Women drive local development in western Georgia

Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Most new businesses established in Georgia continue to be established by men. According to the National Statistics Office, only 29 per cent of the businesses established in 2018 were owned by women.

Marina Siradze recently opened the first bakery in Laituri
Marina Siradze recently opened the first bakery in Laituri; Photo: UN Women

One of the key challenges faced by women is their limited access to finance. However, many women are making important contributions to the economic development of their families and communities through various business activities. They are embracing every opportunity to learn new skills and expand their businesses.

One of these women is Marina Siradze, the owner of the first bakery in the village of Laituri, located in the region of Guria. She opened her bakery in May 2019 and is selling currently about 135 loaves of bread per day. “We are open seven days a week and reached this level of demand in September…. I also have plans to expand from bread to muffins and traditional Georgian lobiani and khachapuri,” Marina explains. Themuri Abashidze, the latest baker that Marina has hired, is content with being able to practise his profession locally in his home village instead of commuting to other cities.

Marina Siradze was one of the first participants of the UN Women-led project who were awarded business grants in December 2018. Since 2018, UN Women, in partnership with the TASO Foundation and with funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has supported over 300 women in western Georgia to form self-help groups, increase their knowledge on women’s rights, engage in activism opportunities and develop skills in small-scale business management. Following a competitive call for business proposals, some self-help group members were awarded business grants. A year later, many of these grantees report constantly increasing demand for their products and have clear plans for their businesses’ further expansion.

Irina Khorshia is expanding her business to Anaklia
Irina Khorshia is expanding her business to Anaklia; Photo: UN Women

Another grantee is Irina Khorshia, the owner of IRDA, a business producing handmade leather products such as bags and wallets in Zugdidi, in the region of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti. At the end of 2018, she received a grant of GEL 7,000 (USD 2,430) from the Government’s “Enterprise Georgia” programme, which was complemented by a grant of GEL 3,025 (USD 1,050) from the UN Women-led project. A designer by profession, she used the grant to switch her business direction from jewellery to leather products and buy machinery for her leather workshop.

“Everything has changed in one year,” Irina reflects. “With new funding from the USAID and my own savings, I am now opening a workshop in Anaklia. Through the project by UN Women and TASO, I have already identified an employee who will work together with my mother in the workshop…. The workshop will produce mostly school bags.”

In 2019, the number of self-help groups established in western Georgia has grown to 38, and the number of their individual grantees has increased to 58. The work is part of UN Women’s project “A Joint Action for Women’s Economic Empowerment in Georgia”.