Kyrgyz Women Gain Access to Politics

October 2014 Forum of Women’s Democratic Network
October 2014 forum of the Women’s Democratic Network
Networking helps women realize their potential as leaders
“Right after the forum, we had a meeting with the members of the Batken Women’s Council. We later decided to support two women in the 2015 parliamentary elections.”

April 2015—In the Kyrgyz Republic, women constitute a mere 23 percent of members of parliament, falling 7 percent short of the mandated quota for women on electoral lists. While political parties do manage to meet the 30 percent minimum quota for their candidate lists, women are almost never placed close to the top of the party lists. And after the elections, women are often forced to give up their seat in favor of their male counterparts.

The International Republican Institute (IRI), with support from USAID, aims to engage a wide range of women from across the nation—political party members, local council leaders, entrepreneurs and women interested in political participation—and brings them together under the Zhenskaya Democratichyskaya Set (Women’s Democratic Network), or ZDS. The network coordinates regional and national trainings as well as networking activities, and helps increase women’s overall political participation and presence on party lists.

IRI and USAID supported ZDS in organizing a national conference Oct. 14-16, 2014, and a public forum on Oct. 17 that brought together 180 women leaders from across the nation. Subsequently, ZDS’s membership increased from roughly 3,000 members to more than 4,000. And 10 members of the network across six political parties were invited by their respective party leadership to participate as candidates in the 2015 parliamentary elections.

The two events encouraged participants to connect with each other and explore opportunities for promoting women in decision-making positions in political parties and governmental bodies. Participants were inspired by speeches from successful women leaders in the Kyrgyz Republic from parliament, political parties, civil society and mass media as well as rural women who founded successful programs in their respective communities.

“Right after the forum, we had a meeting with the members of the Batken Women’s Council. The forum was very useful for me … it was my first time participating,” said Kishimjan Kydyrova, deputy head of the Batken rayon administration. “We later decided to support two women in the 2015 parliamentary elections. Today, we are working on their election programs. Our main goal is to energize women, as we were trained at the forum.”

The two events significantly impacted existing opportunities for women in the Kyrgyz Republic, increasing their choices and taking another step toward equal political participation and representation.

USAID support to ZDS is part of the Agency’s Kyrgyz Republic Political Processes Program, which is also supported by the U.K.’s Department for International Development. The program, which started in 2012, promotes the Kyrgyz Republic’s democratic development by strengthening political parties’ strategic planning and articulation of policy platforms. The program also empowers women and youth to play a greater role in decision-making processes.


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