Kyrgyzstan celebrated Women's Entrepreneurship Day. For its seventh year, the Kurak Women's Entrepreneurship association held a series of events, workshops and a major conference to mark the occasion, highlighting the contribution women have made to the country's economy in the 30 years since it became independent.

WED-2021 kicked off from the southern region of the country on November 12. Daroot-Korgon, Gulcho and Osh hosted master classes for rural women entrepreneurs and a fashion show by the DILBAR fashion house. Bishkek hosted a conference on November 19 entitled "Creating and Brave: 30 Years of Women in Kyrgyzstan's Way to Success," which brought together women leaders from across Kyrgyzstan and representatives of business, government agencies and international partners.

Ainoura Sagynbaeva

Ainoura Sagynbayeva, an ambassador of World Women's Entrepreneurship Day in Kyrgyzstan and co-founder of the Kurak Women's Forum, said the WED-2021 was a historic event for Kyrgyz women entrepreneurs - the day before the celebration, a state programme was signed to support and develop women entrepreneurship in the Kyrgyz Republic.

"This programme will raise the level of education and medicine, create additional jobs in Kyrgyzstan and reduce female migration," said Ainoura Sagynbaeva.

She thanked leading international partners for supporting WED-2021.

Monica Rijal

According to Monika Rizhal, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Kyrgyzstan, the contribution of women to the economy cannot be underestimated. The United Nations Development Programme, within project “ Aid for Trade in Central Asia” with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, has allocated over 300,000 dollars for the implementation of initiatives.

UNDP also provides innovative and inclusive funding and grant assistance to women in the business sector and supports dialogue platforms, such as the Women's Entrepreneurship Day in Kyrgyzstan.

"The theme of today's celebration 'Bold and Creative' perfectly describes Kyrgyz women: they are bright, outspoken, courageous and very entrepreneurial. But there are still many factors that limit or prevent women from realising their full potential here: unequal economic opportunities, the disproportionate responsibility of women for the household and family, gender norms and stereotypes in society. All these put women at a disadvantage compared to men. This is why women's economic empowerment requires special attention, encouragement and support," said Monica Rizhal.

One of the main partners of WED-2021, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, has been implementing the Woman in Business mentoring programme since 2020 together with the women's association "Kurak". EBRD Regional Director for Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan Ayten Rustamova says that as part of the gender equality strategy adopted six years ago, the European Bank is working hard to create favourable conditions for the development of women's entrepreneurship.

"In 2017, work began on a study on the state of women's entrepreneurship in Kyrgyzstan, and the bank has supported work on the creation of a state programme. We will be glad to see a qualitative improvement in women entrepreneurship in the country," Aiten Rustamova added.

Aida Kasymaliyeva, deputy speaker of the Jogorku Kenesh, came to congratulate Kyrgyz women entrepreneurs at the WED.

"This event is important not only for the development of women entrepreneurship, but also for achieving gender equality in Central Asia. For millions of women entrepreneurship is one of the key ways to participate in the economy, improve living standards for themselves and their families and achieve financial independence," said Aida Kasymalieva.

The development of women's entrepreneurship today is one of the important conditions for economic growth, according to Kyrgyzstan's Minister of Economy and Commerce, Daniyar Amangeldiyev.

"Women's active participation directly contributes to economic growth and prosperity. For example, the number of women entrepreneurs grew by 6,000 in 2021, according to the National Statistics Committee. Most socially-oriented businesses and educational projects are implemented by women. Many women entrepreneurs work in rural areas, and women's entrepreneurship can be promoted through the prism of a "green economy". The creative economy should be mentioned separately. This is an industry with great potential for increased participation by women," said the head of the Ministry of Economy and Commerce.

He added that within the framework of the adopted state programme with the support of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's partners in the Kyrgyz Republic for the next 5 years it is planned to allocate funds for lending to companies run by women, training and consultations for the development of women's business.

Kunduz Asanalieva, founder of the Lucky Socks brand and a member of the Kurak Women's Forum, opened a socks business in 2019. Today, high-quality domestic products can be found in major retail chains.

"Initially, the factory operated in Bishkek. But I have noticed such a trend that most businesses open in large cities. The country's economic indicators are falling because we have weak regions. Therefore, being a socially responsible company, we decided to go to the region. Today our factory is operating in the village of Luxembourg. In this way we provide jobs for the local population and contribute to the country's development," explains Kunduz.

For the sixth year, Bishkek has been running an inclusive workshop, employing 15 girls with disabilities from low-income families. The seamstresses sew eco-bags to order.

"One of our goals is to give women with disabilities financial independence. Combining work and creativity for us is an opportunity to be happy," said Ukei Murataliyeva, chairman of the "Nazik Kyz" human rights organisation for disabled girls and a member of the "Kurak" women's association.

World Women's Entrepreneurship Day has been held under the auspices of the UN since 2014. The mission of the global initiative, joined by 144 countries, is to support and empower women entrepreneurs around the world.

In Kyrgyzstan, the event is being organised for the seventh time by the Kurak Women's Forum. The initiative is supported by leading international organizations: the United Nations Development Programme, project Aid for Trade in Central Asia, the PEAK Kyrgyzstan Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme funded by the UK government, Accelerate Prosperity, the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Swiss government, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and others.

NUMBERS

At the beginning of 2021 there were 3.3 million women in Kyrgyzstan, which is 50.4% of the total population. Women's employment by type of economic activity reaches 38.4%. Most of them work in social entrepreneurship, light industry, beauty industry, trade, tourism and catering. The share of women in such economic activities as real estate operations is 93 per cent, health care and social services 84 per cent, education 80 per cent, hotel and restaurant business 60 per cent.

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