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Youth in Georgia - How to know that we are moving forward and not backwards

10 August 2018

Karajala a village, located in Kakheti, the municipality of Telavi is populated by the ethnic group of Azerbaijanis. Here, the school has an immense responsibility - with the effort of the school principal, the school embraces the role of a theatre, a cinema and a cultural center thanks to extra-curricular activities.

Elza Ashirova has been the principal of this school for 12 years. During these years, many challenges have been faced by the school and the principal. Among them- overcoming language barrier and eliminating the harmful practice of child marriage. It took years, paramount of youth efforts, and active participation of the parents to overcome these challenges.


Elza Ashirova, The Principal of  Karajala Public School
Photo: UNFPA/Dina Oganova

While talking about the rural youth, Elza also includes parents, because, as she says: "Due to the fact that the practice of child marriage was widely spread in the community, many young people are now parents". However, the progress is noticeable with this regard. This year, only two weddings had been planned, where the bride was underage. Nevertheless, Elza, with the help of social workers, was able to prevent both of these weddings. Young people themselves know a lot about the harmful consequences of child marriage. They get information from civil education classes and school based civil clubs, with the help of The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

In 2017, UNFPA and the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia signed the Memorandum of Understanding with the aim to enhance and refine formal, informal and vocational education. In 2018, within the framework of the Memorandum it was possible to provide training sessions on gender equality, reproductive health and rights, HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, as the extra-curricular activities within the school environment. These trainings have been already conducted in 14 different schools of Georgia, among them - in Karajala school. The teaching standards of biology for the elementary and basic education levels (I-VI and VII-IX classes) have been thematically reviewed and updated. Comprehensive implementation of these activities made this often tabooed, yet extremely important information, more accessible for the youth. It will help raise awareness of young people and give them opportunity to make own, informed decisions about their lives, health, and future.

"I do hope that in the future, neither the school principals, nor the teachers in Karajala schools will face such challenges, where parents aren't able to help their children due to the existing language barriers or they marry off their children because of ignorance. I believe that our future generation will have parents with whom it will be easy to communicate and find common language.“ Says Elza. 


The girls' volleyball team of Karajala Public School.
Sports and physical activities help adolescent girls with the social integration, mastering the language and making new friends.
Photo: UNFPA/Dina Oganova

 

Alenda is a peer educator. She studies in Karajala school and this year she participates in the peer training session for the first time. She has already conducted this type of training twice for her peers. "This training gave us not only theoretical, but also practical knowledge…. this was the first training session for me and I'm really fascinated. I learned many things. Most importantly, unlike the school classes, we will remember training sessions for a long time."


Alenda Bakhtiarova, 16 years old.
Photo: UNFPA/Dina Oganova

    Alenda's wish is quite simple - She wants more freedom in her village. This motivated her to take part in the training sessions: "Many young people can't do what they desire. Often their parents prevent them from doing so, at other times, they don't have opportunities… Girls can't walk alone freely, most of them don't even own phones. Based on these circumstances, it makes me really happy that the majority of the training attendees are girls, this convinces me that we are moving forward and not backwards."

"I want to become a pediatrician, I really do. Only after attaining my goal, I want to start a family. I'm really happy that my parents approve my choice, their support is extremely significant for me. I will go to Tbilisi to get education and then, I will come back to our village. Why shouldn't we have a doctor from our community? We definitely should."

 


Kakha Davitashvili, 16 years old.
Photo: UNFPA/Dina Oganova

Kakha is also a peer educator and as he claims – he is going to be a future biochemist. He lives in the city of Telavi, 3.5 kilometers away from Alenda's village, Karajala. For Kakha, volunteering is a part of his everyday life. He participated in the peer education training to get information and to share the attained knowledge afterwards. "In our city, Telavi, it seems that everyone has information about gender equality, however, their knowledge is quite superficial. We need more obvious examples, better communication, to show the advantages of gender equality more clearly. Our role, the role of youth, is tremendous for this."

Kakha thinks that to empower young people, it is crucial to support them and help them reach their goals, regardless the sphere of their interests.

"I'll discuss the example of start-ups. I know a lot of people who have ideas that they want to implement, however, there's a long way to go from the idea to its implementation. They have to work hard, gain knowledge and experience, they have to study how to get a grant, write a project proposal. Moreover, it's very necessary to have social connections. Having an enabling environment is essential for realizing one’s aspirations."

The success stories of Alenda and Kakha are just the examples from other 18,000 stories of young people, whom the United Nations Population Fund has reached out since 2012 through innovative initiatives, such as peer education trainings, youth forums, youth festivals, information meetings and etc. These types of events help young people fully acknowledge and internalize the wisdom around them. These will help young people become professionals, innovators, caring parents, partners, and assume other important roles. Through their lives and work, each and every one of them can create a thriving and dynamic society, and shape the future of their community and the shared world.