UN Women’s Country Office Representative in Kyrgyzstan stresses importance of girls’ education and gender justice in remarks at the Third National Conference devoted to the Kyrgyzstan Rural Women’s Day

June 19, 2015, 06:00

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan 18 June, 2015 – The Ministry of Social Affairs, with the support of UN Women, OSCE, UNFPA, WFP and UNDP organized a Third Conference devoted to the National Rural Women’s Day with participation of women from rural areas as well as former President of the Kyrgyz Republic HE Ms. Otunbayeva and Government representatives including Vice Prime minister Ms. Niyazalieva, Minister of Education Ms. Sarieva, Minister of Social Affairs, Mr. Bazarbayev. Memebers of Parliament present included Ms. Roza Aknazarova and others.

Kyrgyzstan observes its National Rural Women’s Day on June, 18 by special order of the government, recognizing the significant contribution of women to the development of rural areas and the national economy of the Kyrgyz Republic.

The event provided an opportunity to remind everyone of the critical role and contribution of women in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty. Rural women account for a significant proportion of the agricultural labor force, play a key role in food production, especially in subsistence farming, and perform most of the unpaid care work in rural areas.

One of the biggest challenges and restrictions faced by women and girls result from the prevailing gender norms and practices which often prevent women empowerment and agency and keep women in dependency. This prevents women and girls from fully participating in economic activities and public life.

Government representatives highlighted their concerns regarding a high prevalence of early and unregistered marriages, as well as issues such as bride kidnapping and polygamy. The meeting agreed that such practices prevent women and especially girls from realizing their full potential and limit the growth potential of the economy, thereby impeding the reduction of the poverty rate. Concerted action would be taken urgently.

UN Women’s Representative in the Kyrgyz Republic, Mr. Gerald Gunther stated that UN Women sees women as agents of positive change. When it comes to involving women in projects, UN Women invests in enhancing women skills and agency so that women can successfully participate in the market economy and derive economic benefit from it. Women should not be seen as weak and vulnerable and only capable of receiving grants, but instead as actors who, if knowledgeable, can successfully access commercial credit.

He added that Kyrgyzstan is an agricultural country and that no shame should be attached to working in the sector. UN Women in its projects partners with Government on preparing young women and men all around the country to succeed in agriculture in their villages as an alternative to migrating abroad and often doing menial work. Costs to communities due to migration were high when most able bodied men and many women had left, leaving children in the care of distant relatives. Kyrgyzstan’s accession to the Customs Union should be seen as an opportunity for rural areas that can produce ecologically clean foodstuffs for export to its members.

Mr. Gunter also noted that «it is recognized globally, that the highest return to societies from resources invested by governments and development partners comes from investing in the education of girls. Educated girls delay marriage, become mothers at a later age and have a number of children that they can afford to invest in. Such families lead healthier and happier lives and enjoy a higher degree of equality, with women able to contribute to household income. They also feature lower prevalence of domestic violence ».

Mr. Gunther invited UN Women’s Government and civil society partners to work with the UN Women Country Office towards confirming gender equality and women empowerment as a key pillar of the new United Nations Development Assistance Framework that will be developed in 2016. This would help ensure full local ownership and a focused support of the 22 UN entities that are represented in the Kyrgyz Republic. «Kyrgyzstan is unique compared to its neighbors when it comes to discussing openly and transparently the problems that constrain development.

Here we have a vibrant civil society and a government that is ready to listen to constructive advice offered by civil society. Civil society which is the domain of women in Kyrgyzstan has the opportunity to play a crucial role in the development of a country and in advancing gender equality if it is united and focused in its work. »