The residents of Pankisi Gorge have held several protests against the construction of Khadori 3, a hydroelectric power plant.
Locals fear that the new plant, which is slated to be built on the right bank of Alazani River, will hurt the region and the local population. Specifically, they believe it will destroy the environment and harm prospects to develop tourism in the valley.
The protest is one of many organized in the country against planned hydro plants. For Pankisi Gorge, however, this demonstration is also a signal of deeper changes in the community: women are taking a leading role.
The Elder Men’s Council, the most powerful institution in Pankisi Gorge, has stopped attending the rallies and no longer supports efforts to stop the construction of the plant.
In response, a small number of men have created a separate council to protest against the hydro plant and the local women's council has stepped in to support them.
The women’s council made its first public statement on its position in an interview with Chai Khana.
The protest underscores the growing role of the Elder Women's Council in the valley, a relatively new development that is challenging hard-held views on women's position and rights in the community.
Pankisi Gorge, a region in eastern Kakheti that borders Chechnya, was predominantly settled by Muslims – most recently by refugees from Chechnya.
The community is very conservative and local customs, enforced through local tradition, dictate that women and men have different roles and different rights.
Those traditions have been challenged, however, by the Elder Women's Council, which was founded in 2011 to protect women's rights.
Today the Elder Women’s Council provides a safe place for women to be active in the community, and its members frequently express their opinions on current issues.
November, 2018 The Peace Builders