EU, UNDP Announce Call for Academic Grants for Afghan Women to Study in Central Asia

NUR-SULTAN – “A new and unfamiliar experience that turned into an exciting and wonderful time.” That’s how Muzhgan Sadat from Bamyan province in Afghanistan recalled her study experience in Kazakhstan. She was in the first group of 30 women to study in Kazakhstan as part of the European Union-funded scholarship program that launched its third call for academic scholarships on July 15. 

The program seeks to strengthen human capacity development in Afghanistan by increasing women’s access to quality higher education. Photo credit: kz.undp.org

“In 2019, I applied for the academic scholarship for Afghan women. Fortunately, I succeeded and came to Kazakhstan,” said Sadat, who currently studies finance at Almaty-based Kazakh British Technical University. 

She said the scholarship “helped her reach her long-term desires.” 

“It was very interesting to exchange our different cultures, opinions and views. We learned so much from each other. And we always tried to help each other as well. The learning environment and opportunities provided by the university meet global standards,” she said.  

Launched in 2019, the program is implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) office. Sadat was among the first 30 women who passed a three-stage rigorous process surpassing more than 500 applicants. The candidates needed to apply, take an English placement test and pass an interview with the selection committee.

The scholarship provides opportunities for women from Afghanistan to obtain higher and technical vocational education at Central Asian universities. Only girls and women holding Afghan citizenship may apply for the scholarship. 

“The implementation of women-centered initiatives plays a significant role in promoting peace, prosperity and development and therefore is at the very heart of the UNDP’s dedicated work and mission. The project unites several Central Asian countries and serves as a bridge for the exchange of knowledge, experience, and cultural heritage”, said Yakup Beris, UNDP Resident Representative in Kazakhstan.

Applicants have a choice between Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan and they can only choose one country and one major. 

In Kazakhstan, bachelor’s study options include marketing and agriculture/agribusiness, while graduate study options include marketing and engineering/construction. 

Participating universities in the program include the Almaty Management University (AlmaU), Kazakh Academy of Architecture and Civil Engineering and Kazakh National Agrarian University – all located in Almaty. 

Before commencing their studies in September 2022, all students will attend a year-long intensive English and Russian language course.

Uzbekistan’s universities offer a two-year TVET academic program that stands for Technical and Vocational Education and Training, an umbrella term that encompasses education and training activities needed for continuing professional development.

Those who choose Kyrgyzstan will obtain a bachelor’s degree in computer science or TVET education in information communication and technology. 

Empowering women is central to economic growth and sustainable development, said Sven-Olov Carlsson, Ambassador of the EU Delegation to Kazakhstan.

“We are honored to have witnessed firsthand how an idea of an academic scholarship opportunity for Afghan women gradually developed into a major inter-regional, cross-country initiative, which is now being implemented to the benefit of Afghan women,” he said. 

The deadline for applications is Aug. 11. 

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