ASTANA – The March 4 Zhaina International Women’s Forum in Astana attracted more than 600 participants from Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Malaysia and the U.S. to discuss female entrepreneurship and empowerment.
“There is a global trend of women leadership and development, such as [the one noted in hashtags] #timeisnow, #timesup and #womenempowerment. In Kazakhstan, we have a young generation of females who want to realise their potential and achieve more than their mothers and grandmothers. However, they still need motivation. Therefore, the forum is primarily about motivation: motivation to change and take action and, of course, about female leadership and entrepreneurship,” event organiser Aliya Zholboldina told The Astana Times.
The forum offered the opportunity for Kazakh women to network and share business and personal development experiences. Its name, Zhaina, translates from Kazakh as “to blossom.”
Ambassadors of the U.S., Canada and the head of political, economic and media department of the UAE embassy delivered opening remarks. U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan George Krol praised Kazakh women for their roles in Kazakhstan’s social, political and economic life and urged women to believe in themselves and realise their potential in their business, career and personal lives.
The message of the forum, taking place in a form of panel sessions, speeches, masterclasses and seminars, was to find inner strength and start living a life one has been long dreaming of. The speakers also called to support each other and act as partners, not rivals.
Zholboldina is also a founder of Astana Ladies Club, a Facebook community with 12,250 members.
“We, as a community, previously organised meetings to celebrate March 8 for 80-100 women. This year, however, we decided to expand and organise a forum for 500 women. The idea was to invite Kazakh women to discuss global trends in women empowerment,” she noted.
“I also run my own business; organise events and bring eminent coaches to Kazakhstan. After forum, we plan to create Zhaina Women public organisation, dedicated to issues of gender equality, women’s rights, personal development and female entrepreneurship. We also plan to hold Zhaina forum each year,” she added.
Alina Askarova, regional managing director of Geneva Business School, spoke at a panel session on entrepreneurship and shared her personal experience.
“Given all the support and the status of women in Kazakhstan, I believe that the only obstacle for a woman to start a business are inner barriers, which she constructs as a result of social pressures and expectations. Therefore, apart from technical seminars and master classes on running business, it is important to motivate women and work with those mental barriers,” she explained.