Malin Askhamre Photo: Malin Askhamre
Beautiful Kazbegi Photo: Malin Askhamre
A portable ultra sound which Avangard brings to villages all over Eastern Abkhazia where women have little or no access to health care Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna
Our Swedish profile of the month, Malin Askhamre, is working in Georgia for a Swedish NGO (Kvinna till Kvinna) promoting women’s rights. Read Malin´s personal story of life in Georgia, love for the striking nature, and of course most importantly, her passion for women´s rights! Malin´s work is dedicated to help women in post war regions to regain power over their lives. We are thankful for having such enthusiasts around us and can’t think of a better way to close our March theme of influential women, than to share Malin´s story!
My first impression of Georgia was a taste of the great local cuisine during a quick visit in 2013. As a vegetarian and after that first supra (dinner), with not only great company but, also colourful and tasteful food, I knew that I would love to come back to Georgia!
I finally moved to Georgia thanks to my fantastic work opportunity at Kvinna till Kvinna (Woman to Woman); a Swedish organization supporting women during times of war and in post-conflict regions to increase women´s power and influence. Kvinna till Kvinna is a NGO working with feminist power analysis to change discriminatory structures. We promote women’s participation, rights and security, using women’s own organisations as starting point. Today Kvinna till Kvinna is supporting approximately 25 women’s organisations in all regions in South Caucasus. The Tbilisi office was established in 2003, and I have been based here for one year as a field representative for Georgia.
As field representative I am responsible for the work and support to partner organisations to Georgia and in the de facto region Abkhazia. I have many great experiences of strong women’s organisations contributing to a change for the better, but also many concerns seeing the shrinking space for civil society in some regions. The issue of strong stereotypes and traditional values are holding women back from taking part in decision making, domestic violence is widely resulting in femicides (29 women victims in 2014) and minority groups such as LBT women are still living in upwind, challenged every day by the lack of respect for their human rights, all of which Kvinna till Kvinna and our partner originations are trying to change.
A strong impression comes from field visits to one of our partner organizations Avangard in Gali, Abkhazia, where I have the opportunity to accompany their gynaecologist traveling around with a mobile clinic to reach women in rural eastern Abkhazia. The regions visible war wounds and the isolation have nurtured the traditional stereotypes of woman’s role in the society, resulting in women having very little power over their own life and bodies. Avangard is changing these stereotypes and provides not only access to gynaecologic health care but strengthening women’s voice and role in local communities.
Despite all the difficulties, the wind of change is across Georgia. 2015 is declared as the Year of Women by President Giorgi Margvelashvili and Gender Equality is higher up on the agenda than ever before, at least in Tbilisi and among policy makers.
Apart from my work, another benefit from living in Georgia is the enjoyment of the strikingly beautiful nature shifting across the South Caucasus. The landscape is even more beautiful during spring when life is coming back, changing the colures, as a sign of hope. Soon spring is here and I am pleased to be a part of the spring wind blowing across Georgia and the South Caucasus!