This interview is with Nana Ghvaladze, a parliamentary staffer from the Republic of Georgia who spent four weeks in October and November at the Law Library of Congress as a participant of the Legislative Fellows Program supported by the U.S. Department of State and administered by the American Councils for International Education, .
Describe your background
I was born in Tbilisi, Georgia, which is a small country located in Eastern Europe between the Black and Caspian Seas. Before becoming an independent state in 1991, my country was a part of the Soviet Union. I was brought up in a family of doctors with a younger sister and a brother. It was very unusual to decide to become a lawyer in a doctor’s family, but it was my choice and my family respected it because my parents taught me to achieve goals and work hard in order to make dreams come true. As a child I spent all of my summers in Kutaisi, a town about 100 miles to the west of the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. Now, the entire Georgian legislature is relocating to Kutaisi.
What is your academic/professional history?
In 2005, I graduated from the Tbilisi State University School of Law. Prior to that, because I always wanted to become a lawyer, I joined the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association when I was about 14 and participated in mock trials, debates, and other competitions. As a university student, I worked at the Constitutional Court of Georgia. My career has been a mixture of private and public sector employment.
I joined the private sector in 2006, working as a lawyer for a company that was at the time the largest real estate developer in Georgia. In 2008, I was given a chance to join the public sector and started working in the Parliament of Georgia as a chief legal specialist in the office of the Deputy Speaker. My job gives me the opportunity to look at the law from different angles. Of course, the most enjoyable part of my work is legislative drafting, mainly because of the impact it has in peoples lives. My other responsibilities include liaising with other government institutions; communicating with individuals who petition the legislature; and preparing legislative initiatives for introduction by the Deputy Speaker.
About half of the members of the Parliament of Georgia are elected through party lists based on a proportional electoral system and the other half are elected from majoritarian electoral districts. Because my boss was elected from a Tbilisi area called Samgori, I am involved in providing constituent services for her constituents.
I also serve as a lawyer in the Gender Equality Council of the Georgian Parliament, which was established two years ago. This part of my work is probably the most gratifying because in this capacity I draft laws relating to gender equality and amendments to existing laws, including the Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence and Assistance to Domestic Violence Victims. This legislation criminalizes domestic violence in the country.
In 2011, I decided to continue my studies and entered a Ph.D program at the Tbilisi State University. I am doing my research in international law, specifically on the extradition procedures in Georgia and whether they meet international standards.
How would you describe your job to other people?
I was at the Law Library of Congress as a Legislative Fellow. Legislative Fellows are selected by the U.S. Department of State for one-month internships in various American federal and state offices and in non-governmental organizations. The goal of the program is to foster understanding among people and develop professional cooperation. Our group included about 30 government employees from different Eastern European countries. Together with my colleague, a parliamentary staffer from Turkey, I was placed at the Law Library’s Global Legal Research Center (GLRC). During the fellowship, I developed an understanding of how the legal research needs of the U.S. Congress are served, and was given the opportunity to contribute to GLRC’s online publication, the Global Legal Monitor, providing summaries of recent legal developments in my home country. Also, I observed the work of legal specialists, attended trainings, seminars, and other events organized by the Law Library. In addition, I assisted my supervisor Dr. Peter Roudik, Director of the GLRC, in reviewing the Law Library’s collection on Georgia.
Why did you want to work at the Law Library of Congress?
Actually, it was not my decision. Based on my qualifications, I was placed here by the American Councils for International Education. I realized how lucky I was to be here because it was a unique opportunity to be associated with such a prestigious institution and observe the work of the country’s legislative branch closely. The work here gave me a feeling of happiness and professional fulfillment. Of course, I was impressed by the size of the collection. But what is more important, because research is part of my daily work in Georgia, I will take with me invaluable knowledge of how people work here, what kind of materials and databases they use, and how they increase their knowledge and share it with members of Congress, their staff and constituents. During this month I learned many things about the United States, its culture and people, and I am taking back unforgettable memories. I would like to express my great gratitude to all the people who gave me the opportunity to be here.
What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?
It might sound funny but I love to cook and do it well. At home, I always prepare dinner for my family. I like our traditional food and European cuisine. During the program all participants were placed with local host families. My host mother is a very good cook and she taught me interesting things about American food and kitchens. We had lots of fun.