Our next day began with a visit to The Guivy Zaldastanishvili American Academy. Founded in 2001 with US State Department funds, the school is a private four-year, co-ed high school. The current enrollment is 290, predominantly-Georgian, students. The school’s mission is to prepare students in grades 9-12 for colleges and universities in the international arena. Classes are conducted on a seminar basis with 12-15 students per class. This is an elite school, with competitive admissions policies, high tuition rates and lofty goals and standards set on bringing Georgia into the 21st century. It is housed in a beautiful state-of-the art facility with advanced technology and sophisticated laboratories. We met obviously-devoted teachers and visited 2-3 classrooms in which discussion was lively and free-flowing.
We left the school and went to The Janashia Museum of Archaeology, the Georgian National Museum. The Janashia Museum is a component of the Georgia National Museum system and the country’s premier archaeological repository. It houses an astounding collection of preChristian gold, bronze and iron artifacts, decorative arts, domestic and farming material and jewelry, dating as far back as the 10th century BCE (Before the Common Era). The great hall display of 1.8 million-year-old Homo Erectus skulls, the discovery of which is rewriting the history of European humanity, is like none other in the world.
Ms. Nino Jakheli, Curator of the Stone Age Collection and Scientific Secretary of the Georgian National Museum, and several of her associates provided a comprehensive tour of the stone and bronze age collections, including a 7th century BCE funeral cart, huge clay wine and water vessels, tools and numerous household items. The large collection of skulls, excavated at Dmanisi in Western Georgia, is truly remarkable. On the second floor the Museum of Soviet Occupation depicts a full story of repression and resistance. On the lower level are displayed a treasure trove of gold objects and jewelry found in what were1500-1000 BCE Trialeti burial mounds. We were enthralled by the age, depth, and breadth of materials indigenous to this ancient culture and land, as well as how they were so magnificently displayed.
Over lunch on a sunlit veranda, we met with members of the Women of Tomorrow Association. Discussions were lively with all of the dynamic women in attendance, who are breaking ground in their fields of textiles, art, television, advertising, travel and hospitality, media, public relations, international relations and communications. Women in Georgia have basic rights, but are not equal in the business environment, the art world and many other areas of endeavor. It is okay to be a wife and mother, even a teacher or a nurse, but it is not acceptable for women to “make money” (aka: “be independent”). Women For Tomorrow wants to change that, largely through economic development and supporting small women-owned businesses.
Lastly, on this very full day, we attended a roundtable discussion at The Tblisi Headquaters of the Exchange Program Alumnae Association of Georgia (EPAG). EPAG is the U.S. Embassy umbrella organization for alumnae of Fulbright Graduate education programs in the US. These were all amazingly impressive young women. For example, one who studied chemistry in Missouri under the FLEX program (high school) is now doing research on pollution, particularly plastics, and is trying to get the first recycling legislation through Parliament. Another young woman works at the Ministry of Economics trying to improve the representation of women in Parliament. There is currently a mandatory quota of 18 out of 150.
After brief introductory remarks by Anjela Pakhlajian and others, we broke up into small groups to discuss topics, including: Environment, Education, Arts, Healthcare, and Gender Bias. Discussions were led by the young graduates with varying degrees of expertise.
The idea of the round table was to switch groups after thirty minutes; however, most of us were so engrossed in discussion we did not want to move. Of particular significance was a young woman who runs her own NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) for women with disabilities. She is a radio commentator for disabled people, who spoke with great passion and articulation about the discrimination she suffered in all aspects of her life due to her own disability of blindness.
[Diane Dunning, Recorder]