Georgia: Gender Assessment

from US Agency for International Development
Published on 30 Jun 2010 View Original

The people of Georgia, with the 2003 Rose Revolution, committed to reform and, subsequently, positive changes have taken place in a number of spheres leading the country toward democracy and a more stable economy. However, in recent years significant events, such as violent conflict within the country, growing opposition to the current government, and the global recession have undoubtedly hampered further development. Many of the most critical issues facing Georgia today, such as economic hardship and a population of internally displaced persons (IDPs), are felt acutely by both men and women. Against this backdrop, however, there is also recognition that women occupy a particularly precarious and disadvantaged position in many spheres.

Early governmental reform efforts, beginning after independence, focused on improving the status of women in Georgia. The policy now has shifted away from solely women?s advancement toward instituting gender equality more broadly. While there has been considerable criticism that past efforts to promote gender equality were declarative in nature, rather than affirmative actions to remove barriers to equality, this pattern may be changing. In March 2010, Georgia adopted the Law on Gender Equality. The law, in conjunction with next year?s National Action Plan on a State Gender Equality Policy, may well create a more comprehensive system of specific initiatives to advance gender equality, revision of discriminatory laws and policies, the creation of obligations to undertake such tasks and a system of monitoring implementation.

Significant differences persist in the roles and status of women and men in Georgia, influenced by a patriarchal culture and traditions. Although women are highly educated, present in the workforce including being well-represented in small business and self-employment, and active in civil society, prevailing norms still dictate that women primarily are responsible for household duties and childcare. In reality, this means that women?s roles in the public sphere, especially in formal decision-making, are limited. Importantly, women?s share of family obligations presents burdens on their abilities to advance in their careers, participate in community projects and in development work in general. This situation is particularly acute outside of large urban centers where household and unpaid labor is more time-consuming and there are fewer social supports for women.

Women are underrepresented in political office both at the national and regional level. Such a significant imbalance has important repercussions for lobbying issues of women?s rights and for the overall responsiveness of the government to half of the population. In politics and employment generally, women are not found in top leadership positions but in supportive and assisting roles. While it is recognized that women have skills and capabilities in running households, this experience has not been valued or transferred to the macro level. Although women outnumber men in civil society organizations, particularly in those that address "gender issues," women?s organizations still struggle to form a women?s movement, to come together in coalitions and to advance a joint platform of respect for women?s rights.