Small steps for big changes

Date: Friday, January 15, 2021

Mako Khalvashi. Photo: Mako's personal archive
Mako Khalvashi. Photo: Mako's personal archive 

Women and girls with disabilities constitute one of the most invisible parts of our society. Often times, their needs and problems are left beyond the purview of the women’s rights agenda. UN Women cooperates with national partners, including various communication platforms to raise awareness about the rights of women and girls with disabilities and challenge stigma and stereotypes.

In 2020, UN Women in cooperation with the popular social media platform “Women from Georgia” launched a new initiative about women and girls with disabilities. The goal of the campaign was to enhance visibility of women and girls with disabilities and their contribution to the society and to raise awareness about their rights, as well as the intersecting forms of discrimination they face based on gender and disability. Throughout its short lifespan, the campaign has already yielded small victories - those necessary to achieve big changes for the years to come.

One of the women helped by the campaign was Mako Khalvashi from Batumi. The 27-year-old talked about the problems she faced because of her visual impairment and spoke about the costly CCTV auxiliary devices which could help her improve her life. After her story was published, Mako unexpectedly received this device as a gift from one of the readers. This small step has already changed Mako’s life: “The world seen with the aid of CCTV is much more interesting, diverse and enjoyable. It has opened for me opportunities, which were only previously accessible to me with the help of my family members and close friends. Now, I am able to do things independently, without their help. Independence has always been particularly important for me personally, and now this magic apparatus enables me to acquire exactly that degree of independence.”

Nuka Gvichiani. Photo: Liberty Bank
Nuka Gvichiani. Photo: Liberty Bank

Like Mako, the campaign has brought changes to the lives of others as well - for instance, in the life of 43-year-old Nuka Gvichiani. Nuka said that she could not work remotely as she did not have a laptop. Following the publication of her story, Liberty Bank, which is a signatory to the UN-established Women’s Empowerment Principles, gave Nuka with a laptop. The Facebook users also helped 37-year-old Tamar and her son: they raised money and provided them with better housing. “The readers have shown examples of special empathy, support and solidarity, which literally changed the lives of some of the women for the better,” notes Ida Bakhturidze, one of the authors of the “Women from Georgia” project.

This joint awareness initiative united the stories of 15 women and girls with disabilities. Among them were those of different ages and needs from various regions of Georgia who spoke about professional development, employment, violence and other challenges. “These stories have raised both public awareness and sensitivity,” reflected Maiko Chitaia, who also worked on gathering the stories. “Moreover, this project was also an opportunity for the women with disabilities to start talking more confidently about their problems and to reach out to the institutions that have a direct responsibility to improve their conditions. It would be better if in the future, these women could get involved in advocacy projects as well.”

37-year-old Tamar and her son. Photo: Geda Darchia
37 year-old Tamar and her son. Photo: Geda Darchia

Another author, Nino Gamisonia, focuses on the impact that the project has had on her: “When you read about the lives of so many people, a lot changes. Although I thought I was already familiar with challenges faced by women with disabilities through my previous work, I can say that I learned so many new details about the lives of these women and the obstacles they face in their daily lives that my awareness has increased tangibly.”

The campaign was implemented with the financial support of the Joint SDG Fund within the framework of the UN Joint Programme “Transforming Social Protection for Persons with Disabilities in Georgia” jointly implemented by six UN agencies in Georgia - UNICEF, UNDP, OHCHR, UNFPA, UN Women and WHO.