Gender inequality and stereotypes that limit girls are prevalent across Georgia. But the issue is particularly acute in the ethnic Azerbaijani communities in the southern province of Kvemo Kartli, according to a 2013 study done by UN Women. Part of the issue is the widespread practice of early marriage. The study found that over 30 percent of the women questioned were married before the age of 18. Five percent of them had been married between the ages of 13-14.
It is a culture that views girls through the prism of their future marriages and motherhood, Alieva says. As a result, they are being raised to think in terms of what they cannot do, a life based on fear.
“Because girls are more sensitive, everything that happens in society, especially unwritten rules, have a greater impact on them,” she says, adding that it leads to shyness and inferiority complexes. Girls are raised to “always think about what bans will be imposed on them wherever they go, rather than fulfilling their life goals, their future and their goals,” psychologist Konul Alieva says.
“While boys are allowed to move freely, girls are constantly under control. Although this attitude towards girls is changing over time, it still exists. I think it's a matter of national consciousness.”
Nona Samkharadze, a gender specialist on the Kvemo-Kartli region, notes that there are some barriers in the Azerbaijani community that exacerbate the problems of gender inequality.
For instance, the community is largely isolated from the rest of Georgia because traditionally people did not learn the Georgian language. While that is slowly changing, young people – especially young girls – are still facing the stereotypes that their parents and grandparents try to enforce, Samkharadze said.
That was the case for 22-year-old Gunash.
An honors student at high school, Gunash had made it clear to her family that she planned to continue her education in Tbilisi. But her grandmother fought hard to keep her at home.
“When I was still in the eighth grade, I shared my university dreams. At that time, they did not take what I said seriously. But when I finished 12th grade and started preparing for the admission exams, my family was in a panic, mainly my grandmother. She said 'if she wants to study, let her study at a college in Marneuli. Let her study in front of our eyes. Why do you have to go to Tbilisi for study? This is a girl, not a boy!' "