Press Release: Women’s rights advocates from Central Asia discuss challenges and seek new pathways to systemic change for gender equality

Date: Monday, October 19, 2020

On 20 October, women’s rights advocates and feminist activists from Central Asia are coming together in a virtual consultation to assess the progress achieved towards commitments made in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most visionary agenda for the human rights of women and girls. They will discuss challenges and critical priorities, and collectively advocate for systemic change with bold political will and decisive actions to accelerate the achievement of gender equality.

The meeting marks the first in a series of consultations covering a range of themes related to women’s human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment and will feed into the Generation Equality Forum, a civil society–centred, global gathering for gender equality, convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France next year. In a concluding session, participants of these consultations will present their recommendations to decision-makers and development partners. 

The sub-regional consultations bring together a diverse group of participants, including young feminists, survivors of violence against women, migrant women, LGBTQI people, rural women, women entrepreneurs, women with disabilities and men advocates, from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

“For us, as grassroots initiatives, it is important that the Action Coalitions consider our local realities while developing recommendations and action plans. This intersectional feminist approach can guarantee the pursuit of a feminist reality,” says Leila Zuleikha Makhmudova, co-founder of FemAgora NGO in Kazakhstan and moderator of the consultations.

The consultations are held virtually, in interactive brainstorming sessions. The participants will also reflect on the economic and social fallout being caused by the COVID-19 crisis, which is hitting women hard and threatening the hard-won gains in gender equality. 

Increasing backlash against women’s rights and gender equality in the region and the COVID-19 pandemic pose significant challenges for the advancement of women’s rights and widen gender inequality with a disproportionate impact on women and girls from disadvantaged and vulnerable settings.

A recent UN Women report taking stock of gender equality in Europe and Central Asia shows some concerning data on progress with women’s rights across the region. Women in Kyrgyzstan are 30 times more likely to die giving birth than women in Belarus, Italy, Norway or Poland. In Kazakhstan, femicide rate remains high - 2.35 victims per 100 thousand women. Significant gaps remain in law and practice, where Turkmenistan, among other countries, still has no dedicated legislation on domestic violence or other forms of violence against women. The gender gap in women's labor market participation remains high in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan - 24.7 percent and 41.5 percent, respectively.

"Gender inequality remains a significant obstacle in many spheres of Tajik women’s life,” - says Nodira Abdulloeva, member of the Human Rights Center in Tajikistan and moderator of the consultations. – “But I remain optimistic about the future and join international efforts to achieve equality between women and men.”

The sub-regional consultations will further lead to the broader regional thematic discussions focused on seven priority areas: gender-based violence; economic justice and rights; bodily autonomy and sexual health and reproductive rights; feminist action for climate justice; technology and innovation for gender equality; feminist movements and leadership; and women, peace and security.

The sub-regional consultations are organized by women’s rights advocates from Central Asia with support from UN Women Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia and Women Engage for a Common Future.

These consultations have been made possible with financial support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Deutsche Gesellschaft für International Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Women 2030 and EuropeAid.