The four Central Asian countries’ total population of 60 million people is spread out over a vast area nearly as large as the European Union. Since independence, each country has pursued its own socio-economic and political reforms. This has led to unique differences between them. Despite the recent decade of economic growth, the four countries face economic development disparities and widely varied labour markets, with dynamic labour migration flows common.
Underrepresented in all elected and appointed bodies in Central Asia, women’s representation in Central Asia parliaments has sunk to under 22,5 per cent (Kazakhstan – 26%, Turkmenistan – 25%, Tajikistan – 17%, Uzbekistan – 22%). Throughout Central Asia, women are disproportionately affected by poverty, gender discrimination, persistent wage gaps between women and men, exploitation and limited opportunities for career advancement.
Violence against women and girls remains widespread and a key challenge to achieving gender equality in Central Asia. Gender-based domestic violence is prevalent, though often surrounded by a culture of silence. In a 2012 UN Women survey, 58 per cent of women in Tajikistan reported physical or sexual violence by their partner.
Central Asia’s Fergana Valley — bordered by Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan with a total population of more than 11 million people – has a history of conflicts and disputes, including those related to use and management of transboundary natural resources. Bilateral relations between countries worsened due to increased tensions over joint use and management of energy and water resources and collapse of the unified energy supply system in Central Asia from the early 1990s. Today Fergana Valley remains a region with high conflict potential due to a multitude of reasons, including ethnic tensions, high poverty and unemployment levels, labour migration, inefficient management and use of transboundary natural resources (water and land), drug and human trafficking and unresolved border demarcation and delimitation issues, all of which particularly effect women adversely.
UN Women has worked in Central Asia since 1999 to promote women’s equality and unlock progress for both women and men.
UN Women’s programmes are guided by a series of commitments to women’s rights. These include Beijing Platform for Action and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 and six supporting resolutions – 1820, 1888, 1889, 1960, 2106 and 2122.
Our programmes are aligned with each country’s national development priorities and assist them as they implement their gender equality commitments. In particular, we focus on:
- Leadership and political participation
- Economic empowerment
Labour migration and the Women of Central Asia
- Ending violence against women
- Peace and security and engendering humanitarian action
- National planning and budgeting
- Intergovernmental support
- UN system coordination
- Tackling gender dimensions of HIV/AIDS