By Nate Victor on August 29, 2018
Coming from a patriarchal society in Central Asia, it is a great challenge to advocate for women’s political participation and gender advancement. When I meet colleagues from governmental institutions and even from civil society organizations, they ask two questions: “Why does the political participation of women matter for our country and is it difficult to advocate for gender advancement while being male?” My simple answer is that I think about the future of my daughter and little sisters who are potentially vulnerable to issues such as underage marriage, bride kidnapping, gender based violence, and girls education.
My interests in gender advancement increased during my PhD research on Central Asian civil society, whereby I investigated the role of women in our society. Five years of research on the civil society sector of the post-Soviet region totally changed my view on gender issues and it gave me a great opportunity to explore cultural and traditional barriers faced by women and adolescent girls across the region. Hence, after my PhD research I committed myself to work in the area of gender equality at the academic and professional level.
For last four years I have been actively engaged in development projects advancing women’s rights and mainstreaming gender equality in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia. My current work, which I started in 2016, focuses on increasing the political participation of women at all decision-making levels. We work with women parliamentarians of the Kyrgyz Republic, local council members, and civil society stakeholders to promote the equal rights of women and political participation. For that purpose, we actively work with the Forum of Women Parliamentarians to hold regional meetings across the country to hear the voices of rural women and to discuss issues which are of high concern of women. I was shocked to investigate the level of women’s vulnerability to domestic violence, bride kidnapping, and underage marriages in rural areas. Regional trips organized by the Forum of Women Parliamentarians allowed me to meet with victims in crisis centers across Kyrgyzstan. In addition, I was able to reach decision-makers and community members to discuss the root causes and consequences of domestic violence and early marriage. I am very happy that we collaborated with the Forum in conducting petition drives to raise awareness about women’s issues and influence decision-makers to adopt relevant laws, including legislation on domestic violence, underage marriage, and gender quota reforms in the electoral system.
In August 2018, I joined RepresentWomen for a 4 months practicum where I plan to learn more about best practices and lessons learned about women’s political participation. Without the active participation of women, it would be difficult to raise the voices of women, and their issues would be overlooked. As in the case of my country, where women represent only 18 percent of the parliament and less than 10 percent of local councils, lack of representation for women negatively affects the progress of gender advancement and equal rights of women. Therefore, during my Community Solutions Fellowship working at RepresentWomen, I will put my effort towards focusing on women’s representation at the political party level and learn how to advocate effectively for gender parity through institutional reforms to increase the number of politically engaged women. I am delighted to be a part of RepresentWomen and to advocate for fair representation of women at political participation level.