Our Story

Since it’s founding in 1998, DWO has grown from a small group of women determined to impact their community into one of the most respected and critical organizations in the region.

How it all came to be…

A Short History of DWO

Since 1998, the Democrat Women’s Organization (DWO) of Samtskhe-Javakheti, located in Akhaltsikhe, Georgia, has operated with the sole mission of helping women. DWO works across diverse communities to provide comprehensive services that promote women’s physical, social, and civic health. DWO aspires to advance the well-being of women so they are safe, healthy and actively involved in the political and social life of their communities.

The idea for DWO came about in 1997 when executive director Marina Modebadze came into contact with a young woman whose story would alter the course of the director’s life and inspire DWO’s long journey into the organization it is today. It began when the friend of Modebadze’s daughter, a 14-year-old girl, sought refuge at their home after being physically assaulted by her stepfather. Her story wasn’t unique. The early years of Georgian independence were a tumultuous time for the country, and for women in particular as they were faced with extraordinary obstacles in securing their safety and autonomy.  Bride kidnappings were common, girls often didn’t finish high school, and women faced many societal restrictions, such as not being allowed to leave their homes. Worse still was how no safe spaces existed for girls to talk about these issues.

Something had to be done.

Doing what she could to help, Marina and her daughter began to organize a group of young women at the local public library where they would talk about the problems they commonly faced and provide support for one another. This group, called the “Young Girls Group”, had been meeting once a week for a year when they caught the attention of Kvinna till Kvinna, a Swedish nonprofit.  Kvinna till Kvinna had heard about the good work the group was doing and asked them to put together a proposal for funding. Eager to increase the breadth of their support for girls across Georgia, the Young Girls Group quickly drew up a proposal which was funded with a $10,000 grant from Kvinna till Kvinna. With the grant funding, the group expanded their activities to promote peace building between young Georgian girls and Armenian girls, public education on the rights of women and girls, and overall female empowerment.

At this time, Marina was working in the Akhaltsikhe municipal government. She held various positions in the local government, including Head of Administration and Deputy Mayor. When the civil war ended in 1990, she witnessed tremendous suffering in her community, especially among women. Many were not receiving sufficient support as specialized female services were overwhelmed by the devastation from constant conflict. Similar to what her daughter did with the Young Girls Group, Marina organized a group of her friends to collect food and clothing to give to women. She soon came to realize that she could make a bigger impact on the lives of women by formally launching a dedicated nonprofit organization to advance this cause. Marina resigned from her position as Deputy Mayor of Akhaltsikhe and got to work.

Along with four other women, Marina started the Democrat Women’s Organization of Samtskhe-Javakheti with the focus of helping women victims of violence and empowering them to stand up for their rights. Since that time, DWO has grown to a staff of 15 and expanded its services to include a women’s domestic violence shelter and a community health clinic.