Umutai Dauletova, UNDP Gender Coordinator, Kyrgyzstan
“Do I have to be a man to be elected to the office?”- is the slogan of one of the posters that Ms. Avazkan Ormonova, acting local council deputy, a very strong advocate for gender quotas and UNDP mentor for women-candidates has designed together with other activists when lobbying the quota legislation for local parliament.
Avazkan was elected as a deputy to local village council in the South of the country back in 2012, served for two election periods and know a lot about challenges being a single woman-deputy among 31 men in her council.
“I had to work days and nights with electorate, trying to find supporters among men and women, putting all my efforts to draw people’s attention to my electoral programme, but was being constantly asked by the community and local officials if I am married, if I have children and why I am not fulfilling “given by nature” obligations, such as taking care of the family. Despite all the cultural constraints, several cases of harassment during the campaign, I continued my fight to get the deputy’s mandate. Today, I serve as a mentor and give advice to other women-deputies on gender-responsive budgets allocations, mobilization of community to protect women and children from violence, getting women on board for peace negotiations, development of local strategies to eradicate the poverty etc.”
Back in 2005 the complete absence of women in the Kyrgyz National Parliament after elections forced civil society organizations to raise the issue of urgent adoption of special measures to support women. A quota system during the elections established by legislation in 2007 ensured more than 25 percent representation of women in the Parliament, creating new opportunities for women’s political participation. In turn, women’s representation at the local councils –where quota was introduced only today - the composition of women is only 8%. If the gender quota for local parliament would not have been introduced, by 2028, the number of women at local levels would come to 0.
Women’s representation at the local councils was also tackled within the UNDP intervention on working with the National Parliament. A Parliamentary Road Map on Women, Peace and Security has an indicator on introduction the gender quota at the local level, since “No peace is guaranteed if women are excluded from peace negotiation processes. We do have issues at the borders and only when women and men are equally resolving them, the positive results are obvious”- proclaimed the Vice-Speaker of the National Parliament, Ms. Aida Kasymalieva, at one of the trainings, organized with support of
“So, what? Let women and men have equal opportunities, why women should be given special preferences?”- this is what was voiced by many opponents in public debates. But we know from many reports that once, women are represented, many “forgotten issues” are being raised, there is a space for healthy debate and competition, different approaches are applied, and, as a result, better quality decisions are made. At the end of the day, let us look at one of the definitions of the word “Parliament” in Kyrgyzstan context: “A body that represents society”- but the society is comprised of 52% of women, therefore, women’s representation does make sense.
On the picture: Ms. Avazkan Ormonova, the local council deputy, Ms. Aida Kasymalieva, Vice-Speaker of the National Parliament, Ms. Baken Dosalieva, civil society activist, during the radio debates campaign on introducing the gender quota, organized by UNDP