Young Women building bridges in Georgia: Launch of Georgia’s Young Women Leaders for Peace program
14 June, 2021
By Michaela Zelenanska, Peacebuilding Programs Intern for Eastern Europe and South Caucasus, GNWP
“To me, peace means being able to move freely, cross the border you see behind me. But I cannot do it.” –Georgian participant talking about what peace and security means to them.
“Peace means stability, access to economic opportunities. In the villages along the Administrative Border Line people do not have access to jobs. Living here means being stressed all the time.” – Georgian participant talking about living along the Administrative Border Line separating Georgia from the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia
The quotes above are how young women from Georgia describe peace in their country. Economic opportunities, mental health, wellbeing, and mobility are the key attributes missing from their lives. They still feel the impacts of war – which officially ended in 2008, when many of them were still young children. They are determined, and ready to work towards sustainable peace.
To support young women’s leadership in peacebuilding, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) and the IDP Women Association ‘’Consent’’, organized an introductory three-day training on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) and peacebuilding for young women and men in Georgia. The event took place on April 24-26 2021 and was supported by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA). The participants had the opportunity to analyse the relevance of these critical agendas for young people in Georgia and to talk about the importance of youth-led initiatives in building sustainable peace. The training also served as a launch of the Young Women Leaders for Peace (YWL) program in Georgia.
GNWP’s Young Women Leaders for Peace Program
Since 2014, the GNWP´s YWL program has supported more than 7,000 young women in conflict-affected countries and communities to enhance their skills, capacities and resilience and fully realize their potential as leaders and agents of peace. The program is being implemented in seven countries outside of Georgia: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Indonesia, the Philippines, South Sudan, and Ukraine. GNWP has worked with its partners and young women to tailor a methodology to the context and needs of each participating country. They have also supported young women to run their own peacebuilding initiatives – from organizing community peace dialogues, to teaching literacy in refugee camps, to running civic education campaigns via social media.
During the Georgia training event the GNWP team shared the achievements of the young women peacebuilders with the 20 young women and men participants. The participants were excited by the impact of these young women and inspired to join the YWL networks.
The participants shared their perspective on the situation in their country. Many of the young people were directly affected by the long conflict between Georgia and Abkhazia and South Ossetia: two regions that have seceded from Georgia and formally declared independence in 1999 and 1991 respectively. Even though the conflict in Georgia is often described as “frozen”, it still has tangible impacts on the lives of Georgian people – including young women and men. Some of the participants were internally displaced or lived in the so-called ABL (Administrative Boundary Line) villages, where skirmishes still happen. Therefore they feel the consequences of the conflict every day.
Throughout the training, the young participants became acquainted with the WPS and YPS agendas. They showed a very good understanding of the effects of conflict and violence on women and young people. Thanks to the engaging “crash course” on peacebuilding, organized by Yago Pasandze, Executive Director of NGO Saunje and youth trainer, the participants were able to discuss and explore specific concepts, such as peace trust recovery, democracy and justice, and their relevance to their own situations. They also directly applied their newly-gained knowledge through interactive exercises.
A crucial part of the training was reflecting on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on peace and security in Georgia. Participants shared personal stories about the impacts of the pandemic on their communities – including increased domestic violence and negative effects on women´s rights, as well the negative effects of the pandemic on education – schools were closed in Georgia during certain periods of the national lockdown that affected access to education.
All the young people who participated in the training emphasized the necessity of achieving a sustainable peace in Georgia. They also highlighted the role of young people in conflict resolution. The participants were primarily from the new generation that does not remember the once peaceful coexistence of Georgians and Abkhazians. Nevertheless, they shared their hope that it would be their generation who would build the bridges between the two sides of the border.
The 3-day training was full of inspiration and motivation. The GNWP team was glad to see the enthusiasm of the participants, and look forward to continuing the implementation of the YWL program in Georgia. Didi madloba!