» (English) Political Empowerment of women in Kyrgyzstan and the world SIAR consult — исследовательско-консалтинговое агентство

(English) Political Empowerment of women in Kyrgyzstan and the world

Political Empowerment of women in Kyrgyzstan and the world

Kyrgyzstan as a post-soviet republic can look back on a past that tried to enforce equality but the post-communist society shows that success was only partial. The issue of equal opportunities independent of gender, concerns all of us because a more egalitarian society is one that enables people to live up to their potentials. This is even more so true when it comes to the political system. The recent results of a major Kyrgyz omnibus study carried out by SIAR Consulting showed that the acceptance of female presidency in Kyrgyzstan is not self-evident[1]. Just a little bit over half of the population (51.4%) would consider voting for a female candidate while 41.5% would not[2]. Almost 30% are disregarding that option under any circumstances. The reasoning often traces back to traditional role models in society. Over 40% of the people negating female presidency reason that women should engage in housekeeping and child education instead of politics while about 37% state that it is not possible in this society or that it is not ready for it and another 18% argue that they do not see a capable female candidate.
A comparison with other countries in the region is difficult. Two of the five Central Asian countries (Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan) are not ranked at all in the Global Gender Gap Report 2016 and data on the issue is hard to find. Democratic elections are not established yet and even in Kyrgyzstan the elections in October 2017 will have to show if a peaceful power transition is possible. In general the region did not see any elected female leaders in their highest positions since the establishment of modern nation states. It should be remarked that Roza Otunbayeva served as the first female president of Kyrgyzstan between 2010 and 2011, after the Second Kyrgyz Revolution, but like many woman leaders she was not elected by the people, but by the parliament as an interim leader and didn’t stay in that position for long. 57 countries in the World had a female leader for at least a year since 1964 but only 15 are in office as of March 2017 (Geiger/Kent 2017).A global comparison shows that the position of women in Kyrgyz society lacks far behind of the most equal societies. Out of 144 included countries the Global Gender Gap Report 2016 (World Economic Forums 2016) ranks Kyrgyzstan 81 overall and 87 in the Political Empowerment subindex. The share of women in national parliament (19%) lies under the world average of 23%, but it is not alone with this position (World Bank 2016). Even the United States lack far behind in gender equality and even more so in the political empowerment of its female population (19%).

  An interregional comparison shows that the forefront of female participation in government institutions is constituted by the Scandinavian countries and European states in general. Many had female leaders, but more importantly the general inclusion in the political system is much higher. But also South Asian countries like India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have an astounding history of female leadership and political empowerment in the highest positions even though their role in overall society remains quite precarious. They are showcasing that political leadership of women does not necessarily demand a generally gender egalitarian society. Even sub-Saharan Africa has quite a lot of shining stars while displaying a wide spectrum of well and badly performing countries. As to be expected the Middle East and North Africa is the region that lacks the farthest behind (World Economic Forum 2016; Geiger/Kent 2017).
All of this is leaving the region of Central Asia, including Kyrgyzstan, far under the median of all evaluated states especially when it comes to political empowerment. This is rather surprising looking at the communist heritage of these countries, but the post-communist transition and the economic downturn right afterwards seem to have led to a relapse of traditional values and role models. The upcoming elections will show if another step forward is possible. In 2007 statutory quotas have been established that require parties to nominate at least 30% women on their slate (Chung 2016). The effect was measurable in the last election and hopefully it is expected to be even stronger this time around.by Friedrich Hirler.

[1] For more details see attachment table no.1.
[2] One should remark that 63.1% of the participants where woman, which might have distorted the results towards a more positive outcome.

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