Cozy mansion is situated near Tbilisi, in Tsavkisi village, with a swimming pool and playground, swings and a big dog lying in the gate. The yard is always full of children. They are quite many here. Some - are siblings, but mostly they aren’t even relatives to one another. They live with their mothers. There are no Dads in.
This is the asylum for mothers and children, under the protection of Patriarchy. It was founded almost 10 years ago and every year new group of people get shelters here. Now there are totally 10 women.
Tamila, 34, from Adjara and her little son are one of the oldest inhabitants of the asylum. 2 years have passed since she first found worm bedroom and food here. This is not her only child, she has also 2 others, but they live with their grandmother now.
Everyone knows her story and she never gets critics for it. Tamila was married; her husband went to Greece for work. 10 years passed and she found out that he had another family there. Then there appeared the other man, with whom he fall in love and got pregnant. The man had his own family and he refused both, Tamila and her kid. She went to her parents but they threw her away. So she went to the capital and she left her two other kids at her ex-husband’s place.
“He asked me to make abortion but I refused. This was my decision. I went to the clinics for two times, but I couldn’t make abortion. I wanted to give birth to Gio and I think he should have been born”, she says now.
Tamila can explain easily the reason her parents and brother didn’t accept her: “ I used to be married and I got pregnant from another man, not my husband people around, where I’m from would say a lot of bad things about me. My parents knew this”.
Asylum director Davit Datuashvili visits Tamila and others every day. Children coming from school often have to tell him their marks, honestly, even if they got 6 or 5. Anyway he won’t get angry with them. He is the responsible for their medical assistance, food, education and all other necessary things.
Today one boy got bitten but the dog and he has to take him immediately to the hospital for anti – rubies injection. None of them are insured. There are no social programs which protect those mothers and kids. Last year the children were refused to go to the camp because technically neither ministry of education nor Health Ministry is responsible for them.
Father Davit comes to the asylum every week and he knows every story which women have gone through. They pray together and some of them are even father Davit’s spiritual children. He says that the kids who are born without marriage must not be aborted, as they are all sons and daughters of God and the church treats them all equally. “From the day the baby is fecundated, father is responsible for it and he should care about him. Of course the best way is to have ceremony, but whatever happens next, the mother shouldn’t abort the baby”, he says.
There is another shelter for single mothers in Tbilisi, which works on the government budget. Irina Bequridze, director of Tbilisi Infant House is in charge of it. Since 2007 her institution unites the asylum for single mothers. It was founded by the NGO World Vision in 2002, in frames of pilot project “Prevention and deinstitutionalization of abandoning babies”. After 4 years the project was handed to the Ministry of Health and Social Care.
Almost 50 women get shelters there every year. The time they can stay varies from 3 months to a year and a half. During this time the mothers are in a close contact with their social workers, and based on the data provided by the social service, the directorate of the asylum decides how long the appointee can stay there.
There are 10 kids, 9 mothers and one pregnant, in the asylum at present. The total limit is 21 mothers and kids. “Even the first hours are very important for a woman, who leaves the maternity hose, and she knows that her baby has no family and she has no friends any bore because they all have refused her. When they see that such place exists and they don’t have to live in the street, this is a huge relief as they say. May be several months aren’t enough but they learn motherhood here and they become more motivated in life”, says Irina Bequridze. She thinks prevention of abandoning infants in that case, works successfully.
The asylum also tries to mediate between the families and the single mothers. Not all attempts are successful they say.
Maia Tsereteli, Director of World Vision was one of the founder of the asylum. She also remembers the cases of mediation between the families and refused women. She says they have problems with society, and mostly when they are from rural areas. “When the woman has no income and no close people who can provide her with necessary things, of course the natural and only way for her is to leave the baby at the infant house”, she says.
World Vision has two approaches for solving this problem: one is to mediate between the families and abandoned mothers, where they even try to change the attitude of environment towards the single mother (in narrow social groups, like in small villages); and another is to find employment for them. In both cases social workers are involved into the process.
World Vision has also established the Day Houses for those single mothers who are estimated as poor and their pre-kindergarten kids need someone to look after during the hours they are at work. This is pilot project yet and only few numbers of mothers can use it.
Maka Tatulashvili is employment program manager in World Vision and Day House. She says that some women aren’t willing to start new independent life because they are afraid of the environment but when they work properly they always have desired success.
Keti Burjiashvili is the psychologist of the asylum for single mothers. She confirms that providing women with the job is crucial in the process of their socialization. She says most of them are psychologically damaged, but in spite of this, very few of them want to talk about their problem.
The psychologist says that these women are victims of social attitude. “May be their parents also find it difficult to reject their pregnant daughters but because of the stereotypes and social opinion which is severe, those women and their new born babies stay absolutely alone and the children are called illegal kids,” she says.
The fact that the social opinion is really severe towards the women with kids and no marriage is clearly seen from the data of Caucasus Research resource Centre (CRRC). According to Caucasus Barometer 2009, on the question ‘from what age is it exactable for woman to have sex before marriage’, 80 per cent says that is not exactable at any age. As for the cohabitee of man and woman without marriage, for 72 per cent of inquired this is not exactable at all.
Social attitude towards the mothers who gave birth their children without church blessing or legal confirmation is quite radical in Georgia. Based on the general picture, it is easy to identify how broad the risk group of being abandoned can.