Global Fund advisors and staff held a three-day forum in the Caucasus, a region deeply affected by conflict and economic transition. In Tbilisi, Georgia, women from Armenia and Georgia developed a regional strategy for women’s rights for the first time.
The Global Fund set out to the ancient lands of Noah’s Ark and the region known as the Caucasus, which separates Europe from Asia, to meet with women’s human rights organizations and understand what obstacles they have faced since the Soviet Union disintegrated 15 years ago. As we traveled, the beauty of the thousand-year-old churches and citadels that surrounded our four-person delegation reinforced the sturdiness and steadiness of our grantee partners.
Dozens of representatives of women’s rights groups at three simultaneous national women’s forums described the obstacles women encounter in their daily life and the imaginative efforts of women to overcome them.
The problems were brought to life in our meetings with 130 grantees in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia over two weeks: steeply rising poverty among women and their families, increasing domestic violence and women’s lack of participation in political life.
At the Global Fund regional meeting held in Tbilisi, 35 activists came together for the first time to compare notes across the Caucasus. At the forum we learned that modern conflicts still cast a pall over the region, namely, the dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabagh region, and the desire for sovereignty amongst some ethnic minorities in Georgia. We witnessed firsthand the deplorable conditions of refugees living in Azerbaijan.
Our meeting in Tbilisi did not only focus on problems, but marked the successful strategies of women’s groups in the regions. For example, the Georgian women’s movement has succeeded in getting a law against domestic violence passed in the wake of the nonviolent Rose Revolution in 2003. It is achievements such as these that will enable feminists in the Caucasus to consolidate their diverse efforts into a regional force for change.