Gender Assessment in Georgia Essay

In March 2003 the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) conducted a Gender Assessment in Georgia. 1 The importance of this work is emphasized even by the mere fact that it was the first time such the research had been carried out in this Caucasian country, famous among other things for the controversial question of whether it belongs to Europe or Asia (thus whether the attitude towards gender should be discussed from European or Asian perspective).

In this paper I would like to analyze why the Gender Assessment was conducted in Georgia; what was the scope of the work; what methodology was used for it; what were the specific findings (if any); which problems were pointed out by USAID as the most crucial for Georgian society; and what were the conclusions and the recommendations of USAID in order to contribute towards “expanding democracy and free markets while improving the lives of the citizens of the developing world”

2. In addition, by briefly comparing this assessment to several other gender assessments conducted by USAID in other countries I intend to show the reason of difference between the most important issues concerning gender which are stressed in all of these Assessments. Before proceeding to the main body of my essay let me explain what is Gender Mainstreaming. The definition of Gender Mainstreaming was adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing3 in 1995, to design the methods and institutional preparations to achieve gender equality.

Gender mainstreaming is an approach that regards gender as a critical consideration in policy planning, designation, evaluation, and decision-making processes. For further explanations let us refer to United Nations Gender Policy: “Mainstreaming a gender perspective is the process of assessing the implications of any planned action for both women and men. The strategy seeks to ensure that women and men benefit equally by integrating their experiences and concerns into the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programs in all political, economic and societal spheres.

The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality”4. As for Georgia, “gender mainstreaming strategies are intended to improve the effectiveness of USAID assistance by ensuring that both men and women are fully integrated into Georgian society and USAID policies and programs”5. For that reason, the conducting of Gender Assessment was considered to be essential for USAID, as it would examine current programs thus presenting a basis to methodical integration of gender into upcoming USAID work.

The accomplished work included but was not limited to the assessment of the nature of gender relations in Georgia, its role in the country’s development, the assessment of the possible gender issues in the future strategic policies and procedures and providing specific recommendations to the USAID’s Mission in Georgia for gender’s further considerations into its policies.

The Mission pointed out the importance of awareness of gender mainstreaming and the necessity to improve the unequal status of women, because without full and equal participation of women in the Georgian society the development results are not likely to be sustainable, and the political, economic and social advancement of the country will in fact never occur. However, being aware is only one side of the coin. Another side consists of creating and establishing of gender policy and procedures, by requiring from partners of the Mission and all their beneficiaries to collect accurate gender-disaggregated data.

The first step to achieve this goal was to conduct gender assessment, and consequent analyzing of its findings and recommendations would assist USAID Mission in Georgia to mainstream gender into its own strategy, policies and procedures. Therefore, the scope of work was focused on the Mission’s program only in Georgia, and the main questions introduced by the assessment concerned the differences between men’s and women’s problems and their solutions as well as the differences between men’s and women’s contributions to different activities.

To complete the assessment, the team of two experienced specialists6 elaborated on significant documents delivered to them by different partner organizations, programs, NGOs and Activists. Furthermore, they conducted vast research in the whole region of Georgia. This encompasses both formal interviews with members of numerous targeted organizations and informal discussions with other relevant individuals7.

For a better and thorough analyzing of the data gathered, it was divided into several groups named “Strategic Objectives”8, and these are Accelerated Development and Growth of Private Enterprises, a More Economically Efficient and Environmentally Sustainable Energy Sector, Legal Systems that Better Support Implementation of Democratic Process and Market Reforms, More Efficient and Responsive Local Governance, Reduced Human Suffering in Targeted Communities, Trafficking in Persons and Domestic Violence. Let me elaborate on USAID’s specific findings concerning gender analysis within the context of each of these strategic objectives.

While assessing gender in economic environment of Georgia, one must not forget that this country is one of the poorest amongst post-soviet states, with “extensive corruption, economic stagnation, and dismal poverty”9. Georgia’s economic progress is particularly hindered by the following three issues: economic position of women which is lagging behind men; considerable difference between women’s and men’s opportunity to raise their financial situation; and society’s lesser belief in women’s capability than that of men’s.

Analyzing gender in Georgia’s context means taking into consideration the country’s traditional, patriarchal environment as well as difficult transitional phase in a global economy. High out-migration of both women and men together with women’s more unpaid labor contribution towards the households and their lower earning capacity creates the country’s specific economic features.

As for gender division among the job sectors, the situation could be well imagined by specialists even without piles of research done: women constitute the major mass within the low-paid sector (education and health care in Georgia’s case) and less than 20 % within the high-paid sector (industry and construction). Yet, in all cases gender’s distribution within the position level in private sector is still uneven: women occupying mostly administrative and clerical while men – managerial posts.

Besides, requirements from employers concerning age-specific, appearance-specific and other limitations inhibit fairness of employment processes. Analyzing women’s participation in privatization processes brings more light to gender unequal dissemination within the sphere. Less than 25 % of privatized businesses is owned by women, its overwhelming majority disseminated in trade, public services and health, and representing mostly small and medium enterprises.

Moreover, women business owners lack necessary technology, market knowledge, information how to operate, even starting capital, and access to credit loan. In addition to all the above, professionals claim (and being informed about Georgia’s reality one can well understand why) that tax laws are completely unregulated and burdensome, and almost the entire body of inspectors are corrupt10. These inspectors provide heavy inhibitor particularly for women business-makers by threatening the viability of their business.

While conducting the research, the assessment team found major barriers to business growth in three policy sections: taxation, corruption, and credit. Being especially egregious for women business-owners, they represent threat towards development in general and women’s share into the business in particular. Thus, lobbying for advancing relevant laws is of great importance for the improvement of the situation. Working towards developing a commercially viable and sustainable energy sector is of vitally importance for Georgian community, where improved energy supply would lessen double burden of women’s work.

Unfortunately, the reality shows severe underperformance of electricity, oil, gas, and water. Recurrent work stoppages due to blackouts are usual, they cause major economic losses and hamper women’s labor. As for gender distribution in the energy sector, women and men are huddled within the industry in stereotypical positions: women hold administrative, operational and clerical roles, they do not attempt to attain higher managerial positions and are “practically invisible in energy policy circles”11. Meanwhile men hold technical and leadership positions.

In the Assessment the team pointed out several issues that demand attention, namely to arrange better collection of utility payment, to liberalize price, to increase private sector involvement, to enhance energy supply availability, to create public awareness of reform initiatives and to improve the energy sector investment climate. Besides, they recommended identifying women for managerial positions in order to women’s awareness of energy sector policy and encourage their participation in its development.

Moreover, development of payment methods must take place so that small customers be allowed to “make payments through banks, postal offices, or authorized businesses thereby eliminating door-to-door collectors who use the opportunity to pressure women”12. Picture depicted under the strategic objective named “Democratic Process and Market Reforms” shows grave difference between the law and its actual enactment in the Georgian reality.

Georgia is a traditional country with a long patriarchal history, where the main obstacle for women is a traditional approach towards them. This encompasses consideration about family as the most significant social unit, where the women’s “decision-making” includes care for the home, for the children and for the husband, while the major decisions are the sole responsibility of the men13. According to the new civil code, women and men are equal within the family. But religious and customary laws dictate the opposite.

According to the same code, men and women have equal rights of inheritance, but by tradition and in practice women are considered as secondary heirs, possessing fewer rights than men in the division of inherited property. Furthermore, no specific legislation exists to prohibit discrimination against women14. As for women, they either do not know about their rights, or can not realize they (these rights) are violated, or even they are aware of the violations but lack knowledge of how to challenge the violators. And even when they know about the existing laws, traditions and customs restrict women from exercising this right.

Besides, they simply do not view enforcing mechanism (court) as trustworthy instrument to achieve justice. These all are especially surprising when a researcher juxtaposes high standard of women’s education in Georgia with the lack of understanding of their legal rights. This is one of major problems for women along with bride kidnapping (abduction, still widely practiced in Georgia, especially in the rural regions but acceptable for society in the capital too), divorce, domestic violence, and trafficking in persons.

Strategies to empower women through public awareness of their existing legal rights and mechanisms to support legal access of women to pursue these rights are very important to eradicate all these old-fashioned traditional practices and abuse of women’s humans rights. After careful consideration of all the above mentioned, it is clear that laws must be either changed or enacted in correspondence of the modern societal needs. However, this will never happen without women’s adequate representation in politics, as, according to numerous feminist scholars, women can not be represented by men but only by women themselves15.

Women’s participation in elections and their existence on decision-making levels are highly recommended by the Assessment as well. Sadly enough, according to USAID, women in Georgia are almost invisible in the politics at the decision-making positions. This is because they are not attracted by “dirty” politics (they claim that the political climate is hostile to them) and do not view it as a mean to better their overall conditions and situation. As goes for statistics, women comply less than 35% of the total amount of party members.

Their representation in local government councils is also below parity. Out of 18 ministries only two, ministry of culture and ministry of environmental protection, are directed by women. As for women’s NGOs, only few out of 60 are active17, but without adequate financing and deficient number of trained personnel they are not powerful forces to call for changes in Georgia. Besides, their majority is located in the capital, while rural areas deserve more attention in some issues that the capital does.

USAID names impediments to enhanced participation of women in politics to be but few: organizational structure of parties being neither transparent, nor participatory, nor member-oriented; vague and suspicious financing of the parties; and excluding women from decision-making processes. Media must be important source of making awareness of gender’s issues and promoting understanding of women’s problems. However, referring to various sources, the researchers claim that women’s issues in Georgian media are under represented.

Even when women are represented in media, it is often accompanied by an erotic picture, without clearly making a link between the subject’s matter and the image printed. Moreover, this limited representation tends to cover areas concerning education, social spheres, and healthcare services. Another observed type of articles containing information about families somehow consider the practices of bride kidnapping, family abuse, stereotypes women seen as only wives and mothers with no societal life abilities to be widespread and generally acceptable by broader public.

Thus, instead of promoting society’s understanding of women’s issues, media blurs the real situation and even worsens it. To train journalists (the overwhelming majority of whom are women) and editors (only a few of them are women) and teach them basic business skills, quality writing, and most importantly ethics in journalism is seen as the key affair at this stage of representation, because “without a strong media, the NGO sector will not develop and gender stereotypes will be reinforced”

For further development, USAID considers conducting project’s outset and customer evaluation surveys with disaggregated gender data, as this knowledge at the primary level to be important for subsequent determining of gender-sensitive issues. Furthermore, significant “capacity building training” of women employees, strengthening the leadership skills of already established or promising women leaders, assisting them in running political campaigns for offices, and increasing citizens (both female and male) awareness of their roles and responsibilities as well as of democratic processes is suggested by the Assessment.

In doing so, special attention should be paid towards changing men’s attitudes about women in political office. Two problems specifically pointed out by the Assessment are trafficking in persons and domestic violence. These are the main obstacles for women’s full social and personal realization. Trafficking in persons is an acute problem in Georgia, calling for special attention. Georgia is classified by US Department of State’s 2002 Annual Report on Trafficking in Persons as a Tier 2 country19.

Having no legislation (not a single word to frame trafficking as a separate offense in the criminal code), few programs and limited (if any) official data makes fighting against it extremely difficult. Besides, one must consider this problem through local social lenses, which means that it is “aggravated by patriarchal social attitudes that discourage open discussion on the issue”.

According to the one (and the only) NGO “Women in the Future” running a hotline to collect data about the victims of trafficking, total number of the victims reach 300, 2/3 of whom are women. However, I have enough evidence to consider this data depicts only very few cases21. The most desired and accessible countries for Georgians are Turkey, France and Spain. Assessing team has several suggestions to improve the situation, starting with the collection of the relevant information and ending with legislative reform.

Besides, they advocate for increasing the support to women’s economic activities, so that they will not have to migrate anymore; for campaigning to promote public awareness of the problem; for protection and assistance of the victims, including their vocational training and social integration; and the last but not the least for training judges and the police to address the issue with the responsibility and by their full attention. Another significant problem stressed in the Assessment is domestic violence in Georgia.

This is actually considered to be the most serious problem for women in Georgia, as it is entangled with the archaic social understanding and values and thus becomes very difficult even to assess, saying nothing about the remedies. Having no legislative document (the same as for trafficking) prohibiting domestic violence, it is extremely troublesome to name and fight against domestic violence. The attempt to this latter is undermined by widespread social understanding of family life being private and thus tabooed for further discussion.

Even when named, victims of domestic violence would rather hide than announce for their experience, because they fear that the court can provide no valuable mechanism to protect them from following recurrence of the case. Besides the law, there are no specific shelters for the victims and their future after making the “private” issue public is vague and obscure. Thus, they would rather prefer to stay unseen and untouchable.

In the Assessment USAID team strongly encouraged NGOs, different organizations and the people concerned (and who are not concerned? to elaborate on several points to combat domestic violence, or at least facilitate unbearable situation of its victims. They claim, that the reactions chain should include drafting relevant legislature, gathering and analyzing of the relevant data, making issue widely discussed in media, providing shelters, and conducting training for police and especially encouraging female policemen to be included in the list of aid-providers.

Before elaborating on the general conclusions, which the Assessment drew in order to better women’s materialization in every field of life, let me briefly analyze the reason of main differences between key important issues concerning gender which are stressed in the Assessment of Georgia v. several other Assessments. Gender Assessment in Romania carried out in February 2002 elaborates more on economic, democratic and social transition, yet it specifies the same vulnerable areas of concern as in the case of Georgia, that is, domestic violence and trafficking in persons.

Domestic violence is recognized as a way serious problem in the country, where it obeys no socio-economic pattern by eradicating all social, cultural, and economic boundaries. What for trafficking, “to the extent data exists on trafficking in women in Romania, the problem is severe and requires immediate action”. 22 On the contrary to above, the gender assessment conducted in Guyana in May 2003 stressed HIV/AIDS pandemic rather than domestic violence by stating that the “reduction of risk of HIV/AIDS transmission will be the largest program to be implemented by the Mission during the next strategy period”23.

This is because HIV/AIDS pandemic is one of the major important issues in Guyana where “the growing threat is intimately intertwined with the economic, social, and political issues facing the country”24, and besides, the disease is identified as “a more visible problem for women,… [who] tend to be ‘blamed’ for spread of the disease”. 25 Thus the similar problems make Gender Assessments from Georgia and Romania to have more common crossing points than for instance the assessments from Georgia and Guyana do.

On the other hand, Gender Assessment for USAID/Morocco pays almost no attention to any problems discussed in the works above. The USAID evaluated the main goals of the country to be the development of business, in particular, agriculture and related agribusiness, as well as creation of new business opportunities and improvement of business practices. For this, eradication of illiteracy (which is as high as 70 % in rural population, and for rural women it achieves yet higher level – 83 %) and enhancement of low education is essential26.

Thus, the gender assessment for Morocco concentrates on these and related problems, unlike assessments for other countries, though I can well imagine that HIV/AIDS, domestic violence and trafficking are not dilemmas unheard of there. Now let me briefly analyze what conclusions did USAID team made after conducting the research. In fact, the conclusions were directed to two targets, one of them USAID Mission itself, and another – “Implementing Partners”.

For USAID Mission, the principal importance lies in requiring from all partners to supply the Mission with gender disaggregated data, which ought to be “current, readily accessible, and highlighted by the implementers in external and internal quarterly and published annual reports”27. Meeting frequently with NGOs, train them and facilitate their further understanding of gender mainstreaming issues by providing gender program analysis as well as specially designed manuals.

For the Implementing Partners (different International Organizations functioning in Georgia, along with Georgian NGOs), quite a few tasks were delineated, including but not limited to gathering gender disaggregated data, analyzing differences between female and male business-owners, promoting gender equality in decision-making, lobbying for improved legislature, developing a media campaign, increasing legal aid and public awareness (especially in rural areas) about trafficking and domestic violence, training staff about the related issues, elaborating on consumer surveys and questionnaires, identifying and training of leading women in political parties, and conducting civil education campaigns.

Overall, the assessment demonstrated that “USAID/Caucasus is aware of gender mainstreaming and the relationship between improving the unequal status of women and the economic, political, and social growth of the country”29. This is very essential for such a tremendous donor organization, as USAID is for Georgia, giving the state a good opportunity to profit from USAID’s significant experience, findings, and recommendations.