In the words of Zoia Kurtanidze: “Serving this country makes me proud, and I would like to be proud of being a guardian of gender equality as well”

Date: Friday, January 29, 2021

Zoia Kurtanidze. Photo: The Ministry of Defence of Georgia
Zoia Kurtanidze, Photo: The Ministry of Defence of Georgia

Major Zoia Kurtanidze, 34, has been serving in the Georgian Defence Forces since 2007. Currently, she is a career manager at the Military Personnel Management Centre of the Ministry of Defence of Georgia and a gender advisor to the Gender Equality Monitoring Group. At the same time, Zoia is a Minister’s fellow, pursuing her master’s degree in gender studies at Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University and actively participating in mainstreaming the principles of gender equality within the Ministry. UN Women has been working with the Ministry of Defence on mainstreaming gender in the security sector reform process. It also supports the Ministry in implementing the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. UN Women works in the WPS area within the framework of the project “Accelerating Implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Georgia”, implemented with the generous support of the UK Conflict, Stability and Security Fund.

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For me, 19 November 2020 marked 13 years of carrying the flag of Georgia on my shoulders and bearing the huge responsibility in my heart and mind for my country and my cause. I decided to join the army after participating in a reality TV show. The TV programme ‘Kazarma” was about military life and was where I realized that I liked this field very much. I was the last among the female participants to leave the show, and then I immediately entered the National Defence Academy.

I got my first military rank of officer in June 2008, and my career started in air defence. I was an engineer-operator at the air defence missile unit when the August War broke out. I was a rookie lieutenant, but I went to the war as a combat officer and came back with a lot of experience. After three years, I became interested in HQ operations. I wanted to learn more, get an education in other areas and use my combat experience in making military decisions.

Public attitudes have always been positive towards me as a woman in military. Both my acquaintances and strangers would give me great strength and motivation. As you know, the military is a male-dominated field, so the experience of and path taken by women like me, I think, matters a lot for other girls and women. I believe that with my lifestyle, I try to defy the obsolete stereotypes that prevent women from pursuing their military career and achieving success in this field.

The Ministry of Defence is exemplary today, as it pays great attention to gender equality and successfully implements projects for women’s empowerment. Georgia was the first country in the region to adopt a National Action Plan for the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) in 2011 and has been working to meet its commitments since then. There is still a long way to go but achieving gender equality is an important part of the Ministry’s long-term plans, which is quite promising.

Currently, I am serving at the Military Personnel Management Centre. I am a career manager, which involves assisting military service personnel with qualified advice for the proper planning and advancement of their career and professional development. At the same time, as a gender advisor, one of my goals is to protect women’s rights and achieve gender equality. Serving this country makes me proud, and I would like to be proud of being a guardian of gender equality as well - proud of my contribution that will help my peers or future military servicewomen in the Georgian army to serve without gender restrictions.”