Women and Power in Central Asia (Part II)
Monday, January 23, 2006 2:05 PM

Following its independence in 1991, Kazakhstan moved toward a market economy, and it has been developing rapidly ever since, due in large part to considerable foreign investment. Official statistics also suggest that the negative balance for women -- who represent 51 percent of the country's 15 million people -- might be evening out. Forty percent of all women are registered managers of private businesses, according to those figures. Forty-year-old Saltanat Rakhymbekova is the head of the Business and Industry Department for Kazakhstan's central Karaganda region. She credits the Kazakh government with implementing a proper "gender policy."

"For example, in the Karaganda region alone, there are lots of women who hold managerial posts," Rakhymbekova says. "This is the result of the Kazakh government, which is carrying out a proper gender policy. Women's skills and initiatives are being taken into consideration. I think that if women are eager to do their best to succeed, all the necessary conditions are created for them in the country."

The lives of many women in Kazakhstan remain bleak, however. A Kazakh economist, Aytqali Nurseyit, notes that women still face obstacles in the country, and he says many women lost their jobs during the transition to a market economy. But he points out that Kazakhstan's economy has grown strongly in recent years and argues that the situation of Kazakh women is changing, too: "What is unique about Kazakhstan, or Kazakh women, is that about 40 percent of Kazakh women have their own businesses. This is very good," Nurseyit says. "Kazakh women also play a key role in the fields of education, science, and health care."
According to the United Nations Development Program's "Human Development Report," at present, female economic activity is 81-86 percent of that of men in the five Central Asian countries. It is equal to the rate in Russia, whereas in Pakistan the rate is 44 percent.

Cited in: "Women and Power in Central Asia, Part II: Women Increase Presence in Kazakhstan's Business Sector", Saida Kalkulova, RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, 29 December 2005.

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