UNDP Helps Promote Gender Equality in Kazakhstan

UNDPASTANA – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project to achieve gender equality has been promoting family values, the representation of women in decision-making positions, distance employment and other related goals in Kazakhstan since 2012. Rashida Naubetova, the project’s manager, spoke to The Astana Times about the goals and achievements of the project.

How was the project launched in Kazakhstan and what has been achieved?

Since 1993, when the UNDP started to operate in Kazakhstan, it has been contributing to the programme for women’s support, and in 1999 the National Commission for Women’s Affairs was established. Activity started from the very first days after the creation of the national mechanism and within 10 years the project has been under implementation, with the assistance of Sweden. Thanks to the UNDP, our members of Parliament, civil servants and entrepreneurs have travelled to Sweden to gain experience.

In 2009, the national commission was the first organisation to sign a contract for a grant from the UNDP. Initially it was a three-year project dedicated to increasing the potential of the national commission. Now, this is the second joint project of the UNDP and the national commission for 2012-2014. Currently, the UNDP allocates less funding. Initially, our projects were fully funded by the UNDP and our Swedish donors. Then we introduced a 50/50 allocation procedure and now 80 percent of the project’s funds are allocated by the government of Kazakhstan and 20 percent by the UNDP.

What is the purpose of the project?

The UNDP supports all layers of society and brings advanced international practices to the country. This project is dedicated to the social and economic renewal of Kazakhstan, which will be achieved by working on the moral development of the society, based on equal rights and opportunities, in bringing up the younger generation. The project consists of two components. The first component is moral development; the second one is the economic and political promotion of women. Within this project, we manage to hold conferences, workshops, research and training sessions.

What activities have been held within the project?

Recently, in the Zhambyl region, we held a regional conference for the southern regions on moral education and the promotion of family values. Nongovernmental organisations in moral education and representatives of state bodies attended the conference. The Council of Fathers NGO came from the Kyzylorda region and showed the role of fathers in bringing up children, the Kazakh State Women’s Pedagogical University did a presentation on the university’s Kyz Zhibek club, where women are trained for family life.

In February, with UNDP support, we held a presentation of the Otbasym Centre of National Family Values. It is planned that this centre will open branches in other regions and will work on the revival of our national traditions and reviving lost Kazakh recipes.

Last year, within the creation of the Customs Union, we held the first forum of border territories of the Western Kazakhstan region, called “Initiatives of Women in the Customs Union.” Representatives of four western regions, Atyrau, Mangistau, Aktobe and Western Kazakhstan, as well as six Russian border regions took part. Within the forum, women entrepreneurs shared their experience and launched a campaign for the development of green entrepreneurship. Since we’ve already worked in the western regions, this year we plan to move to eastern Kazakhstan.

Last year, at our initiative, a regulation on distance employment was introduced to the labour legislation of Kazakhstan. This is an aspect of saving the family. We did research on this and it became clear that neither employers nor employees are ready for such a system. We should hold an education campaign to help people understand that distance employment can help save families.

Together with Russian scientists, we created a guidance manual on gender sensitivity in health care.

On Feb. 14, Kazakhstan defended its report for the implementation of the Convention to Eliminate all Forms of Discrimination Against Women in Geneva and we got a positive response.

What are your plans?

Gender policy is a relatively new direction and we will also work on that. The gender equality issue should be taken into account in the strategic plans of all state bodies and all organisations.

Our primary goal is achievement of gender equality, which brings economic growth. This includes both the economic and political promotion of equality. According to calculations by international experts, increasing the representation of women in decision-making positions will result in an increase in labour productivity by 15-40 percent. Equality within families will also positively influence the position of a family. It’s no secret that every third couple in Kazakhstan gets divorced, and thus the number of orphans increases. Lots of young people do not register their marriages and if the partners separate, the women are left unprotected, without housing, and their children grow up without fathers. Moral education is needed to counter all of this. We lost lots of our values during the collapse of the Soviet Union, when all the country’s attention was paid to economic growth.

Within the project we also plan to create a council of women in law enforcement bodies.

Do you have statistics on increases in the number of women in decision-making positions?

Upon the results of the latest Parliamentary elections in 2012, the number of women in Parliament increased by 1.6 points and now we have 28 women members of Parliament. The number of female members of government also increased: when the national commission was created, we had only one woman and now we have four women, three of whom are ministers and one a deputy prime minister. Every fifth member of the government is a woman. Every fourth member of local representative bodies is a woman.

Among people with higher educations, 61 percent are women. Doctors of science are mostly women, Bolashak graduates are also mainly women. Nevertheless, in management positions it is mainly men.

In this regard, it is necessary to overcome stereotypes that women are only teachers or hospital staff, and gender education should be conducted from kindergarten on to promote women’s involvement in all spheres of our lives.

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