More than 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, women in many parts of Georgia have become more outspoken on gender issues. But in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge, a three-kilometer-wide, 30-kilometer-long valley that borders Russia, change is complicated.
As part of a photo project called “What Will People Say?” I traveled to Pankisi, one of Georgia’s more remote areas. There, I documented the challenges women face as they try to reconcile their own ambitions and desires with long-standing cultural traditions that do not recognize women as independent decision-makers. [Note: the project was funded by the Open Society Georgia Foundation, which is part of the Soros Foundations Network. EurasiaNet.org operates under the auspices of the Open Society Foundations, a separate entity in the network].
Inhabited largely by Kists, ethnic Chechens who have lived in Georgia for more than 150 years, the Gorge is situated about an hour’s drive northeast of Tbilisi. It is a predominantly Muslim area, where strict traditions govern family conduct and the role of women.
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Justyna Mielnikiewicz is a freelance photojournalist based in Tbilisi.