Women Stand Together
Georgia’s Club of Winner Women combats cancer with gender awareness, solidarity, and civic engagement
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic reminds us that to prevent is better than to cure. Among the groups most vulnerable to COVID-19 are cancer patients. Because of compromised immune systems, they are at a greater risk of more serious outcomes if they contract the virus. As Georgia fights to mitigate COVID-19, the Club of Winner Women (CWW) is dedicated to supporting women with cancer by embracing a virtual model of care and peer support.
According to Globocan 2018 data, breast cancer affected 26% of all female cases in Georgia; endometrial, rectal, and cervical cancer affected 7%. Georgia launched its first National Screening Centre (NSC) in 2008 in Tbilisi. Its success led to the nationwide implementation of screening programs for diagnosing breast and cervical cancer.
Ms. Tina Beruchashvili joined the NSC at its foundation. In 2010, she founded the Club of Winner Women (CWW). “It was a decisive moment for me. I realized that providing a possibility to the survivors to exchange on their similar experiences was of the utmost importance”, says Ms. Beruchashvili, now director of the CWW. The CWW was the first initiative of its kind in Georgia. Since then it has grown to become the leading platform for female cancer patients’ physical and psychological rehabilitation in Georgia.
EWMI ACCESS started cooperating with CWW in 2019, looking to expand and reinforce the club’s support of female patients and survivors before and after treatment. High priority was given to physical and psychological rehabilitation programs, as well as informational and cancer screening campaigns.
Currently the club has over 600 members and regional units and receives international awards for its programs. But it is in the promotion of peer support as core value and practice that EWMI ACCESS finds a kindred philosophy. The club does not merely provide direct assistance to their beneficiaries, but rather recruits them so that they will, in turn, support other beneficiaries. The development and strengthening of such peer solidarity network make possible for CWW values and objectives to reach and provide results in large urban areas and rural municipalities.
EWMI ACCESS’ 2019 cooperation with CWW led to enhanced empowerment of diagnosed women and members of their families, as well as an extension of the program’s objectives and scope into the Telavi, Zugdidi, and Kazbegi regions. Medical personnel and cancer survivor women collaborated in multiple informational and peer solidarity campaigns to raise awareness regarding the importance of early screening for breast and cervical cancer and provide physical and psychological therapy to affected women.
Recently, in April 2020, EWMI ACCESS renewed this partnership with a new grant. As a result of the new activities, CWW will expand into two new municipalities and implement physical and psychological support programs in Sagarejo, Sighnaghi, Telavi, Gurjaani, Gori, Akhaltsikhe, Zugdidi, and Ozurgeti. Among numerous planned activities, there are the organization of psychological rehabilitation sessions, the teaching to cancer patients and survivors of how to make affordable post-mastectomy prosthetics and distribute them for free, the preparation and nation-wide dissemination of informational material on the importance of cancer prevention and early screening.
EWMI ACCESS’ renewed faith in the CWW certifies the essentiality of providing post-surgery and post-treatment rehabilitation, both physical and psychological, as well as providing effective reintegration into the workforce for the strengthening of Georgia’s civil society and democratic values.
When asking Ms. Beruchashvili what makes her the happiest of being part of CWW, she remarks the positivity of change being brought by gender awareness and solidarity: “Witnessing positive changes in the way of communication, as well as in the appearance of these women makes me extremely happy.” It is precisely from this consideration that the fight against cancer forms lasting bonds among women affected both by the disease and the socio-economic stigma attached to it: cancer can be fought and can be defeated. Those that have survived are taking action to inspire and support those who are still fighting, showing that unity is the most powerful weapon against the disease. Even in the challenging situation that we all are living in under COVID-19, the WWC women have been a beacon of solidarity, encouraging and inspiring one another daily.