With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine now one full year in, European and other countries have taken steps to increase their ability to defend themselves: NATO allies have garrisoned large battlegroups, organized by Brussels, within their border; non-NATO allies like Georgia have bolstered military technologies and increased recruitment. However, not all of this preparedness is taking place at the government level.
Communities have taken it upon themselves to prepare. From the formation of civil defense groups to ensuring that extra canned food and water are ready at hand, Georgians have hedged their bets. One important part of this is the activities of the Women’s National League.
Led by Ana Brelidze, a lawyer currently focusing on criminal law, the organization aims to prepare women and girls for the challenges the country may face. With lessons learned from the invasion one year ago and seeing the striving of Ukrainian civilians, Georgian women are becoming experts in ensuring safety for themselves and their families.
Be it a natural disaster or another invasion from Russia, Ana and her team have committed themselves to preparing their candidates for the worst. Ana says that her passion for public speaking and the inspiration from her father, a career soldier, drove her to found the League almost ten years ago. GEORGIA TODAY sat down with Ana to ask her about the goals of the Women’s National League, what challenges she has faced, and where the organization will go in the future.
What inspired you and your group to found the Women’s National League?
I met my group members two years ago in the General Mazniashvili Youth Legion while taking the course Basics of Military and Hiking. After passing the exams and becoming a member of the Legion, we realized that we had to start something new together. Actually, all the experience and information we gained there inspired us to create an organization called the Women’s National League.
How would you describe the League to a young woman deciding if membership is right for them?
I think the most important part about this organization is our goals, which include crisis management. The person who passes the course will master the skills and a person who becomes a member of the league will be involved in all the activities provided. At the moment, the team of the League consists of 20 members and has already trained 105 citizens.
The organization seems to have some paramilitary and outdoor activities. What is the goal of these activities?
Our first course was “Family Preparedness for War and Emergency Situations”. The target group of the mentioned course included women. Generally, the purpose of this course is to prepare families for war and emergency situations. Within the course, we teach our cadets what to do during natural and man-made disasters. For example, how to survive an earthquake and flood and how to get ready for a mass riot and war. In parallel, we have started a two-day training session. Within the framework of that course, we go to the regions everywhere throughout Georgia and provide information on those issues. The target group of this training course is families. The first day of the two-day training is devoted to elements of civil safety and preparedness and the second day to the basics of first aid.
What have been the biggest challenges for your group as you’ve grown?
Working on those topics was quite challenging, since we started working on issues that were new even for us and there was a lack of information on aspects of civil defense and safety. We started from a blank page. We had to work really hard for months to find any information that was suitable for us, meet relevant people and start working directly on the concept of the organization.
How is your relationship with the government? What departments have been the biggest “friend” of your cause?
The Ministry of Defense of Georgia supports us and we also cooperate with various agencies. We cooperate with the Parliament of Georgia and we are planning to have active cooperation in the future.
Are there any tools or allies that could make the organization elevate to the next level? How could that happen?
Our organization is built on volunteerism from start to finish. Therefore, we often have to carry out various activities with our own finances. We don’t have an office and we always rely on our partners. Funding is an issue that is unfortunately holding us back on various levels.
What does the future hold for the Women’s National League and where would you like to see it go?
Our organization has many courses and activities planned. We think we will gradually grow and awareness about us will increase. The work we’re doing is brand new for our country, meaning no organization has existed with such goals and objectives in Georgia until now. Accordingly, each of us feels a greater responsibility. We are sure that our organization will make a great contribution to the civil development of our country.
For more information or to get involved with the Women’s National League, find them via Facebook or through their email address at email@example.com
By Michael Godwin