For women in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, going on a ‘night out’ is not just a chance to spend time with friends, but also an opportunity to highlight the social freedoms that they now have.
The three countries in the South Caucasus were once part of the Soviet Union, but after its break-up in 1991, they gained independence. Although people there now enjoy greater social freedoms than ever before, there is a divide between how men and women are treated. Many women, despite being old enough to vote, feel society will look down on them if they go out late in the evenings.
As a woman from Azerbaijan, I grew up seeing the women around me choosing to stay in during the evenings. But people who range from their 20s all the way to their 60s have a new approach to this now. I know many women who defy the stereotypes and will go out at night, not only to dance at night clubs, but also to for a walk, or enjoy the beauty of the lights of night-time Baku.
Of course, Western influences through education or increased tourism have begun to permeate these countries with music venues, bars and nightclubs becoming more prolific. And as the number of women working in the region increases, so does their spending power – and their desire for somewhere to spend it. The proportion of women employed in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia increased slightly between 2006 and 2011, according to the World Bank.
But for others, embracing this new lifestyle means getting a reputation as a “good-time girl and being ostracised by neighbours and families. They will share their pictures on social media, but take steps to ensure they remain anonymous. Others, however, want the whole world to know just what a a good time they are having.