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Georgia: In a Valley of Tradition, Women Struggle To Build Independent Lives

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A girl performs her evening prayer at a house in the Pankisi Gorge village of Duisi.

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.

Georgia: In a Valley of Tradition, Women Struggle To Build Independent Lives

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