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Small Grants Help Former Prison Inmates to Begin New Lives

Non-governmental organization Civil Development Agency (CiDA), with the support of the European Union and in partnership with the Georgian Farmers Association and DVV International, is implementing a Training and Employment Support Initiative (TESI) in the criminal justice sector in Georgia.

The initiative aims to provide professional training, employment opportunities, development of economic opportunities and reintegration of convicts, ex-convicts, diverted persons, as well as persons serving conditional sentences and their families. Together with educational activities, the project actively assists people who have been in conflict with the law to establish themselves on the labour market and demonstrate their skill and ability in small business development. To reach defined goals, CiDA is cooperating with state agencies working in the judiciary system, including the Ministry of Justice of Georgia.

At this stage, in partnership with the Ministry of Justice, CiDA is carrying out another project entitled Supporting Economic Growth of Former Inmates. Within the project, business initiatives of the beneficiaries, who are engaged in the rehabilitation and re-socialization program at the Crime Prevention Center, have received financial support to pursue economic activities in the fields of agriculture, service, construction and tourism.

Many people in conflict with the law are highly interested in running small businesses as this is considered an effective means of self-employment. Accordingly, within the framework of the project more than 40 former inmates have already received small grants for their start-ups and a further 70 will be financed before the project concludes.

The distribution of grants among the winning beneficiaries started few months ago. The beneficiaries been provided with various technical equipment necessary to launch their businesses in Tbilisi and all across Georgia. The grant amount per person ranges between GEL 3000 and GEL 5000.

Gogita is a tailor based in Tbilisi. He participated in a grant competition and, after receiving a grant, bought a multi-functional sewing machine which enables him to create material designs as he desires. Gogita and his spouse have created their own brand “Kids Land”, mainly working on baby products. “This multi-functional sewing machine has all the mechanisms necessary to create a comfortable baby belt. We could not have afforded to buy this item without the financial support. As our products are for babies, we try to use natural products. We are currently fulfilling orders from both Tbilisi and the regions, where we send the finished products via the postal service,” said Gogita.

Marina, a dairy farmer, lives in a remote village in Kvemo Kartli region. Having struggled financially, the project helped her to buy cows that would become her family’s only source of income. “My usual day begins at 6am. The first thing on my agenda is my cow, Brola, I take care of her, milk her and then send her to the herd of cattle. Brola provides 10 liters of milk every day. I make yogurt and cheese, collect it for 3-4 days, and then my spouse takes it to the local market. My income has increased and in the near future I am going to expand my farm and buy some other cattle,” said Marina.

Zura, a former footballer, learned a new trade in prison where he learned carpentry. After receiving a small grant, he bought all of the relevant equipment and started his own small business in Adjara. “I receive orders, mainly from tourists. Now, summer, is a good season to run my small business in Batumi. It is not easy to find a job after leaving prison, so I am glad to have found my own job. I am going to stage an exhibition of my works, then I will think about expanding my business and opening a small studio employing others as well,” said Zura.

According to the project manager Nino Demetrashvili, overall, the projects help former inmates to find employment, to receive professional education and to set and achieve new life goals in their new careers. She claimed that business grants help the project beneficiaries to engage, feel empowered and take advantage of economic opportunities that will make them far less likely to re-offend.