Project report: empowering women and young people in rural areas of Abkhazia
Grantee: Women’s Fund for Development, Georgia
Project To give women and young people in rural areas the skills and capability to identify local needs, lobby and advocate for them, and participate in civic and social activities in their local communities.
The Women’s Fund for Development ran several initiatives supporting women and young girls living in rural areas of Abkhazia, aiming to equip rural women and youth initiative groups with leadership skills and capacities enabling them to advocate and lobby for their rights and act as change agents in their communities through active engagement and participation in social and public life.
Working in rural areas was crucial as, according to our reports as well as other local and international CSOs working in the region, living conditions and the economic situation in rural communities are poor. The unemployment and poverty rates are high, while access to resources is quite limited. COVID-19 has brought additional challenges to these communities, with increasing poverty, lockdowns and restrictions further burdening these already isolated communities. Women and young people are especially affected in these conditions. Low levels of self-reliance among women’s groups in the face of increased domestic violence, additional household responsibilities and poor access to development opportunities are some of the side-effects of the pandemic globally, increasing vulnerabilities on an unprecedented scale.
A young activist from one of the initiative groups comments:
“We face specific challenges because we live in a conflict zone, in an isolated rural area which is forgotten by everyone. The pandemic has made it even worse. There are so many vulnerable people in my community who need help, but it is so difficult to do something when you don’t have any support. I joined the initiative group created in my village, which turned out to be a real support bubble during the pandemic. We organised a mobile visit by doctors, which was crucial because there is no public transport here and elderly people especially were left without medical support. But unfortunately, there so many other issues that need an urgent response”.
One of the immediate short term-results of the project was that three initiative groups each consisting of 12 women and young people were created in three rural communities of Abkhazia. Thanks to the activists and volunteers in the initiative groups, we were able to get information and provide appropriate help. Within the project, initiative groups received extensive training in leadership, effective communication, civic activism and community mobilisation. Equipped with the necessary skills and capabilities, they conducted needs assessment meetings with the local population to identify the most crucial needs in their communities. Another short-term result of the project was that small-scale social projects were developed and carried out to address the most urgent problems identified during the needs assessment. Finally, the most important part of the project was that the initiative groups conducted advocacy campaign meetings with the representative of local authorities, CSOs and international organisations working in the regions in order to bring to their attention the needs and problems of their communities and get them to respond quickly and effectively.
As implementation of the project coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, WFD faced some challenges with the planned activities. For the safety of the project team and our beneficiaries, most of the training and meetings were held online. Creating the initiative groups was especially important during the pandemic as due to the various restrictions our beneficiaries in rural areas suffered disproportionately. However, thanks to the activists, volunteers and initiative groups we were able to stay in contact and remain informed about the situation in the targeted locations, especially in relation to the most vulnerable groups, such as women, children and elderly people, and provide appropriate help.
In the longer term, we believe that this and similar projects will contribute to advancing women’s rights, tackling gender equality, peacebuilding and conflict resolution. Because if women and young people in post-conflict contexts are supported and strengthened and have development opportunities, they are more likely to participate actively in their communities and engage in peacebuilding initiatives.
Text and photos: Madlen Kvaratskheila
Women’s Fund for Development