Women’s empowerment in Kyrgyzstan is on the rise. According to U.N. Women, the Central Asian democracy has signed more than 50 international agreements on women’s rights. The Kyrgyzstan government boasts civil, penal, labor and family codes aimed at ensuring equal rights.
Still, there’s a significant need for improvement. U.N. Women in Kyrgyzstan prioritizes fundamental areas such as economic empowerment and ending violence against women. Numerous other organizations and governments are instrumental advocates as well.
On May 27, 2017, Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev signed significant new domestic violence legislation. Domestic violence affects nearly one-third of women and girls aged 15 to 49 in Kyrgyzstan. Local organizations and activists helped to draft and pass the new law, which strengthens protections for victims and affords them new rights. The government now recognizes physical, psychological and economic violence. Victims will soon have recourse to shelter and services for both mental and medical health.
Previously, in 2014, President Atambayev specifically requested support from the U.N. Peacebuilding Fund for student peer education about violence against women. Through the program, youth learn about inequality and crimes such as bride kidnapping and forced underage marriage. Teachers lead a course called “My Safe and Peaceful School,” developed by U.N. Women with support from the Kyrgyzstan Ministry of Education.
Women who win Kyrgyzstan elections are frequently removed or pressured to step down before taking office. After witnessing this happen to dozens of women in a recent election, the International Republican Institute joined forces with the Women’s Democracy Network to coordinate a series of private training sessions for women elected into local Kyrgyzstan councils. The training aimed to increase women’s access to leadership opportunities, culminating in a national forum on International Women’s Day in 2017.
USAID also promotes women’s empowerment in Kyrgyzstan through multiple initiatives. USAID Agro Horizon helps women access agricultural information and services, while USAID Business Growth Initiative provides business and management skills training for women-owned businesses. USAID Dignity and Rights focuses on the elimination of human trafficking. USAID Collaborative Governance Program has a sweeping aim, targeting domestic violence, women’s rights, leadership and entrepreneurship.
In January of 2017, Japan donated $490,000 to the U.N. World Food Programme for women’s empowerment in Kyrgyzstan, particularly for women in rural areas. Over 2,000 households will benefit from the funding, earmarked for the provision of vocational and business training for women. Small family farmers will be included as well, particularly female farmers.
During the ceremony celebrating the donation, Japanese Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Yoshihiro Yamamura, observed that “empowered women benefit societies throughout the world.” The power of international, national and local initiatives is bringing this sentiment to fruition in Kyrgyzstan.
– Anna Parker