“The most important thing that makes me stay and work hard in road safety for more than six years is that I know I can change something in road safety, and everyday I feel I have already done a little. It’s a great feeling!”
Every year in the small country of Georgia, around 8000 road crashes injure 7000 people, and 800–900 people lose their lives. Lika Merabishvili wants to change these numbers.
Lika has spent seven years with Partnership for Road Safety (PfRS), the oldest and largest road safety NGO in Georgia and a member of the Eastern Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Transport. PfRS implements a wide range of interventions that aim to make the roads and the environment safer for all Georgians, but Lika is especially focused on educating children—in schools and those living on the street—to be safer road users. She points out that while crash-related fatalities are going down thanks to a new seat belt law passed in 2011, pedestrians, especially children, are increasingly endangered by drivers using mobile phones and their own lack of knowledge about safe behavior on the roads. There is a lot of work to do.
Lika applied to be an Alliance Advocate so that she could update and improve her professional skills and strengthen her NGO’s impact on road safety. But Lika brought more than skills back from Memphis—she now feels part of a team of dedicated people supporting each other to achieve results that are greater than what they might achieve as separate NGOs scattered across the globe. This network has become a powerful platform for sharing experiences, and it has energized and motivated Lika to apply successes and lessons learned in other countries to the challenges that she and her PfRS colleagues confront in Georgia.
As a university professor in language and educational psychology, Lika was adept in many of the skills covered by the Alliance Academy training agenda, but she gained a more robust understanding in some key areas. Lika now has a better appreciation of the power of advocacy and social media campaigns. PfRS currently has 11,000 followers, and their website presents news, opinions, videos and government positions on road safety-related issues. Lika was also a keen observer of the way that sessions were facilitated, and she learned valuable new training methodologies that have enhanced her contributions to PfRS and her work at the university. She also gained insights on areas such as helmet promotion, which PfRS had not done before; helmets are now included in their road safety priorities. As for most NGOs, expenses are always a challenge for PfRS, and Lika believes that her improved skills in project design and planning will help her to craft more compelling proposals and attract new sources of funding. This will allow PfRS to expand to other areas of the country, to maintain a budget for printing materials and purchasing safety accessories for children and to hire additional staff as needed. Finally, Lika observed that while training is important, it can be easy to forget new knowledge if there is no reinforcement mechanism. She sees the Advocate network as a vital resource for mutual support and encouragement as NGOs work toward the SDG targets for 2020 and 2030.
In a groundbreaking initiative for the Alliance, Lika will join forces with three other Advocates from the Philippines, Tunisia, and India on a proposal for school safety zones. The multiregional nature of the initiative also holds great potential for replicability in other countries. The four collaborators expect to demonstrate the notion that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.
 Ministry of Internal Affairs, Republic of Georgia