Tbilisi Pride

GDI and Tbilisi Pride Activist Camp – An Opportunity to Share Knowledge and Experiences in a Family Environment

There are fewer opportunities for LGBTQ community members and supporters to socialise and get to know each other in a face to face manner. The spaces where we can share knowledge and experience with each other, take care of each other’s empowerment, and draw up a common plan for fighting for equality are even rarer. This will create a much stronger precondition for changing the country for the better.

The Georgian Democratic Initiative (GDI) has decided to make up for this shortfall and has applied for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for funding. The GDI decided to set up an LGBTQ activist camp and involve Tbilisi Pride in the process, which helped the organisation connect with active community members and future activists, as well as people working for equality.

A 3-day camp was planned with the support of the Swedish government together with UNDP. It was held in Kakheti on April 26-28 and was attended by about 30 young people. A free and equitable educational environment was aimed at connecting community members, gaining new knowledge and experience, and equipping them with tools that would assist in activism.

Activist camp shared information on various topics such as: the history of activism in general, including the history of Georgian LGBTQ activism,  mechanisms for protecting our rights, detainees rights, as well as administrative detention practices and trials, victims’ rights and hate crimes, freedom of expression and hate speech. The mentioned topics were discussed with the members of the camp by experienced professionals – Giorgi Mshvenieradze, Mari Kapanadze, Eduard Marikashvili and Mariam Kvaratskhelia.

According to GDI Director of Civil and Political Rights Mari Kapanadze, holding such camps is especially important in the context of the growing aggression in the country and is aimed at equipping community members and supporters with tools to help them, including in communicating with government officials.

“Given the aggressive outlook in the country and the fact that the state does not respond to acts of violence, moreover, it prevents activists from exercising their right to freedom of assembly. Having such information is especially important for people who are involved in activism and have contact with the police, law enforcement or aggressive groups,” said Mari Kapanadze. “I think it will have a positive effect on changing the aggressive outlook in the country, because the main contribution to these changes is made by people who think their rights are being violated.”

Mariam Kvaratskhelia, co-director of Tbilisi Pride, noted that the camp environment helps to bring community members closer, strengthens each other, and helps find supporters.

“GDI works in two directions, as lawyers, we legally assist in the questioning process, when in the criminal case they are held as a victim, and the second direction is educational initiatives, where we share our experience, knowledge and information with people. “, – Mari told us.

Gathering community members in the camp environment turned out to be an unforgettable experience for the participants as well. According to one of the participants, Nini, the participation in the camp allowed her to distance herself from the environment for a short time, which does not allow her to express herself freely, and also she was greeted with a comfortable environment. 

“During these 3 days, we received a lot of information that will help us in our activism, besides, the camp space created a homey, warm environment, which many members of the community often lack. I am glad that we are together, we strengthen each other. It is also important that you get away for a while from an environment that does not allow you to express yourself freely, ”Nini tells us.

It was especially important for Nika [name changed] to meet people with different experiences, however, he believes that the information received will help him in his professional activities.

“It was especially interesting that everyone here has different experiences. Some are activists or work in other fields, many also have experience of participating in rallies. I have not taken part in any protest so far, I was only at the solidarity protest on July 6. The most important thing I got is to get to know the members of the community, the people who share a common opinion, are involved in a common struggle. In addition, I will use the information obtained here in the future and define many things much better,” – said Nika.

Another member of the camp, Mariam, is a social worker who is a supporter of the LGBTQ community and intends to take a more active role in strengthening the community after participating in the camp.

“It is important for me to have proper knowledge of legal issues and it is very important for the members of the community, because some of them have certain risks, for which they need proper information to aid themselves. Community members need to know better what the responsibilities of the state are and how they should be able to access health services. However, the more similar meetings there are, the more awareness we will have and the more we will share our knowledge with others. In this camp, in addition to community members, social workers, lawyers or psychologists also participated and we often have less knowledge about the needs of community members, I had some professional contact with LGBTQ people, but the camp showed me better what I can do. In order to become a dignified society, we must take care of the elimination of human rights violations, and I am going to work very actively in this regard and contribute to the strengthening of equality,” Mariam said.

Mariam, Nika and Nini’s admiration is shared by other members of the camp, as evidenced by the comments made at the concluding meeting. This experinece helped them in strengthening of their identity and in planning their future activism.

If you have not taken part in such activities before or you are not avoiding getting involved in new ventures, in the future you should follow Tbilisi Pride’s Facebook and Instagram page and join an initiative that appeals to you.

According to Mariam Kvaratskhelia, Tbilisi Pride is open to all those who do not like the situation in the country and want to change the environment for the better.

“I think that members of the LGBTQI community or any person who wants to change the environment for the better, who thinks that the situation in the country is not healthy, that we do not have a free and equal environment, that we are in an economically difficult situation, who suffer from political polarization. The rights of their friends are violated and they want to create an equal environment, they should be involved in similar activities and gain more knowledge to have more arguments, develop activist tactics and better understand how to do activism properly, how to fight for change, how to transform the situation. Also, get to know likeminded people who struggle with the same problems. There were a number of people in this camp who mentioned that they did not know the members of the community, had not had a similar experience before and were delighted to meet a similar environment. It is important to understand that we are not alone, we have each other, we can encourage each other, we can share knowledge and experiences, we can write a plan and we can fight together for equality. If all of the above factors are important for you, you should join similar activities, ”said Mariam, she hopes that more people, community members or supporters will be involved in future activities to share the knowledge gained with others.

Previous Story

Everyone has Equal Rights – EU Ambassador to Armenia

Next Story

During the Pandemic, the Monthly Income of the Members of the LGBTQ Community was Reduced Threefold – Coalition for Equality

Latest news