Volunteers for equality


The team of young volunters in Anaklia. Photo: UN Women/Leli Blagonravova
The team of young volunters in Anaklia. Photo: UN Women/Leli Blagonravova

Without the support and participation of young people, it is impossible to achieve significant positive changes, including in terms of gender equality. For more than 10 years, the number of youth volunteers has been growing in the village of Anaklia in the Samegrelo region, with the support of the Government of Norway under a UN Women social mobilization initiative. With their enthusiasm and interesting initiatives, young people are energizing the lives of villagers near the dividing line with useful activism and motivating many of their local peers.

The history of young volunteers in Anaklia is connected with the NEFA Foundation. In 2010, when NEFA founders Nino Korshia and Maya Pipia started to create a self-help group, they decided to include young people in their activities. “We knew right away that development and changes would be impossible without them,” Nino recalls. “At first, we got schoolchildren interested in computer studies and film screenings. But gradually, their participation increased so much that today I can boldly say that our activities would not be so diverse and fruitful without young volunteers. This direction turned out to be very important for the young people themselves. Many of them moved to the civil sector and continued sharing the values they received here as a career.”

Now the core team of volunteers consists of five members. Among them are 16-year-old Lizi Jikia, 15-year-old Cecily Chkhartia, 15-year-old Sandro Toloraya, 16-year-old Megi Khuntsiria and 15-year-old Christina Gulordava. On the whole, 30 volunteers are united around the foundation’s activities.

These young people got to know one another at NEFA and got their first volunteering experience by publishing school newspapers. Newspapers were followed by the formation of a debate club; information campaigns on gender stereotypes, violence against women and domestic violence; and clean-up campaigns and other environmental activities.

“I heard about NEFA from my friends,” notes Lizi. “I liked it so much that sometimes I walked two or three kilometres on foot in bad weather and the cold to get here. I hope that we will be the generation of volunteers who will do a lot of useful work.” Megi says: “We talk freely about all different topics. We listen to problems and look for the ways to solve them together.” Sandro further remarks, “Here are born ideas that will then benefit our village and community,” while Christina notes that NEFA is an important place for her to receive informal education: “Here in Anaklia, we are impacted by various events, so it is very important to create opportunities ourselves and make them available to others.” It is noteworthy that with the experience gained at NEFA, young people are already participating in the initiatives of other organizations.

Volunteering is contagious. The activities of Anaklia’s youth are attractive to many of their peers. The leaders of the team spare no effort and conduct trainings on human rights and women’s and children’s rights, as well as teach them how to implement activities and prepare them to be the next generation of volunteers. They will soon leave for higher education, so they are trying to hand over their functions gradually to those young people who will continue to work for the development of the community in their place.

They say that they will definitely return to Anaklia. “If the young people leave here forever, the community will not be able to move forward,” says Cecily. “I really want to take care of the development of the village, to use my education and experience here. We will go, learn and come back.”

Before leaving, there is an important initiative ahead. The main goal of the volunteers now is to create a square in the village. The selected area has already been cleared, and they hope that very soon the people of Anaklia will have a new space for gathering and recreation.

The volunteer activity with the youth in Anaklia is part of the economic empowerment component of the UN Women project “Good Governance for Gender Equality in Georgia”, which is supported by the Government of Norway.