Changing the local community by telling her story, empoweing others
Keti Tsilosani’s social cafe “Ketostan” (“At Keto’s”) in Lanchkhuti, the western region of Guria has thrived throughout the coronavirus pandemic, like many other businesses in the region.
“It was very difficult times. But we managed to stay afloat,” Tsilosani said.
Tsilosani, 31, lives in Lanchkhuti with her two children. She got married at the age of 15.
“In my opinion, early marriage was not the right decision,” she said. “It so happened that my life stood still for eight years. I had to spend all my time sitting at home, dreaming of my self-realization.”
She was 25 years old when she returned to Lanchkhuti.
“I started a new life from zero. I was trying to find my place in the community, but it was very hard without any experience or diploma.”
This was the time when she learned about the UN Women in Georgia and the social mobilization organization Taso Foundation project “A Joint Action for Women’s Economic Empowerment in Georgia”. It turned her life around.
“It was the biggest miracle in my life. At that time I was making the decision on whether or not to leave the country. And then I got this chance,” she said. “Besides a non-formal education, they also gave me a lot of faith and self-confidence and gave me the opportunity to be with my children.”
Now she is a community worker with the social mobilization organization Taso Foundation and is an active participant of the UN Women project “A Joint Action for Women’s Empowerment in Georgia”.
With the project’s help, she attended a course in social media marketing and web programming and was hired by the company Lingwing, a signatory to the Women’s Empowerment Principles. Keti leads three self-help groups, is a member of the municipal gender equality council and, owing to her enthusiasm, has become an example to all Lanchkhuti women.
With the help of a grant from UN Women and the Taso Foundation, she also started her own business - Lanchkhuti’s very first café, “Ketostan” (“At Keto’s”), where she employs five local women.
“They helped me a lot. I learned how to write proposals and studied social entrepreneurship,” she said. “They also gave me a grant to create this social cafe.
When she was thinking about opening a social café, she knew for sure that it should be in Gurian Oda house. The majority of her customers are young people and she organizes various types of activities – film screenings, poetry evenings, as well as trainings, meetings and even electronic music evenings.
“I started small, but the most important thing was just to start, and after that you can expand and develop further,” Tsilosani said. “Now I want to help other women-owned businesses. I have already started buying raspberries and other products produced by women for my café. By all means, we women can empower one another through such cooperation.”
Women-run businesses and activities have become increasingly visible in recent years in Georgia. However, visualizing the pathway to it is difficult without someone to emulate. Many of them seek the example of a different life.
“I was always told, ‘Without a diploma, you can’t achieve anything in life.’ This conviction was deeply rooted,” she said. “Someone had told me that the Taso Foundation fund helped women, so I thought they might finance my education. Soon I became a community worker and discovered that there are a lot of opportunities for community workers even if you have no diploma. Now, my life has changed.”
Keti Tsilosani gives local women, who dare not dream and feel disengaged from their community, a real example how to see their own potential and a pathway to a different future. She encourages them to get involved in social mobilization and change their lives.
“Nothing is impossible, the main thing is diligence and life can be full of positive changes and surprises,” she said.