On May 25, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev signed the law titled “Amendments to the Constitutional Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan,” “Elections in the Republic of Kazakhstan” and the law on “Amendments and Additions to the Law on Political Parties in the Republic of Kazakhstan”. The laws are of particular importance for the county’s political life and will serve to further develop Kazakhstan’s multi-party system. This latest political effort was taken to facilitate the process of creation and registration of new political parties and to lower registration hurdles for their creation. The laws also provide additional opportunities for the youth and and for women to take an active role in politics.
Major steps towards political progressivism that took into account gender aspects were first taken in Kazakhstan in the midst of the severe demographic crisis of the 90s.
The 1998 President’s State of the Union address stressed that one of the most fundamental steps necessary to democratize and liberalize Kazakhstan was to actively promote an agenda aimed at helping women achieve greater participation in the country’s social, economic and political processes. First President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, firmly stated his intentions to increase the role of the Council on Family, Women and Demographic Policy in politics and make it the main adviser on solving acute problems in this area such as increasing the representation of women in positions of power, combating violence against women and state-encouraged promotion of businesses run by women. The policy of promoting gender quotas in politics and society have since then only been strengthened.
The results can be seen in a wide spectrum of issues facing Kazakh society such as the introduction of gender issue questions in national surveys, conducting basic and applied research on said gender issues and annual meetings of the head of state with female activists. The main thrust of this stunning and brave new Kazakh policy is in the area of making room for the representation of women in governmental institutions and politics through affirmative action gender quotas.
Recognition of the principle of gender balance in decision-making and its role in nations’ commitment to empower women are reflected in the Beijing Platform for Action adopted by UN member states at the IV World Conference on Women (Beijing, China, 1995). The platform decided that the problems that society as a whole faced are solvable if only at least 30 percent of all the genders participate in their solution.
In accordance with the accepted UN obligations, the planners in Kazakhstan set a specific task for the government – to give at least 30 percent of decision-making high-level positions to women. This is in keeping with the guidelines set by the Beijing Platform for Action, including in the government, the Parliament, akimats (mayoral offices), maslikhats (local representative bodies) and the judiciary.
Today, thanks to all the efforts made to clear positions for women in politics, women in leadership positions are no longer an exception. Among the latest governmental appointments, Gulshara Abdykalikova as Akim (Mayor) of the Kyzylorda Region, Aida Balaeva as Minister for Information and Public Development, Tamara Duysenova as Assistant to the President, Head of the Department for Monitoring the Consideration of Appeals to the Presidential Administration, Nurgul Mauberlinova as Head of the Internal Policy Department of the Presidential Administration and Aliya Rakisheva as Head of the Senate Office of the Kazakh Parliament all received their positions because of the new policy.
The debate over whether women should be encouraged to participate in politics and other traditionally male occupations is over. Today we are witnesses to the fact that in most countries of both the industrial and post-industrial world powerful and influential women are now capable of running the show.
Moreover, there are clear examples of progressive and empowered women occupying positions of significant influence all over the developed world. The list is well-known to everyone and includes famous politicians such as Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel and Aung San Suu Kyi. Scandinavian countries lead the way in progressivism, with women there poised to tip the scales with a near 50:50 ratio of women to men in politics!
On December 20, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokaev at the second meeting of the National Council of Public Confidence made several proposals aimed at reforming the current political system. The Head of State noted that “it is necessary to provide for a mandatory 30 percent quota for women and youth in election party lists.” Today, this proposal of the President was implemented in the form of a legislative norm, which will involve active and worthy Kazakh women in the socio-political processes of the country.
The author is Zarema Shaukenova, Director of Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies, member of the National Commission for Women and Family-Demographic Policy under the President of Kazakhstan.