You are here

Every woman should exercise their right to bodily autonomy and the right to control her fertility and reproductive health. This is their unassailable right, from my point of view, and probably no one has the right to interfere in this matter. They should decide for themselves everything that concerns their bodies,” says artist Lia Ukleba, one of the participants of Tell Your Daughters photo project.

An exhibition “Tell Your Daughters” authored by photographer Dina Oganova ran between June 10-24 at Zurab Tsereteli Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) upon the initiative of the UNFPA Georgia Country Office with support of the Government of Sweden within the “UN Joint Program for Gender Equality”.

It offered photo stories of 22 women from Georgia who shared their views about the bodily autonomy. Women and girls - and indeed, all people - face constraints on their bodily autonomy. The consequences to their health, well-being and potential in life can be devastating. Intertwined with bodily autonomy is the right to bodily integrity, where people can live free from physical acts to which they do not consent.

Project participant Salome Zhvania considers that women are deprived of their bodily autonomy from the moment they are born and “as soon as parents learn about the sex of the foetus, they are more or less deprived of their autonomy, and then, throughout our lives, we strive to regain the autonomy we were deprived of before our birth.”

სალომე ჟვანია
Salome Zhvania. Photo: Dina Oganova/UNFPA

They tend to control everything - how we look, how we walk, what we wear, what we do not wear, and even more serious issues topics, such as: when to have sexual relationship, whether to have it or not, how to have it, in what forms and, what is more important than anything, women are often treated like child-bearing vessels, as if they had no other function or value, as if the only thing that matters is how these vessels should be used,” she says, adding that “this is my body, these are my boundaries and violating my bodily integrity and crossing these boundaries is the problem and guilt of those who do so.” 

Another participant of the photo project, marketer Natia Chikovani thinks that people in Georgia do not realize the essence of bodily autonomy:

People's lives can be ruined by a single experience of a forced marriage, unwanted pregnancy, ruined families, because it all happens for nothing. In a country where being a victim of a rape means a lifelong stigma for a woman, nothing should come as a surprise; and unfortunately, this is still a problem,” she says. 

For psychotherapist Elene Japaridze the bodily autonomy means “my own self, that is, my body is me. My personality and everything that makes me what I am is inside my body; for me, our mind and body are unbroken rather than separate aspects; they form an entire organism and therefore all my feelings, all my thoughts, all my pains are born in my body, felt in my body and remembered by my body.”

For me, my body is a vessel - an important carrier of my story. My story is inside my body, together with my feelings and my experiences. Consequently, when we speak of autonomy, we do not separate the body from the mind, but we perceive it as a whole, as our self,” she says.

ელენე ჯაფარიძე
Elene Japaridze. Photo: Dina Oganova/UNFPA

Musician, Artist and TV Presenter Meme Jordania sees “a huge gap between existing generations.” However, she is grateful “for the space that we have inherited from the previous generation, which gives us the opportunity to talk so freely about topics that concern us.”

The previous generation has cleaned up a bit the dirt left over from their previous generation and we are now entering a relatively cleaner room and try to create and build a new space, a new Georgia,” she notes.

Gender analyst Tamta Tatarashvili believes that in order to better understand the meaning of bodily autonomy “we need to educate our children in issues related to the topic” because “as for our generation, identifying some who have somehow realized what it is, or are still in the process of realizing it, is a waste of time. There are some things we have learned and need to rethink them again. We first have to realize that we have learned it the wrong way, then we have to try to rethink things.”

How should we teach children? Of course, I explain to them that there are some parts of our body that belong to us. It is because of my childhood fear and experience that I try to protect them from the pressure somehow and help them to avoid becoming a victim,” she explains.

Writer Natalia Ingorokva considers that “families, schools, learning environment, communities, organizations working in this direction, laws and justice - all should work together to raise awareness of education and freedom, to gain proper understanding of bodily autonomy, to overcome stereotypes so that we do not often be ashamed of our own deeds and succeed in serving the ends of justice.”

ნატალია ინგოროყვა
Natalia Ingorokva. Photo: Dina Oganova/UNFPA

For journalist Dali (Pepiko) Mosulishvili “everything in this world begins with the love of your own body and yourself, that is, you should accept yourself the way you are; everything becomes simpler after that.” She also adds that “having control of yourself as well as your body is entirely up to you”:

You have to accept yourself the way you are, we aren't dolls to look the same way, are we? The main thing is to feel comfortable in the body in which you live. The rest is then not important. I feel comfortable the way I look, I generally care less about what people think about my look. It is my superpower."

დალი (ფეფიკო) მოსულიშვილი
Dali (Pepiko) Mosulishvili. Photo: Dina Oganova/UNFPA

Artist Mariam Devidze meanwhile says that “our main task is to become visible in the society, to be accepted the way we are, and to be provided with services tailored to our needs - to the needs of the deaf - all the services enjoyed by ordinary people, because we are also part of this society.”

After graduating from school, we are made to stay at home, we are locked up, hidden and why? Aren’t we part of this community? Don’t we need to develop? Don’t we want to be educated? We should have the right to all these. All girls and young women in Georgia have to face a problem of having to agree all their decisions with their families, but deaf girls have to face much more than that,” she says

მარიამ დევიძე
Mariam Devidze. Photo: Dina Oganova/UNFPA

In 2021, UNFPA’s annual flagship report – The State of World Population was dedicated to bodily autonomy. Through this groundbreaking report, UNFPA measured both women’s power to make their own decisions about their bodies and the extent to which countries’ laws support or interfere with a woman’s right to make these decisions. The data show a strong link between women’s decision-making power and higher levels of education.

The report shows that in countries where data are available:

o    Only 55 per cent of women are fully empowered to make choices over health care, contraception and the ability to say yes or no to sex.
o    Only 71 per cent of countries guarantee access to overall maternity care.
o    Only 75 per cent of countries legally ensure full, equal access to contraception.
o    Only about 80 per cent of countries have laws supporting sexual health and well-being.
o    Only about 56 per cent of countries have laws and policies supporting comprehensive sexuality education.


Dina Oganova is a Georgian documentary photographer working in Georgia and other countries on different long term projects. She has been a laureate of prestigious awards, including the EU Prize for Journalism and Litera. Ms. Oganova has named among the best woman photographer under the age of 30. Her photo projects include: “I Am Georgia," “My Place,” “Frozen Waves.”  Ms. Oganova’s works have been exhibited in Italy, France, USA, Spain and other countries. She is an author of the first Georgia handmade limited edition photobook “My Place”, which is a part of collections of several museums, including the Metropolitan Museum in New York.


Dina Oganova has cooperated with UNFPA Georgia since 2016 on different projects: “A Girl is Born”, “Girls from the Future”, “Mothers and Daughters”, etc.  Women’s and girls’ rights remain in focus of her artistic work.


About the author: