Women from Post-conflict Areas Convene for Leadership Training in Georgia

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For almost 100 years, ethnic and political tensions throughout Central Asia have forced thousands to flee their homes and navigate the aftermath of this trauma.  In order to break the cycles of insecurity within these post-conflict societies, women have been advocating to be included in peace-building process and take on decision-making roles within their communities.

Civil society organizations in the region, like WLP’s partners in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, Shymkent Women’s Resource Center (SWRC) and Bir Duino, are key to empowering Central Asian women to be peaceful and inclusive leaders. From March 22 to 25, 2018, they convened a Training of Trainers (TOT) workshop in Borjomi, Georgia for leading human rights activists. It was co-organized by two Georgian NGOs they have mentored over the years, Fund Sukhumi and Consent
 

The 30 participants came from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,  Russia, and Ukraine. Many had been displaced by conflict, so the workshop’s facilitators included themes related to women’s rights in post-conflict areas. (A number of the attendees had previously participated in a TOT in Tajikistan in 2017, which was also organized with the guidance of WLP partners.) 

The workshop aimed to equip them with the tools necessary to secure a stable future. At the end of the TOT, 88 percent reported that they had expanded their understanding of the concept of human rights, and 91 percent reported that the training helped them feel empowered to solve community issues and share their knowledge with other women.

Fleeing from Violence in Georgia 

Some of the TOT’s participants had fled fighting due to ethno-political tensions and separatist movements in the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Periods of unrest along these border areas with Russia have been occurring sporadically since the 1920’s, but they escalated to a full-scale, five-day war in 2008 in which 192,000 people were displaced.   

Map Central Asia

The participants’ discussions around displacement during the TOT at times evoked painful memories. One woman recounted how war forced her family to leave their home, taking nothing but their identification documents with them. Their journey took them across a field monitored by snipers. She and her husband shielded their children as they traversed the area. The woman described the terror she felt knowing that one false move could have cost the lives of her family. 

Addressing Post-Conflict Intimate Partner Violence

A common occurrence in post-conflict countries is a higher-than-average rate of intimate partner violence (IPV), defined as domestic violence committed by a partner including physical, verbal, emotional, economic, and sexual abuse. A study found that nine percent of married women in Georgia report experiencing IPV, but experts suspect the frequency is higher since some Georgian women believe domestic violence is a private matter that should not be reported.  

Group Activity

Despite steps taken by the Georgian government to address the problem of IPV in 2012, TOT participants agreed that IPV persists and that the law is rarely enforced to its full extent. Oftentimes, police only interview the victim’s family, pitting the victim’s word against their partner’s. To create the cultural and policy changes necessary to address these issues, women must be equipped with the tools they need to advocate for the enforcement and establishment of laws protecting women’s security and equality. 

Using the “Who Is a Leader?” session from WLP’s manual Leading to Choices, participants discussed and explored inclusive leadership models despite legal and cultural systems that restrict women’s rights and roles in the community. The session tells the story of a woman who risked her own wellbeing by seeking legal advice after her husband assaulted their daughter. The story inspired the participants to see themselves as agents of change. One participant, Tamar Kantaria of Consent, said that she has always felt like a leader, and that this training boosted her self-confidence to take on greater decision-making roles in her home and community.  

Central Asia TOT Photo

Building Bridges in the Caucasus and Central Asia 

The training also provided an opportunity for the participants to discuss their experiences living through times of conflicts and brainstorm ways to create a unified and peaceful society. 

 “I had a very good experience with women from different countries,” said Svetlana Krot of Ukraine after the training. “We always support each other, and this motivates and inspires us for future work.” 

Krot and several of her fellow participants will go on to hold human rights trainings for IDP women with their respective networks this year using the tools they learned from the TOT. 

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