I am Generation Equality: Assemgul Temirkhanova, Kazakhstani golden grappling champion

Billions of people around the world stand on the right side of history every day. They speak up, take a stand, mobilize, and take big and small actions to advance women’s rights. This is Generation Equality.


I am Generation Equality
Temirkhanova at the sixth Jiu-Jitsu Asian Championship (2022) in Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain. Photo: Mansur Khabibulla

I am Generation Equality because…

Three steps you can take to be part of Generation Equality:

  • Make yourself free from prejudice
  • Follow your dreams and believe in yourself
  • Inspire and empower others

Gender equality means for me equal rights and opportunities for women and men and freedom from prejudice and gender stereotypes. I want my six-year-old son to do what he likes, as much as girls being able to engage in any activity without any limitations. When we judge boys playing with dolls or kitchen utensils, we may be discouraging them to be caring and responsible fathers and good chefs. When we judge girls engaged in sports, we may be depriving them from future awards and achievements in professional sports and realizing their full potential.

I am not a classical professional athlete. I studied Library and Information Science in St. John’s University, United States of America (USA), and for many years I have been working as a lead librarian at Nazarbayev University in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. I came into wrestling in 2017 after I turned 33 starting with jiu-jitsu. Before jiu-jitsu I used to practice impact sports and went to the gym regularly. In 2021, I participated in Kazakhstan’s national grappling championship by pure chance. Other gym members I train with suggested to participate. I thought, why not. As a result, I took part and won a gold medal!

The video showcases Temirkhanova unable to hold back her tears as she accepts a blue belt from her trainer. Video: Ali Bekish.
SDG color stripe

“When we judge girls engaged in sports, we may be depriving them from future awards and achievements in professional sports and realizing their full potential.”

SDG color stripe

I used to hear that it is not appropriate for a woman to play “men’s” sports when I was interested in boxing in the past. Often men athletes still lack interest in watching women's fights. At the 2019 World Wrestling Championships, held in Nur-Sultan, most of the audience just stood up and left for a snack when women came out to the mat. Nonetheless, I observe positive changes in our society. Thanks to the popularization of women's sports, people are used to seeing female athletes in martial arts, when they win and bring medals. I believe in the minds of many people it is finally becoming a norm. Women’s representation and leadership in combat sports in Kazakhstan will drive change of social norms and challenge gender stereotypes. I am inspired by other women athletes and would be glad to serve as a role model myself.


Assemgul Temirkhanova, 37, is a national golden grappling champion in Kazakhstan challenging gender stereotypes in sports and beyond. Temirkhanova studied Librarian and Information Sciences in the USA, and for many years has been working as a leading librarian at Nazarbayev University in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.