The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Georgia Country Office, in cooperation with the partner organization “Care Together”, launched a one-day training module – “Men Talking to Men” in Tbilisi, Kakheti and Samegrelo regions, in 2016. Guria and Imereti regions joined the initiative in 2020, followed by Kvemo Kartli and Samtskhe-Javakheti regions in 2021.
The training module “Men Talking to Men” was developed in partnership with the international organization “Promundo US” and is built around international practice and research data. Local facilitators helped to adapt the module, taking into account the cultural and social aspects of Georgia.
During the training session, facilitators and participants talk about the issues including equal distribution of household chores, equal involvement in the childcare and caring for family members, identifying elements of violence and reporting incidents, in a safe and trustworthy environment, etc. The training module includes interactive exercises, visual learning materials and is based on the principles of non-formal education.
Iase Gagnidze from Telavi is one of the first men to attend the training “Men Talking to Men” in September. According to him, “Men Talking to Men” meetings were different from all the meetings he had previously attended.
“I’d been to a lot of meetings, but this one was different, in similar meetings I had attended, the focus was mainly on mothers and parenting,” he said.
Iase Gagnidze added: “we often have some questions that we cannot ask or discuss openly, or we do not often find the right environment for sharing our opinions with each other.”
Therefore, it was important for him to find out that the group members either shared his views or had views different from that of his, and after hearing and discussing different opinions, he even changed his views on some of the issues.
“I realized that I could have been wrong about certain things, and the opinions expressed by other participants put me on the right track,” said Iase, adding that if he had previously considered interfering in someone else’s family conflict wrong, after the training course he thinks the opposite.
During the group discussion, the group members also agreed that “more positive results can be achieved by talking to children in a friendly, equitable manner, rather than shouting at them or using some punishment mechanisms.”
“I think such meetings will help eliminate certain stereotypes in our communities, at least to ensure that both men and women view themselves as equal family members. As for the moderators of the group, I wish you good luck, I hope you will have many listeners, make progress and achieve your goals, you are doing great job by implementing the project… I wish you would break many stereotypes that negatively influence our judgments,” said Iase.
Yasin Bediev lives in the village of Khuldara in Marneuli Municipality. It was in his own village that he attended the training course “Men Talking to Men”. And, as he says, he learned a great deal “about how to care for each family member, as well as about the roles of men and women in the family, and so on.”
Some of the attendees were young people who had little family-life experience, as well as people whose views differed, although they respected each other’s opinions.
“I am a father of a two-month-old baby, I do take care of my child and my wife, but I think that after the training, when I return home, I will be more considerate, caring more for my family member. I will be just as involved in raising my child as is my wife,” says Yassin.
Kristo Khachidze, another participant of the “Men Talking to Men” training course, is from the village of Sakuneti in Akhaltsikhe Municipality. “In rural areas and villages, we do not often have the space or opportunity to talk about the roles of men and women in the family, stereotypes, or other important issues,” says Kristo.
According to him, he learns and analyses a lot by listening to others, which helps him think properly and that puts him on the right track.
“Men Talking to Men” provides the environment which helps us express our opinions freely. I think meetings like this help people break a lot of stereotypes and enable them to engage in healthy discussions. I learned a lot of new things during the meeting, I even re-evaluated some issues. The training is really useful and I think everyone needs to attend these meetings at least once,” says Kristo.
A study “Men, Women, and Gender Relations in Georgia: Public Perceptions and Attitudes” published in 2020 by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) shows that gender roles are still unequally distributed in Georgia. 60% of men and 38% of women believe that a woman’s main responsibility is to take care of her family rather than pursuing professional career. 47% of mothers and 58% of fathers say they spend equal time playing with their children, although fathers do not have a defined role in caring for their children. 78% of mothers and 76% of fathers say that the mother changes child’s diapers or clothes.
“Men Talking to Men” training sessions are held in different regions of Georgia within the framework of: the “EU 4 Gender Equality: Together against gender stereotypes and gender-based violence” programme, funded by the European Union, implemented jointly by UN Women and UNFPA; the “Ending Violence Against Women and Girls in Georgia (EVAWGG)” programme, funded by the European Union, implemented jointly by UN Women and UNFPA: the Addressing Gender-Biased Sex Selection and Related Harmful Practices in the South Caucasus” programme, funded by the European Union, implemented by UNFPA; the UN Joint Program on Gender Equality funded by the Government of Sweden.