#DemocracyDay – Meet Asmat Bolkvadze, a Young Activist in Georgia’s Adjara Region

Speeches Shim

Thursday, September 10, 2020
Asmat (right) collecting paper waste to raise money for community projects

USAID empowers young people to become leaders of democratic transformation, helping the next generation of democracy activists cultivate the skills, experiences, and networks they need to advance democracy in their communities and countries. As the world prepares to celebrate International Day of Democracy on September 15, USAID is sharing the stories of young activists who are making a difference in Georgia. 

Today, we’re highlighting Asmat Bolkvadze, a local democracy activist in Khulo who helped launch “2 Lari for Solving 2 Problems,” a campaign to collect small donations and use the money to address tangible problems facing the community. Asmat also participates in the Emerging Leaders’ School, a USAID-funded activity that helps young people get more engaged in the democratic process. The Emerging Leaders’ School is implemented by the Georgian Institute of Politics under USAID’s Elections and Political Processes project, a series of activities that help Georgia build a more responsive democracy. 

Asmat recently shared with us her motivation for engaging in social issues, her views on how Georgia can build a stronger democracy, and how the Emerging Leaders’ School has helped her grow as an activist.

Tell us who you are and a bit about your background. What originally inspired you to get involved in civic activism?

Even though I work in a public office, I am actively involved in volunteer work and try to contribute to the development of my municipality by supporting youth engagement. I have always been interested in social activities that facilitate more engagement of young people, especially young women. The pandemic has made this necessity even clearer to me. We started the project “2 Lari for Solving 2 Problems” and got engaged in mobilizing financial resources using two alternative means – crowdfunding campaigns and collecting paper waste from across the entire municipality. Apart from mobilizing resources for solving local problems, we try to save trees and prevent pollution. We will use the amount we gather from this activity to build a playground in the village of Pachkha. We are trying to involve as many young people as we can in the activity.   

Why is local activism important for Georgia’s democracy?

Local activism is important because local residents know the problems of their communities best and have a better grasp of how these problems should be solved. I think we should follow a bottom-up approach if we want to achieve healthy democratic development. Citizens should direct the government through their engagement, and not the other way around. 

What is your proudest achievement as a local activist? Tell us about what you did and the impact it had on your community. 

Our biggest achievement is that we are one of the first to conduct a crowdfunding campaign in Georgia. We mobilized financial resources for the project “2 Lari for Solving 2 Problems.” The project focuses on solving the problems of the local community and is the only one from the region of Adjara to win the Orbelianimeti contest for social projects. We already have 203 followers on the orbeliani.ge platform and we have managed to mobilize more than 400 people. Under the framework of the same project, as an alternative way of mobilizing resources, we have collected approximately 4 tons of paper waste. To ensure the success of our project we have also collaborated with several non-governmental organizations and media outlets. Most importantly, we, the youth of the highland municipality of Adjara (mostly women) managed to go against stereotypes and prove that women can do great things without a budget and on a voluntary basis. I think I have helped teach other volunteers to overcome challenges and to work as a team. Today, they have become the leaders of the youth of their respective communities and villages. They have already gathered other volunteers and are planning interesting activities for the future.    

Tell us about the Emerging Leaders’ School. What did you learn? How will it help you contribute to Georgia’s democratic development in the future?

The Emerging Leaders’ School gave me a great experience, a lot of opportunities, and a rich, diverse, and important network. The important informal education which I obtained through the school helped me develop leadership skills. I am not afraid of challenges anymore and I always look for solutions. The knowledge and the experience I have acquired here will help me more in my attempts to establish a culture of social activism on the local level, which I hope will contribute to the democratic development of the country.