Women living at the dividing line during pandemic
Analytics, Editorial Choice, Women and War

Women living at the dividing line during pandemic

27-year-old Ana Kekelashvili is a mother of two. She lives in the village of Mejvriskhevi located in Shida Kartli, near the dividing line. Her eldest child goes to school and the youngest is 3 years old. Ana said that online classes were stressful for her as well as for her 4th grader child.

The invisible labor of women and especially mothers was doubled during the lockdown. It created a stressful environment in the family and dealing with it was particularly difficult for women living in the conflict zone, she said. That is why she decided to participate in an online meeting where psychologist shared with women and in particular mothers the recommendations on how to deal with stress.

“The village of Mejvriskhevi in Gori municipality is mostly populated by the people who have gone through war and the spread of this coronavirus seemed to have renewed the trauma of that time. Dealing with stress was especially hard for women who had children of school age. That is why I joined the webinar, where I learned from a psychologist about the stages of the stress and means to overcome it, I also learned what to change in the relationship with children who experienced similar stress during the lockdown,” Ana Kekelashvili said.

The online meeting, led by experienced psychologist Giorgi Grigolia, was organized by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting and was remotely attended by Georgian, Ossetian and Abkhazian women. The psychologist listened to women telling their stories about the difficulties they endured during the isolation. He gave them recommendations on the ways to handle the emotions of children and mothers.

“The first challenge is to embrace a new reality and this is particularly difficult for children. We heard the stories of children who became very unsociable as a result of lockdown, which is natural and is caused by the fact they had to spend a long time online sitting at their computers or telephones, they could not go outside and could not spend time as they did before. In this case, the parents should be more engaged. They have to find the time and do the things that children like most with them or play computer games with them. This will help children to overcome anxiety, aggression, fear, etc.,” Giorgi Grigolia said.

After discussing the issues related to mothers and children, the conversation about the consequences of the pandemic continued with female entrepreneurs. The webinar entitled Entrepreneurship under Covid-19 – Tips for Women Entrepreneurs was led by Natia Ninikelashvili, the founder of soplidan.ge – online shop for agriculture products. She talked about the challenges the entrepreneurs and especially women had to face during the lockdown. She shared her personal experience and gave the participants recommendations on how to overcome challenges and sell the produce during the pandemic.

“Consumer activity in terms of e-commerce has increased for more than 10 times during pandemic, consequently the turnover of businesses has increased. This means that by the end of 2020 the customers will have a great experience, which can play a significant role in changing customers’ behavior. Anyone who wants to sell the products on our website (soplidan.ge) is welcome; we are ready and happy to offer this opportunity. It will be very helpful in terms of connecting the village and the city,” – said Natia Ninikelashvili.

Tsitsino Elikashvili, who lives near the administrative border line, sees it as a good opportunity for selling the products produced in the villages during the pandemic.

“I grow vegetables in Zardiantkari, I also have cattle and produce cheese. We grow fruits too, but it will be difficult to sell the product if we are locked up again because of pandemic. The resources we learned during this online meeting are very important. First, it was a war, now it is a pandemic and as if we have forgotten about the benefits of farming, we cannot use it. For example, this year the plums were very cheap, we could have produced dried fruit, but we did not know where to sell them, so they got spoiled. If someone really helps us with sales, it will be great. We came to this village after the war. Since 2013, only 20 families have returned to live here. It is necessary to bring this sector back to life, it will help many families to overcome hardship,” said Tsitsino Elikashvili.

A webinar on how to work during pandemic was organized for journalists as well. The online meeting How to Cover Covid-19: Safety of Journalists was attended by media representatives from different regions. The trainer of the session was Giorgi Beridze, the head of the PR department at the Tbilisi Infectious Diseases Hospital.

Giorgi Beridze asked the participants to share their stories about the attitudes of their respondents and difficulties while covering the Covid-19 cases. Journalists and civil activists stressed the nihilistic attitude that part of the society has towards the virus.

“The meetings with the representative of the medical institutions are very important. We received a lot of useful information. We discussed the safety norms the journalists should follow while performing their professional duties. We received qualified recommendations from the trainer which will definitely help us in the working process. The more informed the media is the more protected we are, in terms of avoiding the difficulties related to Covid-19,” said Irina Yanovskaya, a journalist and a civil activist.

Giorgi Beridze also emphasized the role of every citizen in wearing the face masks and shared his personal experience with participants.

“Our colleagues, journalists are always looking for exclusive comments and bring the microphones very close to the respondents. The risk of transmitting infection from a microphone, dictaphone or telephone is high and this should be kept in mind. We must be careful. As for the work inside the building, the guests should not sit face-to-face with the host of the show. The host must sit in one studio and the guest in another, this is how they should communicate,” Beridze told reporters.

Tamar Lobjanidze, an analyst with the UN Women project Women, Peace and Security, believes that the recommendations received during the online meetings will help women to overcome difficulties in various areas.

“All three webinars were very timely, informative, and interesting for Georgian, Abkhazian and Ossetian women-participants. They were able to get comprehensive information from experts about the common challenges caused by the coronavirus and the ways to deal with them. We hope that these practical and useful tips will help women living on both sides of the dividing line to better handle the consequences of the pandemic,” Lobjanidze said.

According to Anna Dabrundashvili from IWPR, regardless the barriers, women have gathered together around a common goal to overcome the pandemic related difficulties, which is really critical in the current circumstances.

“The coronavirus pandemic has posed unusual challenges to societies, especially to the people affected by conflict. The burden was particularly heavy for women, both in their personal and professional lives. The pandemic related challenges have united everyone, regardless the side of the conflict they stay on. Therefore, this was a good opportunity to talk about common problems and find solutions, and this is what such events are for,” Dabrundashvili said.

The women attending the webinar said that they would definitely share the recommendations received from the qualified trainers with their colleagues and relatives to avoid possible risks and difficulties. The organizers as well as the partners vowed to organize similar online meetings engaging various stakeholders.

About the project

The goal of the women4peace.net project is to form a group of women professionals and journalists who will be able to prepare balanced, high-quality materials on women’s issues, gender equality, the implementation of UNSCR 1325 and other issues related to these topics, thereby setting an example for the wider journalistic community.