Susan B. Anthony, a famous suffragist once said: “Every woman should have a purse of her own”. Two centuries later her words remain relevant, as 21st century women do not have the opportunity to devote time to self-care, growth, and improvement - they continue to live under the unequal power distribution among genders.
The concept of Feminist philanthropy is based on the idea that funds, even from ‘traditional donors’, are not directly allocated to women for their own disposal. Although the situation has improved over the centuries, women still do not have the means to overcome obstacles and generate real social change. To create a healthy social environment, it is necessary to directly distribute finances to women and girls and place investments under their control.
Women’s Fund in Georgia (WFG) is based on the aforementioned precept. WFG aims to create spaces that will motivate women to organize, understand feminist movement’s history, transform their environment, and become agents for change.
Women’s Fund considers its duty to use resources and create opportunities which will allow women better see the continuum in the fight for liberty and understand the importance of unity and solidarity. When we are exposed to many obstacles from outside or inside the movement, it is essential to expose oneself to information, opportunities, and support, all of which WFG aims to make available.
When summarizing Fund’s work in a certain period in time, specific fields and issues become as the apparent focus of WFG. Reviewing helps identify the allocation of already limited resources to solving particular problems, the improvement of social environment, and opportunities for the future.
The Feminist festival in Kutaisi is an example of WFG’s work. The festival centered around the notion of “Georgian woman’s voice”, which was first heard a century ago. Although the voice had only been expressed publicly for two years, it left us with a large pool of information that recognized pressing issues and causes for gender discrimination. Today, gender researchers, feminist activists, and artivists are resonators of this voice. They work hard to publicize women’s and gender issues through their media. 5-7 April, 2017 marks the date when the first feminist festival gathered these creators to celebrate 100 years from publication of the first feminist magazine in Georgia.
First day was opened with Mariana Unapkoshvili’s presentation of first scientific-publicist e-journal Voice of the Georgian Woman – After 100 Years, established with the support of Women’s Fund in Georgia.
Why do we need women’s history, how it differs from dominant historical narratives and how is it possible to integrate women’s histories with dominant historical discourse? Maia Tabidze discussed these topics in her speech “Representation of the Past in Georgian Feminist Thought”.
Women’s role was considered irrelevant and minor in Soviet Union too. Lela Gaphrindashvili’s speech titled „Writing, Fate, Women’s Correspondence” highlighted that women writers and public figures have rarely been punished, because Bolsheviks believed women had no power and they were only created to mourn and burry men.
Recently, modern women started to share their experiences on the platform of Women from Georgia. They openly spoke about common problems: stereotypes, early marriages, sexual harassment and violence, discrimination, poverty, limited access to education, career advancement, self-realization, services and other topics. Authors of the project spoke how they gathered these stories from all regions of Georgia.
With financial support of WFG Salome Kereselidze shot documentary film “Girls in Fiction” where young women and girls with different backgrounds tell their stories of discrimination and pressure from society. The film screening and meeting with the director was held within the festival.
Later, exhibition of three women artists: Lia Ukleba, Luiza Lapheradze, Tamo Khmiadashvili, Nadia Tsulukidze and Lali Pertenava titled Women’s Happiness was held in Varla Gallery. Main questions of their works were: what is women’s happiness that creates the standards of ideal woman? Why is pink considered as girls color? And why the birth of a girl is followed with silence? How cultural, social and economic problems set limits for girls self-realization?
Tamar Tskhadadze spoke about anger in feminism and how society perceives it as a normal behavior from men and judges women without focusing on the reason of the anger.
Based on Soviet cinematography Salome Tsofurashvili tried to explain why communists forbade their wives to become active public figures in her presentation “1920’s Soviet Woman: Expectations, Reality, Representation”
Women are forgotten easily and majority of streets, parks and other public places are named after men. This problem was highlighted in the publication Fight for Public Space, prepared by Heinrich Böll Stiftung South Caucasus Bureau. The book Kato Mikeladze-Unknown Histories of Georgian Feminism was presented at the festival by the author Tamta Melashvili. She also leaded Feminist Tour in Kutaisi. Participants had chance to visit several important places in the city (Women’s Gymnasium, women’s joint political club, etc) and hear the stories from the guide.
Later Keta Chkheidze gave a speech about women’s participation and engagement in political life.
The lives and works of first Georgian feminists were presented with installation by Gori Young Feminists and with pantomime by Natalia Pataridze and young artists.
Finally participants gathered at the club to listen to DJ Lilith’s music and have a rest.
Third day started with the presentation of Natia Katchiladze on Women Employed in Heavy Industry – The Example of Chiatura” where women have less salary as they do minor work – cleaning and washing.
The stories of 10 female representatives of socially vulnerable, ethnic and sexual minority groups were gathered in the book Women from Asphalt, financially supported by fund. Keti Berdzenishvili, grantee of the fund broadly spoke about these women.
Leftist feminist group Women’s Gaze presented first issue of their newspaper Women’s Gaze and spoke how they plan to spread their voice among other women.
Natia Kvantaliani gave a speech on vegan-feminism and how especially female animals become victims of exploitation.
At the end of the day documentary play Seven was staged. The play that tells the stories of 7 women from whole over the world who were victims of gender based discrimination/violence and later became activists before was staged in Tbilisi by WFG.