“It will never rain roses: when we want to have more roses, we must plant more roses.” – Mary Anne Evans, known as George Eliot
I was born and raised in a very small town in Georgia, a country located in the Caucasus region. Living in Georgia in the 1990s was challenging as the country was suffering from socio-economic difficulties after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. I remember the times when we had to prepare our homework in the light of a candle or lamp, with no heating in the winter. But what didn’t need electricity were the ideas in our minds.
Being a girl in a male-dominated society requires double the energy and motivation, and persistent attempts to prove that we are as worthy as boys. The majority of the society believes in gender stereotypes, and stigma and discrimination towards minorities remain widespread. Georgia still has a high rate of sex-selective abortions and early marriages, and a lack of access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) information. I didn’t have access to comprehensive sexuality education and talking about SRHR was taboo.
In 2012, I attended a training of trainers on gender and SRHR and it turned out to be a milestone in my life. I learned that my knowledge in many SRHR-related topics was limited and realized that hundreds of young people in my community were just like me – with no access to information, except widely spread myths and stereotypes.
I began to understand that my peers and I are the ones who could plant roses. The path that we walked was as thorny as the roses, but we tried and it worked out. We established a non-governmental organization in my municipality called Center for Youth Development – XXI. For the past six years, we have implemented various projects on youth empowerment, youth participation, gender equality, SRHR, and human rights. We work on both a voluntary basis, as well as with some small funding.
Now, I can see those roses that we have planted are growing up. I see many young people who strive for positive change and contribute to achieving it.
Starting from the grassroots level, I became a youth advocate and currently work on the national and international level. I have participated in the development process of the Georgian Youth Policy Document and have been a member of the Youth Advisory Panel at the United Nations. I have done a fellowship program at the International Institute for Youth Development PETRI – Sofia and am a member of the Steering Committee at the European Youth Network on Sexual and Reproductive Rights (YouAct).
Despite these accomplishments, I never lose the connection to my community. I always try to bring the burning issues that I care about to high-level meetings and conferences to ensure that my participation is meaningful and reflects the voices of thousands of young people from my community. I believe that every small action can have a positive impact. There is always a way to contribute and plant roses.
#YoungWomenSay is a collaboration between SayItForward.org and The Torchlight Collective in support of International Youth Day 2018 and culminating on International Day of the Girl. This campaign features blogs from incredible young women from around the world, and is designed to harness the power of storytelling and social media to drive attention to the lived experiences, dreams, and aspirations of young women around the world