National Forum in Kyrgyzstan calls for gender quotas in local councils

With support from UN Women, 30 newly elected women meet at the 1st Forum of Women-Deputies of Local Councils to seek ways to increase women’s political participation across the country.

Date: Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Group photo of the 1st forum of women deputies of the local councils. Photo: UN Women Kyrgyzstan/Meriza Emilbekova
Group photo of the 1st forum of women deputies of the local councils. Photo: UN Women Kyrgyzstan/Meriza Emilbekova

One in five local assemblies in Kyrgyzstan has no women representatives. In fact, the last two decades have seen a steady decline in the representation of women among the deputies of local councils in Kyrgyzstan.

Today, despite an extensive legislative base guaranteeing gender equality, Kyrgyzstan still suffers from high and rising inequalities. Women are largely excluded from decision-making and hold only 10 percent of local council seats – part of a steady decline from 19 per cent of local council seats held by women in 2004, to 17 per cent in 2008 and 12 per cent in 2012.

To help reverse the trend, the UN Women’s Joint Programme on Rural Women’s Economic Empowerment and UNDP provided training and organized events last year for more than 200 rural women in Kyrgyzstan on such topics as how to run for local elections, develop their platform to mobilize support, speak publicly, and work with voters.

Ainuru Altybaeva, MP- active gender advocate in the Kyrgyz parliament, awarding with a certificate a newly elected woman-deputy of the local council. Photo: UN Women Kyrgyzstan/Meriza Emilbekova
Ainuru Altybaeva, MP- active gender advocate in the Kyrgyz parliament, awarding with a certificate a newly elected woman-deputy of the local council. Photo: UN Women Kyrgyzstan/Meriza Emilbekova

On 17 January 2017, more than 30 newly elected women deputies of local councils met in Bishkek, the Central Asian country’s capital, for the 1st Forum of Women-Deputies of Local Councils. The Forum examined the 2015-2016 local elections and the challenges women candidates faced in the electoral processes. Participants examined the way forward to increase women’s political participation at local and national levels.

The event was held with the support of UN Women, UNDP and the British Embassy in Kyrgyzstan at the initiative of the Center for Gender Studies, Alliance for Budget Transparency, and the Women Support Center.

Gerald Gunther, UN Women Representative in Kyrgyzstan, awarding with a certificate a newly elected woman-deputy of the local council. Photo: UN Women Kyrgyzstan/Meriza Emilbekova
Gerald Gunther, UN Women Representative in Kyrgyzstan, awarding with a certificate a newly elected woman-deputy of the local council. Photo: UN Women Kyrgyzstan/Meriza Emilbekova

The Forum concluded with a resolution that calls for special measures to ensure women’s participation of no less than 30 per cent in the councils at all levels. It urges strengthening the implementation of the legislation on gender equality, including prevention of early marriages, domestic violence, and women’s political participation. It also calls for an annual increase in representation of women holding political positions in state and municipal organizations.

“At UN Women, we are worried that the representation of women in local councils in Kyrgyzstan has decreased,” says Gerald Gunther, UN Women Representative. “It is possible to reverse this trend. We must engage people at the local level in issues that affect their lives, including female representation. We must work to overcome reluctance of women locally to vote for female candidates,” he added.

Omurbek Tekebaev, MP- leader of the party in the parliament. Photo: UN Women Kyrgyzstan/Meriza Emilbekova
Omurbek Tekebaev, MP- leader of the party in the Parliament. Photo: UN Women Kyrgyzstan/Meriza Emilbekova

In the interactive session of the Forum, representatives of the Government, members of Parliament, and civil society, participants and the newly elected women deputies discussed required legislative measures to increase women’s political participation.

Several members of Parliament expressed their support for introduction of gender quotas in local councils and agreed to support a legislative initiative in Parliament.

“It is necessary to overcome stereotypes about women’s political participation,” said parliamentary leader, Omurbek Tekebaev. “It is difficult and requires time, but it is necessary for the development of Kyrgyzstan. We should integrate gender equality policies and women’s rights across all national policies of the country.”