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.

Gender 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 [1].

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 employee;

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 religious affiliation.

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 problems.

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 [2].

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.

Factors 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 public

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” [3].

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 particular;

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 [4].

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 business skills;

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 women's movement;

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 gender research;

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 “Оtbasy”.

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 [6].

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.

Increasing political involvement

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 during elections.

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 [7].

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 the society;

- lack of financial an material resources (of women’s non-governmental);

- 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 organizations;

- Introduce questions pertaining to gender policy into the practice of parliamentary hearings;

- Lobby female interests at the levels of representative and state structures;

- 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 increase:

- 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 thresholds);

- Proportional systems are more preferable for prolonged political struggle.

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 [8].

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 Kazakhstan society.


1. The Kazakhstan weekly newspaper the Panorama № 25, of June, 23, 2000 [the Electronic resource]. – 2000. – access Mode: http:// archiv/ 2000/ 25.htm. - access Date: 2011.

2. Kazakhstan in number of women – deputies has occupied 69 place in the world.

[An electronic resource]. 2011. - access Mode: content /kazakhstan_ woman_ parliament_ /2337079.html. - access Date: 2011.

3. Genovese, M., ed. 1993. Women as National Leaders. Newbury Park: Sage. P. 5.

4. Shvedova N.A. At last the time has come…//Jaroslavna . - 1999. - № 1 (7). - pp. 23-27.

5. The convention on liquidation of all forms of discrimination concerning women in Kazakhstan: realization and reporting questions. The report on carrying out of a working seminar. - Almaty. - 7 - on November, 8th 2000. - pp. 31.

6. Women in local authority bodies. Materials of seminars. United Nations bureau «the Gender and development». Almaty. – 2000. – pp. 12.

7. The rights of women of Kazakhstan to economic freedom. - Almaty: Association of business women of Kazakhstan. - 2001. - pp. 91-92.

8. The world economic forum. [An electronic resource]. – 2010. – access Mode: news/ 625491? from=ya. - access Date: 2011

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №3 - 2011

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