Rural women make effective decisions to develop their communities
The Rural Women's Economic Empowerment (RWEE) Project supports women's leadership in local decision-making.
Tursunai Akmatova lives with her family in the village of Baizak in the Naryn region. After graduation, she started work as a teacher in a rural school, but thanks to the project she became a member of the local kenesh.
“I believe that thanks to this project, many women were able to awaken their ‘I’, they believed in themselves and started doing what they love,” says Tursunai.
In recent years, the representation of women in local councils (aiyl keneshes) has greatly decreased, in most cases, men were elected as members, and in some villages, women themselves believed that politics was only for men. Thus, only men were the members in a number of ayil keneshes. Only in 2019, thanks to a change in legislation, a quota was approved - now in local keneshes, at least 30% of deputies must be women.
Four UN agencies – UN Women, FAO, WFP, and IFAD – launched the “Rural Women’s Economic Empowerment” Project aimed at improving food security, promoting income-generating activities, increasing participation in public decision-making, and creating a gender-sensitive culture in society. The programme targets vulnerable rural women and those living below the national poverty line of 2700 KGS a month.
Tursunai Akmatova became a member of the kenesh in 2017, even before the approval of this quota. Thanks to the project, she was able to overcome existing stereotypes and began to contribute to the development of her village, where she was born and raised.
“While participating in this RWEE project, I understood a lot, realized what needs to be said so that we can be heard that women have the same rights and opportunities as men. In 2017, I put forward my candidacy for the local kenesh and was able to win, our society supported me. I was able to develop my leadership skills, I was able to prove that politics is not only for men, that women can and should do it too, ”says Tursunai.
As part of her work in the local kenesh, she tries to contribute to the development of the village, the development of the local community. In addition to social work, she also develops women's entrepreneurship; together with like-minded women, she founded a fund, which already includes 50 women. Together they are engaged in farming, growing vegetables and fruits, and in 2018 donors entrusted them with the management of a new workshop in which they are engaged in the procurement of canned goods to order.
“Over the years, I have been able to achieve a lot and am very grateful to my husband and family, who always support me. My husband is an activist himself and he practically forced me to do all this, although initially I was against it because I already had a job. But then I was so fond of all this, work in the kenesh, a fund, a self-help group. I just cannot imagine my life without all this now, ”Tursunai notes.
During the pandemic, she, together with like-minded people, helped the villagers by distributing food packages and personal protective equipment to needy families. It is difficult to ensure a decent life in remote villages without such initiative women, therefore Tursunai Akmatova urges all compatriots to strive for the best, defend their opinion in society, and try to contribute to the development of both the local community and the country as a whole.