EWMI Supports Civic Initiatives in the Pankisi Gorge
Starting from September, 2015, a Gurjaani-based CSO Center for Civic Activities (CCA), with financial support from EWMI ACCESS is implementing a project in Pankisi Gorge aimed at increasing youth capacities and civic engagement. Under this impetus, CCA is carrying out diverse and inclusive activities with the local population in Pankisi:
Pankisi Gorge Residents Submit Petitions to the Local Government
In December, 2015, 660 residents of Jokolo and Omalo villages in the Pankisi Gorge approached the Chairman of the Akhmeta Municipal Council with two petitions requesting to solve local problems – providing the village of Omalo with dumpsters and landfills, and renovating the football stadium in the village of Jokolo. The citizens prepared the petitions with help from the EWMI ACCESS grantee, a Gurjaani-based CSO Center for Civic Activities (CCA).
This opportunity was made possible thanks to the July 2015 amendments to the Code on Local Self-Government, enabling citizens to submit petitions to their municipal authorities to solve local problems. Despite the change, the practice of filing such petitions had not been used in rural Georgian provinces. The Pankisi residents, with CCA’s support, set the first precedent in this regard. CCA will continue working closely with the Pankisi residents to ensure that their petition is considered by the authorities.
CCA Opens the First Community Radio Station in the Pankisi Gorge
While actively working in the Pankisi Gorge on a variety of issues related to youth integration, EWMI ACCESS grantee, Center for Civic Activities (CCA) strongly felt the need for an effective information dissemination mechanism to inform locals of recent developments in the region and the country as whole, support civic education, and promote greater civic engagement in the region. For this purpose, CCA has launched a bilingual (Georgian-Chechen) community radio in the Pankisi Gorge. Currently, the Radio programs are broadcast on the Internet. Recently CCA received a broadcasting license and will soon air its radio programs on 101.1 FM (radio WAY).
“The radio will focus on priority problems of the Pankisi Gorge. It will provide objective information about the facts and events, and will highlight religious and cultural diversity in civic integration context [while] also try[ing] to break down the negative stereotypes surrounding people of the Pankisi Gorge,” – says the editor of the radio WAY. English and Chechen language classes will also be aired on a regular basis.
The radio will employ the Citizen Reporters i.e. the local youth trained by CCA as part of the EWMI ACCESS funded project aimed at integrating the Pankisi youth. CCA trained the youth in civic journalism, blogging, and media technology. The new radio station will enable Citizen Reporters to pursue journalistic work and further enhance their professional skills, as well as report on the issues of primary concern, engage government in the discussions, and spread the word about the Pankisi Gorge throughout the country.
Supporting Civic and Business Initiatives in the Pankisi Gorge
More than 70 young people participated in the EWMI ACCESS grantee, CCA-led trainings on proposal/business plan writing and small project management to apply to the government sponsored Micro and Small-size Enterprise Support program. Two of the projects have already received funding from the program. An internet cafe equipped with two computers, a printer and a copier, will soon be opened in the Pankisi Gorge. The project idea came from an 18 year old resident of Pankisi. Another funded project envisions opening of the car repair workshop in the village of Omalo.
Providing Journalists Objective and Comprehensive Information on the Pankisi Gorge
11 journalists from central media outlets traveled to the Pankisi Gorge on a two-day press tour organized by the EWMI ACCESS grantee, Center for Civic Activities (CCA) in order to get closer to the local population and receive the first-hand information on the situation in the Gorge and the primary concerns of the local residents.
During the visit, the journalists met with representatives of the traditional and fundamental Islamic groups, youth, and the members of the Council of Elderly. The tour provided journalists with an in-depth picture on the Gorge that will help them in their future reporting on the Gorge.