Women in the Public Spaces: when Personal becomes Political

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“After attending the International Gender Workshop in 2014, I started to realize that I was a feminist. Before, I did not identify myself as one. The opening of the format of workshops for a wider public widens perspectives, because these workshops are shaping persons.” Anna Arganashvili, Partnership for Human Rights, Georgia

The 5th International Gender Workshop “Women in the Public Spaces: when Personal Becomes Political” was hosted by the Tbilisi office of the Heinrich Boell Foundation during March 2-4, 2016. The cycle of workshops took its start since 2012 and was jointly organized by the international offices of the Heinrich Böll Foundation. As the workshop previously organized in Tbilisi, Kyiv, Berlin and Warsaw had a more closed format, this year we decided to open our event for all interested parties.

Besides the moderated panel discussion sessions, guests were invited on a Feminist Tour in Tbilisi (March 2, 2016), which was guided by philosopher and women’s history researcher, Lela Gaprindashvili and historian Irakli Khvadagiani. The tour included 4 destinations and focused on women herstories connected to these places:

  • The Writers’ House: exemplary biographies of Georgian women writers of 19th and 20th century and their fates.
  • Memorial of Society for the Promotion of Literacy among Georgians – the memorial, which is build in front of Georgian Chancellor’s, does not mention a name of even one Georgian woman, who were the core leaders of the society;
  • National Youth and Children’s Palace – in one of the halls, meetings of parliament of the first democratic republic of Georgia took place. Among the members of the founding congress, there where were 5 women.
  • Museum of Elene Akhvlediani (1901-1975), Georgian artist.

Side events included exhibition of artist Victoria Lomasko “Feminist Trip to Dagestan-Kirghizstan-Yerevan-Tbilisi”, which was organized at the Goethe Institute (March 3, 2016). The exhibition featured the initial stage of a large-scale project – it constituted a series of trips around the post-Soviet space, the key research topics of which were the following: gender issues (women’s rights, attitudes towards LGBT persons), interethnic relations, various forms of grassroots initiatives and activism. Women representing a variety of social environments are the main protagonists of the graphic reports Lomasko produced during her visits. Exhibition also included works produced by the participants of the “Feminist Stencil Workshop”, which was conducted by Victoria a week prior to the event.

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The event was followed by a public discussion “Women in Arts or Women’s Art?” moderated by the director of the Heinrich Boell Foundation South Caucasus Regional Office, Nino Lejava. The speakers were: Victoria Lomasko (Artist, Russia), Sophia Kilassonia (Art Critic, Georgia), Lia Ukleba (Artist, Georgia), Teo Khatiashvili (Art Critic, Georgia).

Another side event, public lecture by lawyer Ulrike Schulz “Sexism in LAW – The impact of Gender Stereotypes on Legal Proceedings” was organized at the Ilia State University (March 4, 2016). The lecture focused on gender stereotypes embedded in legal rules, which still continue to influence law making.

The main program of the workshop was very diverse and covered range of topics, like:

Panel I: Spaces for Modern Feminist Activism. Moderator: Etuna Nogaideli, Heinrich Boell Foundation South Caucasus.

  • Why feminism today needs intersectionality? - Natia Gvianishvili, Director of Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group (WISG), Georgia.
  • Feminism and Russian media: personal experience and observations - Bella Rapoport, Feminist Journalist, Russia.
  • Watching movies, establishing language: reinforcement of LGBTQ communities in Minsk -Andrei Karpeka, Co-coordinator of Meta-queer Fest in Minsk, Belarus.
  • Targeting gender issues in media - Iryna Slavinska, Journalist, Ukraine.

Panel II: Transforming Feminist Agenda into Politics. Moderator: Gert Roehrborn, Heinrich Boell Foundation Poland

  • Politicizing feminist will: values VS political realities - Khatuna Samnidze, Chairperson of the Republican Party, Georgia.
  • CEDAW Concluding observations to Russia: history, analysis and expectations - Mari Davtyan, Lawyer, Feminist, Women’s rights expert, Russia.
  • Kurdish women – Feminism and Politics - Hacer Özmen, Member of council, People's Democratic Party (HDP), Turkey.

Panel III: Feminist Debates in Academic Spaces. Moderator: Irina Kosterina, Heinrich Boell Foundation Russia.

  • Curriculum as a site of struggle: Fitting Gender Studies into the existing knowledge hierarchies - Tamar Tskhadadze, Philosopher, Professor at the Ilia State University, Georgia.
  • Gender Studies in Poland: balance of two decades - Agnieszka Mrozik, Researcher at the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland.
  • The Nascent Debate: Gender Related Research’s Value Added Compared to Donor Driven Experiences of the Past - Nvard Manasyan, Education Expert, Armenia.

Panel IV: Gender Equality in Law: Experience and Challenges. Moderator: Tamara Gurchiani, Lawyer, Georgia.

  • Equal rights for men and women in Germany: How a constitutional principle was transformed into reality - Keynote speaker Ulrike Schultz, Lawyer and Senior Academic at the Fern Universität in Hagen, Germany.
  • Changes in legislation for gender-sensitive justice - Anna Arganashvili, Partnership for Human Rights, Georgia.
  • European framework of gender issues integrated in constitutionalism - Monika Platek, Professor of Law and Head of Criminology Department at Institute of Criminal Law, Poland.

Panel VI: Mobilization of Women’s Groups: Challenges and Setbacks. Moderator: Anna Dovgopol, Heinrich Boell Foundation Ukraine.

  • What happened on 25.11.2014 - Baia Pataraia, Lawyer, Member of “Women’s Movement in Georgia”, Georgia.
  • Shared space and collective leisure time as mobilization tools -Anna Khvyl, Researcher and activist in several initiatives (including Feminist Workshop and Neighbourhood Festival), Ukraine.
  • Women Artchitects and Gender Mainstreaming in Urban Planning - Milota Sidorova, Urban designer, Czech Republic.
  • Mobilization of women in Turkey for their own agenda: basic issues of struggle and campaigns - Irem Yilmaz, Istanbul Feminist Collective, Turkey.

“We are thankful for organizing such en enlightening workshop. And now we want to ask you: what WE can do for you?” – asked Milota Sidorova during the final round of evaluations. Sure, the contribution to the workshop was invaluable, but as a response to the question - participants were asked again to submit papers based on the presentations, which is planned to be published as a printed book during 2016.

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