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Telling Georgia’s ‘Gender Stories’

"Gender Stories" host Marina Vashakmadze discusses sexism with a guest. Georgia, June 18, 2014.
"Gender Stories" host Marina Vashakmadze discusses sexism with a guest. Georgia, June 18, 2014.

Georgia is by no means unique as a country struggling with domestic violence, human trafficking, and unequal treatment of women in public life. But as a deeply traditional society, these kinds of topics are shrouded in taboo, often preventing meaningful discussion and hindering progress on issues relating to women.

“Gender Stories,” a new radio program produced by Radio Tavisupleba, RFE/RL’s Georgian Service, aims to provide that discussion with an hour-long daily broadcast dedicated entirely to these and other topics pertaining to women.

“Programs like this are important for every country, not just Georgia, because unfortunately there is no country where gender issues are solved,” said Radio Tavisupleba Tblisi Bureau Chief and “Gender Stories” moderator Marina Vashakmadze. “But in Georgia we didn’t have anything like this before in our media, so it was about time.”

Launched in May, episodes of “Gender Stories” have focused on unequal property inheritance practices, views of single mothers by the Georgian state and society at large, sex trafficking, violence against women, maternal health, and women’s electoral participation, among a host of other subjects. There are also lighter programs on topics like women in business, and lifestyle themes like cooking, but Vashakmadze says the thrust of the discussion is always gender equality.

Though progress has been made and the Georgian constitution forbids discrimination against women, data on women’s rights and protection from violence show a clear need for more discussion of women’s role in society.

According to the 2013 World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report, Georgia ranked in the “inequality” category for every index measured, including labor force participation, political participation, and educational achievement. The country’s first shelters, hotlines and other public services to protect domestic violence victims were established as recently as 2011, according to the United Nations mission in Georgia.

“We decided to call the program ‘Gender Stories’ because men and women are equally involved in these issues,” said Vashakmadze.

The radio broadcasts, which are hosted by a team of five moderators, are filmed in the studio and uploaded to YouTube, where they have been viewed thousands of times. Not long after the program was launched, local TV station approached the producers asking to re-broadcast the video on their station. Vashakmadze says she was surprised by this request, since, as a primarily radio program, little production goes into the video aspect, but station representatives said the unique content of the discussions and interviews was strong enough to stand on its own and attract TV viewers.

“Gender Stories” is just one among many new programs Radio Tavisupleba added to its repertoire when it expanded to 18 hours of daily FM broadcasts on Radio Green Wave, a longtime broadcast affiliate in Georgia.

--Emily Thompson