Stand in the shoes of female victims of violence

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The participants of the role-play exercise "In Her Shoes" in Gardabani. Photo: UN Women/Leli Blagonravova
The participants of the role-play exercise "In Her Shoes" in Gardabani. Photo: UN Women/Leli Blagonravova

“Levan was very romantic. It felt like I was the luckiest woman in the world.” “When Temur asked me to marry him, people were saying that we were a wonderful couple.” “Giorgi wrote letters so beautifully that I felt like I was a character from a romance novel.” These are a few quotes from the stories of women who survived violence, from real stories that start and develop identically but then change as violence emerges in the lives of every character.

These real stories are scenarios from the famous role-play exercise “In Her Shoes”. UN Women Georgia, together with the Women’s Information Center, actively uses this role-play exercise with different audiences to raise awareness on violence against women.

This innovative method of information-sharing consists of a total of eight scenarios. Each of them is based on the violent experience of a woman with different levels of education, professions, marital statuses and needs. Although the beginning and development of each story are known in advance, the ending depends entirely on the participants and their decisions. After receiving the scripts, they go through the step-by-step process of finding a way out of violence, getting relevant services and support for the characters. They see how many barriers have to be overcome by the women who live in violent circumstances and how difficult their path is. The participants experience every detail themselves and become supporters of the characters.

At the initiative of UN Women, currently there are meetings held for organizing the role-play sessions of “In Her Shoes” in the regions of Kvemo Kartli and Guria. Eter Chelidze, a resident of Gardabani Municipality, played the role of 24-year-old Lena at one such meeting. She was looking for the solution for her protagonist for two hours, but the script developed in such a way that her character faced negligence from all sides and the story ended with Lena’s death. “There is so much emotion that goes along with this process,” said Eter during the post-exercise discussion. “You really want to save this person and try everything - as if it were you experiencing all this on your own.”

Levan Nizharadze was assigned the story of 21-year-old Nato. Nato is a member of the LGBTQI community, and she became a victim of domestic violence for this very reason. “I received very important information,” Levan noted. “You might have to deal with these issues in a professional manner, and this experience gives you some direction in advance and, if necessary, dictates your actions.”

“In Her Shoes” helps the participants to learn more about domestic violence and to develop more empathy towards those who have this problem - to see that everyone can play a role in tackling domestic violence and that this is not a personal but rather a public problem.

It should be noted that the Women’s Information Center will organize sessions using this methodology in nine municipalities across the regions of Kvemo Kartli and Guria, with the support of UN Women. A total of 1,248 people (50 per cent women and 50 per cent men) will stand in the shoes of female victims of violence and try to find their own solution to the problem.

This initiative is part of the project “Ending Violence against Women and Girls in Georgia”, which is implemented by UN Women and UNFPA with the support of the European Union.