Rural women in Kyrgyzstan fight for their place in local leadership positionsWomen activists meet MPs and government officials on National Rural Women’s Day to discuss barriers faced by rural women in fully participating in the national development processes.
To advocate for rural women’s role in the country’s development, more than 100 women activists from across Kyrgyzstan met on National Rural Women’s Day* with Members of Parliament (MPs), Vice-Prime-Minister, The Ombudsman, and representatives from the Ministry of Labour and Social Development, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Finance, and other government agencies.
Participants discussed systemic barriers rural women face in the economy and decision-making processes.
Despite legislation in Kyrgyzstan that guarantees equal access to municipal service for all citizens, gender equality in decision-making positions at the local level has declined. Even with social initiatives to increase rural women's equal participation and representation in local decision-making processes, progress has stalled in the Central Asian country.
Over the last decade, the number of women elected to local councils has dropped from 24 per cent to 10 per cent and by nearly 5 per cent women holding management positions in local government. In addition, women head only 19 per cent of household farms.
“Unfortunately, women cannot realise their full leadership potential due to existing social norms or the unwillingness of authorities,” says said Ms. Nuria Temirbek, deputy in the Ak-Jar local council. “We need to develop special measures that address the constraints to women’s voice, decision-making and leadership at the local level”.
The activists called on Parliament and other government bodies to integrate gender equality into all policy-making and planning processes, recognizing that women’s empowerment is a key driver of economic growth and development.
“Rural women's empowerment is key to our country’s economic development and transformation,” said Taalaikul Isakunova, Minister of Labour and Social Development.
The conference participants pointed to necessary changes for more opportunities for rural women.
“They need equal access to and control over economic and financial resources,” said Sanabar Karataeva, head of the women’s cooperative, Iskra.
“As demonstrated by the Joint UN Programme economic empowerment of rural women and girls has a catalytic effect on their political participation and leadership. Joint efforts of the four UN agencies has allowed to provide a coordinated response to the multidimensional challenges faced by rural women”, affirmed Jipara Turmamatova, National Coordinator, UN Women in the Kyrgyz Republic.
The conference was organised within the joint programme, Rural Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Kyrgyz Republic, supported by UN Women, the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), with assistance from the Governments of Norway and Sweden.
* In 2013, Kyrgyzstan established 18 June as a National Rural Women’s Day as per the Government Decree.