Georgian baywatch: First female lifeguards make a splash for equality

Georgia’s first female lifeguards seen during training
Georgia’s first female lifeguards are seen during training in Batumi, Georgia, in this undated photograph. Courtesy of Georgia Emergency Management Agency

Swimmers in distress off Georgia’s Black Sea coast are set to experience a first this summer – being rescued by a woman.

Up to 20 female lifeguards will start patrolling the country’s crowded beaches on Saturday, joining a male-dominated rescue corps for the holiday season, Georgia’s emergency management agency said on Friday.

The agency heralded the move as a massive step forward for gender equality in the conservative former Soviet republic, but the group – all under 20-year-old students from Batumi State Maritime Academy – face an uphill battle for recognition.

Images of several aspiring female lifeguards undergoing training shared online this week sparked a social media flurry.

Many criticised their looks, questioned their fitness, or drew unflattering comparisons with the 1990s TV series “Baywatch”, which often featured actors in revealing swimsuits running in slow motion on a California beach.

“Some people are complaining that these women do not look like Pamela Anderson,” women’s right activist Baia Pataraia, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, referring to the U.S. actress in the cult U.S. show that led to a 2017 movie.

Georgia has passed anti-discrimination laws in an effort to move closer to the European Union, but gender stereotypes and inequality remain deeply rooted, according to the United Nations.

Women earn in average 35% less than men who dominate most top business and political roles, the U.N. says.

But not all comments were negative, with many users wishing luck to the new recruits who said they were ready for the task.

“The challenge for me was to save other people’s lives and break down stereotypes,” Christine Didmanidze, one of the new lifeguards, told local broadcaster First Channel. “I am sure I can do it.”

Hephzibah Oluwatosin
About Hephzibah Oluwatosin 67 Articles
Oluwatosin is a fashion and lifestyle Journalist turned news writer.

Oluwatosin has helped dozens of Nigerian and Ghanaian female actresses including celebrities kick off their Wikipedia pages before it started getting public edits.

Tosin's career in news writing began way back in 2013 after working for some high profiled news organization like The Punch and daily Sun in Nigeria.

Most of her reports while with Theelitepost as been approved by TV stations and reproduced for headline slide shows.

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