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Young leaders bring communities closer to their councils

By Etuna Tsotniashvili
Wednesday, March 17
Since 2009 the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association has been conducting the “Young Leaders in Community Service” project in Georgia. The major aim of the project is to introduce a local governance system for local communities, understand the main problems of the population and voice these at local governance level. In the framework of the project the young lawyers attend sessions of local councils and monitor the local budget, meet local residents and tell them how the money is spent on local needs.

GYLA’s Rustavi office's young leaders visited the village of Gantiadi in the Dmanisi district, where they discussed the local budget with schoolchildren and teachers. The discussion revealed several problems Gantiadi residents face, one of the major ones being the water supply. The locals said the in rehabilitation work carried out this winter second hand rusty water pipes were put in and the water is now polluted and not worth drinking. They said that although they have addressed the local government several times about this the problem remains unresolved until now.

Three other villages nearby, Didi Dmanisi, Javakhi and Boslebi, face the same problem. As a result of representations water supply company Aghmosavletis Tskali Ltd's Dmanisi office manager Ramaz Poladashvili promised to conduct a laboratory test of this water and take appropriate measures in a week when the results are available. Poladashvili told The Messenger that the water is not hazardous to health but the local population should drink boiled water before the tests are completed.

Teachers complained that the school building is wretched and needs to be rehabilitated. The school director also asked the local municipality for a school bus to bring children from nearby ethnic Azerbaijani villages who wish to study at Georgian schools. “15 pupils from Azerbaijani families study with us. It takes them a long time to get here. Some come by horse, even in winter, which is really very hard for them. That is why we have asked the Municipality to give us a bus for them, but because there is no money in the budget our request has not been satisfied,” Director of Gantiadi School Nino Datunishvili told the paper, adding that the Azerbaijani origin population is very interested in studying in Georgian schools.

Teachers and pupils listened carefully to the discussion of the budget and took an active part in it. Dmanisi district has a GEL 3 million budget. The local residents expressed a wish to take part in local budget monitoring themselves and expressed their satisfaction that the young lawyers had held this discussion because they had not previously had information about how money is allotted in different fields. “The budget is more or less acceptable for us. If we could we would change certain elements of it but in general it is not badly planned,” the school director said.

This project has achieved successes in several fields and according to the local municipality the concerns of the local population will be taken into account when planning next year's budget, for instance those concerning the problems with drinking water in Bolnisi district, the lack of football stadiums in the villages, the social and health sphere etc.

This project is being conducted with the support of the Black Sea Trust and UNICEF. “Those organisations give an opportunity to young leaders to get involved in a region's community life, find out peoples' problems and share their knowledge with the local community, gaining very important experience of advocacy, budget monitoring and communicating with local municipalities. This project has helped a number of villages and locals with problem solving,” Lela Bekauri, Young Leaders in Community Service Project Coordinator in Kvemo Kartli Region, told The Messenger.