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Guest Editorial: On the road to Europe: Gender paradigms

By Charita Jashi
Tuesday, May 13
The idea of European integration is a strong and real guarantee for restoring territorial integrity and for the development of Georgian culture and economy.

After the European Union recognized Georgia as an independent country in 1992, the country’s main priority became integration into the military, political and economic structures of the Euro-Atlantic space.

Georgia became Europe’s immediate neighbor after Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU. This brought not just geographic proximity, but also put into stark focus the possibilities for political and economic links.

Ensuring mutual cooperation in politics and security issues is of mutual interest. On one side, Europe needs a stable neighboring environment in the South Caucasus. Georgia, as a key part of the Eurasian corridor, will play an important role in eradication of illegal migration and criminal schemes. An institutionally strong neighbor is more interesting for Europe as an alternative route for transporting energy resources. On the other hand, coming closer to European standards will mean strengthening economic cooperation with Europe and the settlement of frozen conflicts for Georgia.

On June 14, 2004 the EU decided to include Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in its European Neighborhood Policy. In 2005, the Georgian government worked out a very important document—”Georgia’s priorities for ENP working plan.” This document clearly showed a strategic guiding line for the country’s development in the way of Georgia’s integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures.

The integration process should happen in the context of certain changes in economic, social and cultural systems.

From this standpoint one of the important problems is to understand Europe as a democratic phenomenon. Elements in the everyday life of an ordinary European are large steps forward for Georgia. Taking these steps is necessary to ensure democratic development and a favorable political and economic environment.

The EU pays particular attention to ensuring the equal participation of men and women in a country’s governance, a process concomitant with democratic development. Georgia’s 2007 report on ENP progress says the country’s activities in this field are not enough to achieve gender equality.

In order to live in accordance with European values, a Georgian citizen should have the same rights as a citizen of European country. Therefore legislation should ensure all people’s interests. For example, a Labor Code should protect the rights of not only the minority—employers—but of every society member. The code should be in accordance with international labor organizations’ demands and reflect the interests of the majority—employees.

Georgia’s Labor Code goes against European standards and articles of Europe’s Social Charter (ratified by Georgia in 2005) in fundamental issues like the amount of extra work hours and dismissal from work. If Georgia wants to again make use of EU's Generalized System of Preferences from 2009, corresponding amendments should be introduced into the Labor Code.

Georgia’s demographic portrait is alarming. The number of women migrants is too high and migration policy is not balanced. The labor market should be complemented by a competitive work force. In this regard, poverty statistics did not show a significant improvement in previous years, which has spurred the government into implementing active social policies to protect the poor.

Existing reforms in the education sector are important prerequisites for Georgia’s economic development. But in parallel with reforms there is still gender segregation in professional settings. To address this, the wage system needs to be regulated (especially in the general education sector) and state investments should be increased in human capital, specifically to accelerate women's professional education. This will play an important role in developing the institute of the family.

Employment programs, directed to decrease unemployment and poverty, need the institutional environment to be changed and more effective instruments of retraining to be introduced in order to create a qualified and competitive working force.

During this election campaign, the government has offered socially-oriented program to voters. A wide spectrum of opposition parties has plenty of promises. It’s important these promises not stay just promises. Georgia can achieve its desired goals only with democratic and lawful governance, restoration of territorial integrity and a real decrease in poverty.

Democratic governance implies gender equality in society. If we put faith in a woman to care after a family and raise future generations, why isn’t it possible to use men and women equally as resources in the country’s governance system? Parliamentary elections are in front of our doors. Hopefully, a new parliament will see to the practical implementation of international obligations and justice in the country.

The road to Europe is not all too far.

Charita Jashi is the head of the Association of Gender for Social-Economic Development and a member of the Women’s Coalition.