. Why is it only our job, the job of women, to care about future generations? Why do women have to try so hard to prove that they can be deserving professionals despite having a family and children? That we want to work, want to make a career, or have to work because of the financial situation? It looks like we always have to compete with men, an unjust competition – as if you had one leg and you had to overtake two-legged people. Why? Children are our future – not just women’s future. The fact that only women are physiologically capable of giving birth should be their privilege and not their punishment.
I did not agree to sign the shameful contract amendment. For that, I had to hear comments all year round, like “God save us from your pregnancy”. Working in these toxic conditions took its toll on me and after a year I decided that my mental and physical health was dearer to me than this job.
If I have to choose between a career and my children, I will definitely choose my children. The point, however, is that nobody should make me face such a tough decision in the 21st century if we want us to exist as a healthy and happy society.
I have long considered whether I should tell my story, especially considering that no one expects this kind of discrimination from the European institutions. We are led to believe that human rights, and specifically women’s rights, are well protected in the West. Unfortunately, it is often the case that once outside of Europe, people that are meant to carry these values are the ones that let them down in a lawless land that Georgia may seem to them.
I want to encourage every woman to never remain silent when they are victims of discrimination when the employer forces them to give up their children and family planning in favor of work. Because successes in the field of human rights, especially women’s rights – of which the modern world is so proud today – were only possible at the expense of women who did not remain silent.
In the end, it is my wish for my dear Georgia to protect me and to enable me to be a mother and work in a job that fulfills and enriches me and helps me to personally improve.”