Meet Irma, Ketevan and Keti— three achievers who believe in what they do, move forward against the odds, and change the world one step at a time.
I Can Fly
Irma Khetsuriani, 34, is number one is everything she does. Irma is Georgia’s first wheelchair woman fencer, first champion of the Wheelchair Fencing World Cup, and first Goodwill Ambassador for the Sustainable Development Goals.
“Wheelchair makes you neither victim, nor hero. I can be strong, I can do good things. I can smile and dance. I can fly,” – Irma says.
Irma became an athlete when she already was disabled after a spinal disease, difficult treatment and unsuccessful operation. She had to quit university and dramatically change her lifestyle. Fencing has become a way out, a window to the new life.
“I was surprised, even shocked when the Paralympic Committee of Georgia suggested I could do wheelchair fencing. But then I realized how exciting that was,” she recalls.
Being Goodwill Ambassador for SDGs is yet another step Irma is proud of. She plans to get actively involved in the UN work in Georgia, advocating for equality and human rights for all.
Fighting Poverty and Discrimination
“It’s not easy to be a woman, especially if you live in rural areas. But I tell all women I meet that they need to go out into the world and see what they can do for others. You can’t make your little home perfect if your big home is in trouble.”
Ten years ago, Ketevan Khidasheli moved from Tbilisi to a small village in one of the poorest regions of Georgia. She was the only person in the village who had computer skills and access to internet.
Together with a group of local activists, Ketevan set up a local organization to fight gender-based violence, provide opportunities for women and youth, and advocate for human rights.
This year, after a long two-year struggle with the municipality, they are opening a kindergarten for the small Muslim community living next to our village.
“This is a great victory for us and for the mothers, who now have more time to focus on their personal development.”
“I have to convince women every day that they have great potential and can achieve anything they want if they try.”
Ketevan Khidasheli is the 2017 champion of the annual Kato Mikeladze Prize which acknowledges outstanding achievements in supporting women’s rights and gender equality in Georgia. The prize bears the name of the early 20th century Georgian feminist and founder of Georgian suffragism, and is the highest award given to women’s rights activists in Georgia.
Proving Myths Wrong Every Day
“Village women have no easy life. Daily tasks never end. Though I believe you can do a lot for yourself, for your family, for your community. It takes effort, but it’s possible,” says Keti Gorelishvili.
Keti lives in Sakobiano, a small village in Pankisi Gorge, populated by a Muslim community. A lot of decisions in her village are made by the council of the elderly, composed exclusively with men. Yet women strive to have their say too and become economically and socially independent.
Keti is a director of a local school and she also runs a small turkey farm.
“Turkeys are my income but teaching is what I like most. My deputy is currently on her maternity leave, so I have to manage all administrative tasks myself.”
Coming back home, Keti holds her 2-year-old daughter in her arms.
“I always tell other women — you don’t have to sacrifice either your job or your family life. It’s a myth. And I prove this myth wrong every day.“