Kazakhstan Joins Movement to Empower, Celebrate and Support Women in Business

ASTANA – Kazakhstan has joined the global women’s entrepreneurship support initiative, holding its first Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED) on Nov. 19.

WED organisers pose for a picture.

WED organisers pose for a picture.

The nation joined 144 countries and 110 universities to celebrate the work of women entrepreneurs. The first WED event was held in 2014 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, with additional events conducted simultaneously in several other countries.

In her most recent interview with local media, Elaine Conkievich, chief of the UN Women Office for Central Asia, noted Kazakhstan’s efforts to join the world’s 30 leading economies by 2050 may be fruitless unless the country addresses gender equality. To gain momentum in advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment, government measures including introduction of a relevant legal framework, quotas for women and maternity support programmes may just not be enough.

To break the glass ceiling in societal perceptions and expectations regarding women’s rights and roles, the capital’s nearly 300 female activists, entrepreneurs, bloggers and journalists came together to observe and discuss the work of women entrepreneurs. The event was also supported by the Businesswomen’s Council under the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, UN Development Programme in Kazakhstan and Damu Entrepreneurship Development Fund.

“Being a part of this unique initiative is a great honour for me. I’m sure the event will give impetus to the conversation on women’s rights and opportunities,” said event organiser Merey Mustafina.

The discussions varied from successful business stories, effective assistance measures and financial tools available to women entrepreneurs to heartfelt stories of domestic violence and common prejudices against women.

National Entrepreneurs presidium secretariat head Lazzat Ramazanova opened the event, announcing the work results of the Businesswomen’s Council. She noted this year alone, the chamber provided business consulting services to 90,000 novice women entrepreneurs and service support to 30,000 businesswomen. Eleven thousand women entrepreneurs from across the country received funding for their projects.

Damu Fund regional office head Islambek Kairbekov told the participants about the ways of applying for and receiving subsidised loans, free legal assistance and business management and marketing advice available to women starting companies. He noted the majority of women entrepreneurs who seek the organisation’s assistance are setting up businesses aimed at tackling social problems.

The audience was especially inspired by the personal success stories of thriving businesswomen.

Raikhan Ismailova, chief executive officer of the British Chamber of Commerce in Kazakhstan, talked about building a successful career and balancing work and family and encouraged young women to take leadership roles in their jobs and communities.

“Women’s roles do not end at home. Women’s opportunities and ambitions are not limited to their traditional roles in a family. Find a mentor, take a risk, challenge yourself,” she said.

Dana Inkarbekova, country managing partner for PricewaterhouseCoopers Kazakhstan, spoke of the need to strengthen female solidarity, adding it is every successful woman’s moral obligation to mentor younger women and help them thrive in life.

The organisers and participants are hoping the event will help launch a series of initiatives and campaigns promoting gender equality and sustainable development in Kazakhstan.