In the words of Keti Tsilosani: “Women can empower one another through cooperation”
Keti Tsilosani lives in Lanchkhuti in the western region of Guria. She is a community worker with the social mobilization organization Taso Foundation and is an active participant of the UN Women project “A Joint Action for Women’s Empowerment in Georgia”. With the project’s help, she attended a course in social media marketing and web programming and was hired by the company Lingwing, a signatory to the Women’s Empowerment Principles. Only 30 years old, Keti leads three self-help groups, is a member of the municipal gender equality council and, owing to her enthusiasm, has become an example to all Lanchkhuti women. Several weeks ago, with the help of a grant from UN Women and the Taso Foundation, she started her own business - Lanchkhuti’s very first café, “Ketostan” (“At Keto’s”), where she employs five local women.
I was always told, ‘Without a diploma, you can’t achieve anything in life.’ This conviction was so deeply rooted that two years ago, I went to a meeting of the Taso Foundation with precisely this objective. Someone had told me that this fund helped women, so I thought they might finance my education. Soon I became a community worker and discovered that there are a lot of opportunities for community workers even if you have no diploma.
There are many women in the villages of Guria who, like me, don’t have any kind of higher education. Most of them are busy doing everyday household work and believe that nothing can be changed in their lives. Whenever I meet those women, the first thing I do is tell them my story. I tell them about the cold and sometimes even cruel atmosphere I had to live in as a young schoolgirl when I moved from the region to the capital; how I got married at the age of 15; and how my life stood still for eight years, as I had to spend all my time sitting at home, dreaming of my self-realization. I tell them about the difficulties with my divorce and return to Guria. I do my best to convince them that since the day my life became active, I have felt even sorrier about the time that I had to spend passively. However, the fact that my children already have an accomplished mother makes me feel happy. For me, my greatest achievement is the fact that they regard me as a successful person.
My life experience helps me give local women a real example, to show them that my experience is similar to theirs, and that now I have turned from a frightened little girl who had lost faith in her own abilities into a self-confident person who can deal with things previously unimaginable. And indeed, the meeting participants have often told me, ‘When you first turned up and told us your story, you gave us encouragement to get involved in social mobilization.’ I am glad to see that today they are already winning grants themselves. Now we stand side by side, and they see for themselves that if you don’t get energized, things will never work out for you.
I finished studying finances at Kobuleti Professional College, and now I am learning web development. Recently I opened the first café in Lanchkhuti. I started small, but the most important thing was just to start, and after that you can expand and develop further. I already have so many customers that sometimes I run out of sitting room. Now I want to help other women-owned businesses by buying products for my café from them. I have already started buying raspberries and am also willing to purchase wine, dried fruit, tea and other goods produced by women. By all means, we women can empower one another through such cooperation.”