Gender policy and the political involvement in Kazakhstan of women gender policy and the political involvement in Kazakhstan of women
Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №3 - 2011
Shevchenko Lyudmila, Kostanai State Teacher Training Institute, Kazakhstan
Nazarova Svetlana, Kostanai State Teacher Training Institute, Kazakhstan
The modern woman is simultaneously a product and an active subject
in the crisis of the patriarchic relations, structures and mentality, and their
gradual replacement by polycentric reality.
Gender approach to the analysis of political, and socio-economic
processes and events reflects their study from the point of view of both men’s
and women’s interests. Gender policy is based on the belief in the necessity of
breaking the existing traditional stereotypes about the relations between men
and women and the role of women in society, including the need for the social
and political involvement of the woman for successful solution of family and
youth problems, as well as children’s education and upbringing. Gender policy
is directed at achieving the equality among the sexes; at elimination of all
types of discrimination, which exist in profit distribution, politics, sexual
relations, and everyday life; and at attaining the change in views on the role
and place of the woman in the society and politics.
Legislation, regulating the citizenship rights of women, has always
been rather progressive in the countries of the Eastern Europe and the former USSR republics. Formal legislative arrangements have never been an obstacle for the
achievement of the gender equality and inclusion of women into the highest
ranks of political authorities. However, the totalitarian principle of social
organization with its one-party system, non-alternative elections, and
unlimited power of the nomenclature has been a barrier. This past experience in
the post-Soviet countries was not unusual: the practice of women integration
into politics in the majority of countries has shown that even the existence of
the whole complex of the state laws and acts that guarantee the political,
economic, and cultural equality of women and ban any form of sexual
discrimination, does not automatically lead to the political participation of
women, and their inclusion into the state ruling processes equally with men. In
summary, the source of the existing practical inequality of women and men in
political life is the inconsistency between the legal equality of men’s and
women’s rights and their real opportunities to realize this equality.
Women in leadership positions typically pursue their careers in the
spheres, which are ignored by males: protection of maternal and children’s
rights, protection of the sexual assault victims, development of children’s
institutions, social protection, gender equality in pay for the similar type of
work, as well as in access to bank loans, etc. Women frequently contribute to
the formulation of the state policy aimed at the development of patriotic
feelings and dedication to the state. Meanwhile, they rarely contribute in
leading positions, which deal with economic or financial policy, internal or
external affairs and other traditionally male dominated fields.
Given the persistent gender inequality and the international
experience, which showed that mere change in legislation is not sufficient to
eliminate such inequality, in evaluating a national gender policy, it is
important to look not only at legislative changes, but also on their
implementation in practice and on the actual results of the policy in terms of
changes in the position of women in the country as compared to that of males.
The goal of this paper is to implement such an analysis for Kazakhstan.
policy in Kazakhstan
From the results of sociological surveys and analyses elsewhere we
can draw a conclusion: gender inequality still exists in Kazakhstan. During 1990-2000, the decrease in total employment took place, mostly, at women’s
expense and there was an active migration of women from paid labor to unpaid
house work, and\or towards irregular non-qualified employment. Unemployed women
in Kazakhstan constitute 58 per cent, and their wage in all types of activities
adds up to only 60.8 per cent of cumulative male’s pay. Even in traditionally
women-dominated spheres, like health care, education, social protection and
others women earn less in comparison with men .
Elimination of sexual discrimination is one of the main priorities
in gender policy in many countries. At present, Kazakhstan is considered one of
the most progressive among post-soviet states meeting this priority. The 1979
UN “Convention on abolishment of all types of discrimination against women” was
ratified by Kazakhstan in 1998. This convention is directed to ensure the
following women rights:
1. To elect and be elected in all publically elected organs;
2. To take part in the formation of the state policy and be a state
3. To be a member of a non-governmental organization, working on the
social and political problems of the country’s life.
By ratifying the convention, Kazakhstan has demonstrated its
commitment to pursue the Beijing action platform accepted by the International
Women Forum in 1995.
Kazakhstan has also demonstrated its commitment to
female rights by participating in more than twenty various agreements and
conventions on human rights, including those that are directed to ensure
equality of sexes and the protection of women and children (“On women’s political
rights”, “On a married woman’s citizenship”). In addition to joining international
agreements, Kazakhstan adopted a Constitution, which guarantees equal rights
and opportunities to all citizens, irrespective of their sex, ethnic or
Taking into account the Soviet and some other countries experiences,
Kazakhstan has not stopped with legislative changes. One of the important
stages in gender policy and in strengthening of the gender movement in Kazakhstan was the establishment of the Presidential National Committee On Family and
Women’s issues, which is housed by the Agency on Government Services and
Affairs. One manifestation of the strengthening of the women’s movement was the
emergence of the female issues lobby at the Parliament - “Otbasy |Family”,
which has contributed to group the development and adoption of the National
Plan of Actions to Improve the Women’s Conditions.
A marking feature of the gender policy in Kazakhstan is the fact
that gender projects are initiated by the state Equal participation of women in
the political and economic life is viewed by the government as a necessary
condition for achieving the progress in socio-economic development, as well as
for solving urgent political, socio-cultural, race, ethnical, and other
To monitor the progress in resolving gender issues, the
Conceptualization of Gender Politics was in Kazakhstan in year XXX. The
Conceptualization plans for the following activities aimed at the achievement
of the goals of gender policy:
- Introduction of compulsory gender-issues sensitivity assessment of
all the adopted and proposed laws; introduction of the gender indicators into
all state plans and programs;
- Stimulation of the development of state and private pre-school
institutions with the aim of freeing women from house, of improving women’s
professional qualifications and of stimulating their professional growth;
- Promotion of women- small and medium business on the basis via
state financial support;
- Creation of the national net for training and education of
women-politicians and policy-makers;
- Introduction of changes and amendments into the law acts and regulations
to include issues relating to women’s employment and firing.
At present by the directive of the President an appropriate state
strategy is being worked out based on the National Conception of the Gender
Politics. This document will define the system of measures for ensuring men’s
and women’s equality, with specific dates assigned for their implementation.
The activities of women’s non-governmental organizations have considerably
changed in the recent ten years. Initially most of them were oriented to the
social protection of women and children, carrying out psychological and legal
consulting, defending the rights of certain categories of population, such as
families with many children, single-mother families, handicapped women, etc.
under various conflicting circumstances. Today activities of these
organizations are directed at the increase of the level of women’s political
involvement, issues of their equal participation in the political process, political
socialization of the woman as a full-right subject of the political relations.
The work of gender-issues oriented NGOs seems to be fruitful to an extent:
presently, women’s share in the number of first level leaders constitutes 9
percent, while their share in the number of specialists with higher education
and special professional training exceeds 62 percent from the total number of
women. The membership of women in Parliament’s Majilis is y 19 women among 107
members (which makes 17.8 percent of the total number of Parliament members).
In the Senate this figure is lower and constitutes 4.3 percent: from the total
number of 47 Senate members only two are women .
There is a direct connection between the policy of a country in
relation to women and the degree of social stability in the state. That is why
working out the mechanisms of sustaining the political and socio-economic
stability of the state is a fundamental task of the theoretical and applied
political science in Kazakhstan.
In accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan (art.33), citizens have equal rights to the participation in the ruling state
affairs. However, there is a stable tendency when the total number of women in
the elective organs varies at the level of 11-12 percent. It is connected not
only with the existence of certain financial and legal barriers, but, mainly,
with the existing mental stereotypes.
that explain low participation of women in politics
At present, low participation of women in Kazakhstani politics can
be explained by several factors. First, istheir minimal representation in the
electoral groups that are recruited into politics. As a rule, women-politicians
come to this sphere
Another important factor is the unwillingness of the electorate to
vote for women. In addition to that, in Kazakhstan there is a fragmentation of
women’s non-governmental organizations and parties. , The latter two factors
are worsened by the low level of political culture and overall passivity of the
Another important factor is connected with socialization. A variety
of societal expectations orients men and women to different roles, different
attitudes to politics and active political involvement. In Kazakhstan, -political sphere is considered inappropriate for a woman’s life force application.
Moreover, politics is a sphere, where various roles of a woman come into a
maximum conflict with each other. A politically active woman “…and individual…,
who solves… the conflict between her own political involvement… and the social
expectation that a woman cannot achieve any significant politician position”
Still other important factor is unequal distribution of resources,
which men and women can use in politics.
An important impediment to women’s political involvement is the lack
of experience. Many women come to politics from education sphere and public
health services, possessing less political experience, than men. Lately,
however, the situation has changed – now the quantity of women-lawyers and
businesswomen, who have political experience, is growing.
Situational (biographic) factors make an important contribution,
too. They are connected with peculiar features of the course of life of a woman
in modern society. The majority of women bear the responsibility for
housekeeping and their children’s education; and, for this reason, they do not
have enough time or energy for political activity.
It is not surprising that women, as a rule, come to politics in later
age as compared to men, and among “female political elite” there are many
single, divorced women and widows. It doesn't mean that men don't face the
conflict between political career and family life. However, men get continue in
political careers, despite such conflicts, while women are inclined to withdraw
from a political career. Research shows (цитата здесь)
that women much rarer, than men, satisfy their political intentions.
According to N. Shvedova, the most obvious reasons of alienation of
women from the power are:
1) Difficult sociopolitical conditions;
2) Criminalization of economic life of the country;
3) Prejudices that have deeply taken roots, both concerning a
woman’s role in the society in general, and concerning women-politicians in
4) Positions of the existing political parties of all ideological
colors and shades which are characterized by underestimation of the women role
in the political process, especially at decision-making level;
5) Defects of the electoral system, which complicates access of
women to the highest legislative body of the country;
6) Dissociation and weakness of women's movement as a factor of
political life of the society .
a) One of the reasons for low female involvement in politics in Kazakhstan is dissotiation of women’s NGOs and parties. Women’s organizations have long
been in existence in Kazakhstan. Depending on the goals that they pursue they
can be typologized as follows: Women’s parties and movements focused on the
promotion and lobbying of generic women’s interests, their political, economic
and social rights, increase of political representation of women and their
participation in acceptance of the state decisions;
b) Women-led non-governmental organizations, whose activity is
directed at the solution of social and economic problems of the society, family
and children. The primary area of their concern is social adaptation,
treatment, training, and employment of socially-vulnerable populations;
c) Women-led non-governmental organizations in business, which
carryout vast educational activities aimed at the development of women’s
d) Women’s non-governmental organizations whose activity is directed
at the solution of welfare problems;
e) Women’s charitable foundations;
f) Feminist non-governmental organizations;
g) Women’s non-governmental organizations, specializing on
informational support and research support for organization representing
h) Women’s organizations in the field of health protection of women;
i) The crisis centers on rendering assistance to women and girls who
have suffered from violence;
j) The organizations which are carrying out gender education and
k) Ecological non-governmental organizations.
Under the present circumstances non-governmental organizations are
the basic channels for women’s political education and socialization, forming
skills of political activism.
Now a debatable question in Kazakhstan is gender quota at the levels
of political representation. Women’s non-governmental organizations address to
the state with the request for introduction of a system ensuring quota through
the Law on equal rights and possibilities developed by the parliamentary group
At present the total number of all civil employees in Kazakhstan makes 60.5 thousand persons, including 33 thousand women, which makes 54
percent. The share of women among workers of all levels of the government makes
more than 40 percent .
One of the examples of the lack of support is that it is only in the
long-term perspective (2020) that the objective is set to attract 50 percent of
population (i.e. all women who make 53 % from all population of Kazakhstan) to
voting for women on which basis of 100 prepared women who are put forward on
elections, should provide 50 percent of female representation in the Parliament
of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
The first step in encouraging greater female participation in
politics is application of gender quotas. It has been shown to be able to
reduce inequality in representation of genders in politics. The next step
should be aimed at stimulating women to independently expose their own candidatures
The Leaders of the Business Women’s Association of Kazakhstan insist
on strengthening the possibilities for the women’s non-governmental
organizations so that to give them institutional force for creation of a
powerful movement .
The factors impeding the development of women's movement
development, include the following:
- lack of clear political position on problems of political, social
and economic development of the society;
- lack of a universal approach to addressing gender inequality in
- lack of financial an material resources (of women’s
- absence of active political initiatives from female electorate;
- lack of the national-level female idea, capable to consolidate
both the female organizations, and the female population.
To strengthen the Women’s movement in Kazakhstan, the following goals
should be realized:
- Create a national system of integration of the female population
in social development processes;
- Educate female population on actual political problems and w the
importance of legislative maintenance of women’s rights;
- Expand political activity at the regional and local levels,
strengthening the coordination of women's movements and non-governmental
- Introduce questions pertaining to gender policy into the practice
of parliamentary hearings;
- Lobby female interests at the levels of representative and state
- Organize monitoring in the field of gender relations.
During the period of its independence, Kazakhstan went through the
formation of a civil society. There was a radical transformation of political
values interests, and mentality what is testified by the results of many polls
investigating political activity of women and mechanisms to increase female
political representation at the highest levels of the power, namely:
- Women make a contribution to public life and possess considerable
resource potential for representation of gender political interests;
- Without active political participation of women formation of a
civil society and parity democracy in Kazakhstan is impossible;
- Protection and lobbying of the rights of women, creation of equal
possibilities, liquidation of women discrimination are necessary in interests
of all society and the state, both in the present, and in the future.
Political participation as a set of the purposeful actions
undertaken with a view of expression of political solidarity, influence on
state policy and promotion of women political leaders can be carried out in a
variety of forms.
First, development of the local public initiative and consciousness
- Women’s own self-activation and organization;
- Women's movement consolidation, and also strengthening of
interaction between successful and inexperienced women-politicians;
- Increase of women’s professional and political level, which should
in perspective result in their abilities to apply elective technologies for
carrying out election campaigns, work with electoral resources;
Second, active informing on features of the electoral systems
increases possibilities for women as politicians:
- Proportional systems promote increase of female representation,
especially with the high party size (the high sizes of districts and electoral
- Proportional systems are more preferable for prolonged political
It is necessary to consider that results of gender political
strategy on expansion of female representation and formation of parity
democracy depend on a series of measures and change of electoral systems.
Adoption of law about equal possibilities and the general working out of the
laws providing realization of the rights of women should become a priority.
Thus it is necessary to give considerable attention to sufficient financial
support of the candidates’ volumes of which can be lowered as a result of
perfection of the elective legislation.
Gender policy in Kazakhstan seems to have achieved some positive
results. An own model of a gender policy based on the account of national
features and the international experience was generated. The President has
stated the readiness of the state to take unprecedented measures to sustain
women’s access to the decision-making level. The leader of the Nation has also
declared that it will be necessary to expand participation of women in production,
in particular at the new enterprises, to help them to eventually occupy large political
posts. It is expected that the share of women in power will reach 30 percent as
it is expected in the Strategy of Gender Equality till 2016. Now women form
only to 40 percent of gross national product, making thus from 70 to 80 percent
of workers of social branches. Taking into account national economy growth, the
female contribution to gross national product should grow by 40 percent and
make 15 bln. tenge.
At the 2010 World Economic Forum it was noted that in a rating of
gender equality Kazakhstan has occupied an honorable 41 place among 135 states.
We are ahead of 14 states of the European Union on this indicator .
As demographic institutions in Kazakhstan still do not possess the
real power, even sharp increase in female representation in the Parliament and
maslikhats will not provide women with all completeness of the power on a level
equal to men. The problem of women participation in the politics should be
solved by using possibilities of appointment of women to supervising posts in
executive bodies. For realization of the principle of gender equality in
Kazakhstan it is necessary to create true relations of partnership between
women and such division of responsibility, which would promote liquidation of
gender inequality in public and private life. For acceleration of these
processes, introduction of a gender quota in the Law on the equal rights and
possibilities, and also in the Republic electoral system is essential.
World experience proves that under certain conditions the
proportional election system and a quota system in party lists promote
essential increase of female representation in bodies of the political power.
Women do not only have the right to be presented in politics, they
also possess specific levers of influence on political sphere of the society.
Nevertheless, distinctions between women and barriers on a way to equality make
integration of women into political institutions a challenge. Activity of
women-politicians is limited to many thresholds at all levels of political
advancement that assumes overcoming not only structurally - institutional,
extending on men, too, but also gender caused barriers. Thus, there appear systems
double (in certain cases, plural) restrictions for political careers of women.
Under new conditions approaches to survival of mankind are being
developed. New threats to national safety from the international terrorism,
processes of globalization, destruction of ecological system of the planet,
make new demands for the people of Kazakhstan. Under these conditions women's
movement possesses sufficient potential and is capable to create conditions
which will allow women to participate in the decision of destiny of the state.
The cardinal solution of women’s problems, and especially at the level of
political representation, will promote development of a strong democratic
state, preservation of stability, the world, and, as a whole, prosperity of the
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Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №3 - 2011