Woman at work in At-Bashy, Naryn oblast. photo: UNDP archives

My name is Damira Bustanova. I am currently the manager of a small nine-months long Rural Women Project implemented. by the Law and Business Development Foundation (LBD consulting) in a consortium with the Union of Local Governments of the Kyrgyz Republic, funded by UNDP within the framework of a joint project of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland and UNDP "Towards Sustainable Access to Justice for Empowering Legal Opportunities in the Kyrgyz Republic".

 

Damira Bustanova. Photo: Personal archive of D. Bustanova

The Rural Women project is implemented in all districts of Chui and Osh oblasts and is aimed to reduce and eliminate negative discriminatory stereotypes against rural women through information dissemination. Raising awareness and literacy among rural women about their legal rights through training for target groups. And expansion of legal opportunities for target groups through increasing the number of applicants to the Free Legal Aid Centers (FAC) and "Buses of Solidarity" for receiving free legal aid.

In this format, I intend to share my observations and reflections...

 

Training materials for Rural Women project

In this blog I would like to present some observations formed based on statements and discussions of the participants of trainings we conducted in the Chui region.

According to the latest available statistics (as of January 1, 2019), the total population of Chui oblast is 941133 people, of which 477600 are women (50,7%) and 463533 are men (49,3%). Also, in the public domain there are data that the total population of Chui region on January 1, 2020 is already 959 884 people.

Based on the territorial location of the zone Chui region can be conditionally divided into "eastern" and "western" zones from Bishkek.

 

Women attending a training. Photo: Dmitry Motinov / UNDP Kyrgyzstan

The training topics aim to eliminate discriminatory stereotypes against rural women and expand legal opportunities for them. The trainings are conducted for two groups of participants: the first is a group of direct beneficiaries of the project - rural women, local activists and representatives of local NGOs; the second group of decision makers, representatives of local authorities, local self-government bodies and other state bodies, i.e. those who directly provide state and municipal services to rural women".

Among rural women of Chui oblast there is a high level of interest and activity in participation in various training and educational activities aimed at increasing their potential. At trainings women raise issues in the spheres of women's rights and interests, deep-rooted stereotypical thinking in rural areas with respect to rural women, issues of social character, issues of small and female entrepreneurship, high employment of rural women in family life and unrated domestic work.

Based on the reasoning and statements of the participants of the training, rural women especially value family and traditional values, respect for the elder generation and men. Due to the more ascetic living conditions, they seem to be to some extent morally, spiritually and physically and mentally tougher than women living in urban environments. At the same time, the state of health of rural women, knowing the limited capacity of the health care system and medical services in rural areas unspeakably low.

 

Moral and spiritual toughness they express in the fact that a rural girl, when getting married, knows and is morally prepared for a big family of future husband, amount of chores, to the fact that she may for some time or permanently abandon her previous way of living and leave (maybe for some time) for a second, third or subsequent plan after her husband, his family and children, or even to forget self-care and dedicate life to serving others. There is also a stereotype, that when a woman gets married, she should marry her husband, family, and relatives of her husband ... and be helpful to all of them.

 

A women with sun dried apricots. Photo: UNDP Kyrgyzstan

Physical endurance is expressed in the fact that the physical activity of a rural woman begins in the early morning and ends in the late evening. And on top of a regular job woman has, before she goes to work and starts working, she often has to take care of household chores and activities, including children, her husband, her husband's elderly parents in most cases, the house, cooking, cleaning, household (in the village almost every house has livestock), etc. After work, all domestic activities are waiting for the woman again. And in all these concerns about the family home and other affairs, there is absolutely no time to take care of yourself. Some women say that when they go to work, they to some extent "rest" from home care and business.

There are also such stereotypical manifestations among training participants that rural women begin to compare themselves with women living in urban areas, and in particular, in this comparison they put themselves below urban women. This was explained by the fact that urban life seems easier for them, that there are more opportunities for development than for rural women. And rural women are inextricably linked to their personal development only with the availability of work and employment outside the home. That is, rural women noted that a woman starts taking care of herself, her appearance / face more often, only if she works somewhere...

 

At the trainings it was observed that established stereotypical attitude towards themselves some of the participants are perceived as a norm, do not feel anything wrong about it and internalized this attitude. At the same time, participants agreed that stereotypical attitude towards them had negative influence on their life and they had not thought about this topic before. In my next blog I will try to share my opinion on the importance of elimination of stereotypical attitudes and influence of discriminatory stereotypes on rural women.

 

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