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A lesson in compassion: In Georgia, women potato farmers show solidarity and empathy amid COVID-19

COVID-19 has changed the world dramatically, with particularly negative effects on women. Still, in spite of their own problems, many women are demonstrating striking examples of solidarity and compassion for others.

In early May, women from the small village of Maradisi, in southeast Georgia in the Caucasus, gained wide renown. Naira Paksadze’s story went viral on social networks and in the media.

Together with other active women, Naira hoed her neighbour’s potato field in order to save the family’s potato harvest. At the time, every member of the family was being treated for COVID-19 in hospital, while weeds were growing wild throughout their potato field – their only source of income.

“What else could we do in such a situation?” she says. “This was the only thing, and if we hadn’t done it, the weeds would have spoiled everything. The family will need some source of income when they recover and get out of hospital, won’t they?”

Paksadze is a 33-year-old mother of two. Since December 2019, she has acted as a community worker and led a self-help group called “Women for the Future”. She is actively involved in community mobilization efforts under a three-year UN Women regional project “Women’s Economic Empowerment in the South Caucasus”, being financially supported by the Governments of Austria and Switzerland.

The project has socially mobilized 692 women in Georgia so far and aims to support over 1,000 women in the South Caucasus with income generating and entrepreneurial skills by the summer of 2021.

The municipality (Marneuli) was declared a quarantine zone and has been locked down since 23 March. The local population is mainly involved in agriculture, though the imposed state of emergency has made it extremely difficult to sell their goods.

Notwithstanding this pandemic and strict quarantine, Paksadze, who herself cannot manage to distribute her own products, found a way to go on supporting locals with the help of other women engaged in social mobilization.

Initially, the women decided to assist the most-needy families. They used the money from their self-help group to buy them disinfectants and vegetables and even provided them with a one-time humanitarian donation – naturally while observing all safety guidelines, including social distancing.

Maiko Grdzelishvili, manager of the, which is implementing the project along with UN Women, says one of the aims of social mobilization is precisely to involve the local population in times of crisis – in this case, in the fight against COVID-19.

“I think that our main objective and the most significant outcome is women’s solidarity – a mutual support and willingness to assist others and be charitable. Naira [Paksadze] says that this is something that women are especially good at, while I would simply add that they are just as good at that as they are at everything.”

Source: UN Women. Read the full story here
Photo: Naira Paksadze, together with other women, weeding the potato crop to support the hospitalized family’s source of income. Photo: UN Women/Naira Paksadze

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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