When Abkhazia was electing its new president, there were no women candidates among the nominees. In the article below we try to find out what prevents women in Abkhazia from active political participation.
There are many women In Abkhazia who could be engaged in public administration, but they are rarely given the opportunity to do so.
Even if they are willing to participate, the interest in women politicians is still low. Although the women constitute the largest part of Abkhazian population and respectively a significant portion of the electorate, they are very modestly represented in the government.
In the current parliament, there is only one woman legislator. In the government, there are two women ministries.
However, there were no women among presidential candidates in Abkhazia. Three men were running for the office: the Minister of Economy and Deputy Prime Minister Adgur Ardzinba, the former Minister of Internal Affairs and an opposition leader Leonid Dzapshba, MP and a former chairman of the Security Service, retired General Aslan Bzhaniya. In the elections that took place on March 22, the latter won the vote.
Even though there are many professionals among women who are potentially ready to run the office and make decisions at the high level, there is no rush to bet on female candidates in Abkhazia. And there are several reasons for this.
“Why they are not accepted? Probably, the men are not ready to speak with women on equal terms. And the public activism on gender related issues is not sufficiently developed. We are constantly talking about this, but it is not enough at the moment,” said Yulia Dubitskaya, a psychologist of the Crisis Center at the Association of Women of Abkhazia.
Another possible reason is the political isolation of the region and a constant sense of military threat. Therefore, the electorate still sees men who are former security officers or ex-combatants as potential leaders of Abkhazia.
“Since 1993, only once a woman was nominated as a candidate for presidency, vice-president or prime minister. As for political activity at the voters’ level, the women actively participate in elections as well as during election campaigns for different candidates. There are some great speakers among women, such as Irina Agrba, but in the current situation it is difficult for them to get enough support,” Aliona Kuvichko from the Association of Women of Abkhazia told us.
In addition, as practice shows, the women themselves are passive in their desire to participate in big politics. Fearing for their reputation, they hesitate to get involved in the processes. However, the activity of women in neighboring Georgia is much higher.
“I’ve been watching the processes in Abkhazia very carefully – this is “a men’s game”. There were mostly men on the streets in Abkhazia [during protests],” said Nino Kalandarishvili from the Institute for the Study of Nationalism and Conflicts in Tbilisi.
“The processes that were going on in Abkhazia and the processes that were going on in Tbilisi after June 20 have a completely different genesis. There were many women among the protesters on the streets in Georgia, and they actually became the face of these protests. ”
Along with differences, there are many similarities between the women of Abkhazia and the women of the rest of the region.
Abkhazians are actively involved in charity projects, human rights activities and most actively – in peace building and confidence building processes between the societies divided by conflict.
“We want … to strengthen the voices of women, to determine a strategy and provide them with more effective leverages to influence the decision-making process and to ensure the safety of civilians,” said Blerta Cela, UN Women Deputy Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia while addressing the participants of a regional conference held in Istanbul in February.
All these women are united by the desire to really, constructively and truly influence the processes that are important for people’s lives.
“In Abkhazia, female NGO leaders prevail, but the politicians are mostly men. Just like in Georgia,” said Nino Kalandarishvili.
Currently, the main challenge for Abkhazian society is to ensure the transfer of women leaders from the non-governmental sector into politics, this will enable them to occupy key positions and be directly involved in all political processes. Time will tell, if the society will be able to distribute the responsibility for its future between the men in camouflage and the women peace-builders.
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