Public Defender's Office Enhances work on gender equality in the regions of Georgia

Date: Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Since November 2016, within the framework of the EU-funded project “Unite to Fight Violence against Women” implemented by UN Women, gender specialists have been working at 4 regional offices of the Public Defender’s Office (PDO).

Ana Iluridze, head of the Gender Equality Department at the PDO; Photo: Tiko Tsitsvidze
Their activities focus on gender equality issues and aim to promote women’s rights. UN Women spoke with Ana Iluridze, head of the Gender Equality Department at the PDO, about the importance of this initiative.

What were the objective reasons for opening gender specialist positions at the regional offices, and what are their specific tasks?

UN Women has provided much assistance to the PDO of Georgia with regard to gender equality and has supported many projects implemented by PDO’s Gender Equality Department. As for the introduction of gender specialists, which was also supported by UN Women and the European Union, let us point out that many meetings had been held in various regions on gender equality and related topics; these meetings confirmed that there was a high prevalence of, but low awareness on, gender equality problems. Correspondingly, there were objective grounds for focusing more efforts on resolving gender equality problems in the regions.

Gender specialists at the PDO’s regional offices are focused on strengthening efforts on promoting gender equality and women’s rights. They work on the cases concerning women’s rights and gender equality, collect information, observe trends, describe the general situation in the region, and organize awareness-raising meetings and activities.

It has been several months since the gender specialists started working. How would you evaluate the significance of their activities?

The gender specialists are working in 4 regions: Kakheti, Kvemo Kartli, Samegrelo and Samtskhe-Javakheti. Soon a gender specialist will be appointed in Guria as well. This means that our department has permanent focal points in these regions - a professional who provides counselling in individual cases and collects information and evidence. We need to visit the regions very often, for example, to talk to a victim of domestic violence, to go to the police station, and so on. Due to the lack of resources in the past, we used to do this selectively, but now that we have many more resources, our response has become more rapid and our outreach has significantly improved there is a more rapid response and better communication, especially considering the specifics of some regions. Besides, the gender specialists speak minority languages, which is an additional advantage in communicating with victims/survivors of violence for instance.

Moreover, with the support of gender specialists, we were able to assess the current situation and trends on gender equality in the regions from a completely different angle. We have information about other actors - NGOs or activists who are also working on gender equality in these regions. This is a snapshot, and we get updated information about the trends on monthly basis, which helps us in planning more informed, evidence based initiatives.

Currently, 90 per cent of referrals to the PDO are made in the capital, but this does not mean that things are better in the regions. It’s just that the awareness level is very low there. Involvement of gender specialists is important in this respect too: they are the ones who everybody knows, they are actively involved in any issue related to gender equality, and so the locals are more open to them.

What are the issues that the citizens most often bring to the gender specialists?

Most referrals are made about domestic violence. Early marriage is another issue of concern. Outlawing marriage for those under 18 years of age has made a positive impact, but minors getting engaged remains a problem. There is an increasing referral from the LGBT community as well. Our gender specialists are cooperating with the LGBT Rights organizations, which have branches in the regions.

How will the gender specialists continue working after the project is over?

Obviously, we will try to ensure that these people continue working in the regional PDO offices because they are the ones who are supporting these offices to get stronger in addressing gender equality issues. The gender equality problem will not be resolved in one or two years. It requires tireless effort and much investment, and we are all ready for that.