A Woman from the Mountains

Date: Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Nani Managadze
Photo:UN Women/Maka Gogaladze
Every day, Nani Managadze walks three kilometers of a difficult muddy road from her village Gveso to Tsageri, the administrative center in the Lechkhumi region, north-west Georgia. Like in other Georgian highland villages, the so-called “marshrutka” minibus travels from Gveso to the town Tsageri only once a day, departing at 9:00 am, often with an insufficient number of seats for all the  passengers. Besides working as an accountant in a ramshackle sport school in Tsageri, there is an additional reason why the 60 year-old woman vigorously walks every day to the town: for the past several months, she has been a member of the the “Women’s Regional Union of Lechkhumi”, an NGO that unites local women who want to make a difference in their communities.

It all began when Nani was approached by a representative of the “Fund of Women Entrepreneurs” from Kutaisi. The organization had just received a grant to implement a project on the economic empowerment of women living in mountainous areas, supported by the European Delegation in Georgia and UN Women. As one of the beneficiaries, Nani underwent several trainings, including on the basics of entrepreneurship, lobbying, advocacy, active citizenship and women’s rights. Inspired and empowered, together with other women volunteers, she founded the Women’s Regional Union of Lechkhumi, the first NGO in the region. “Being the first is a huge responsibility. We are still learning, but I am happy, because many women now wish to join the organization”, - says Nani.

Nani Managadze
Photo: UN Women/Maka Gogaladze
Women residing in remote mountainous areas in Georgia have specific needs and numerous problems. Difficult social and economic conditions, coupled with limited livelihood and job opportunities, force many, especially young people, to travel to the capital in search of a “better future”. Moreover, a traditional environment does not empower women to speak out: “Do you know how people think here? A woman should be obedient and do as she is told. This project showed us in a different light, gave us a divergent role and instilled self-confidence in us. We now want to become visible,   and help other women to overcome their insecurities, become more active, and participate in the community life”, - Nani states. 

Nani is aware that uniting the local women and registering their organization is only the first step on their long road to empowering the mountainous regions. Bringing about real change in their lives also calls for interesting initiatives. Nevertheless, she is not afraid and has a multitude of ideas on how to achieve this goal. “Products in Lechkhumi and neighboring Racha are environmentally friendly. Fruit is of superior quality, but is almost always left to rot. I would like to build a small processing plant to produce dried and canned fruits, which would also employ socially vulnerable people. I frequently imagine myself working in such an enterprise. Perhaps, we can make it work.”

The founder of the newcomer NGO has another wish: the old sport-school where she works, begs for a significant facelift. Nani wants the youngsters living in Tsageri to lead a healthy and active life and have the place to socialize. She knows that this would also require money and strong voice in the community.

The Women’s Regional Union of Lechkhumi will organize the first official presentation of their project ideas to potential donors and the community in September. They want to establish a name in the region as that of an organization capable of bringing about real change. They have determination, strong will and ambitious plans…but before they embark on their long journey, Nani still needs to walk those three kilometers back home.