Even though Kyrgyzstan has had a female president and women hold 23 percent of the seats in its 120-member parliament, women are still struggling to carve out leadership roles in the legislature and political parties.
But a local women’s group is trying to change that. Formed shortly after the 2005 Tulip Revolution, the Women’s Discussion Club of Kyrgyzstan has played a major role in promoting public policies that benefit women. The recipient of NDI’s 2012 Madeleine K. Albright Grant, the club is also working to increase the number of women in elected office as well as women’s influence within political parties. The award is given annually to an organization working to promote women’s political participation.
Using the award’s $25,000 grant, the group recently completed a project called, "Bringing Women Together and Enhancing Women's Political Participation in a Sustainable Democratic Society in Kyrgyzstan.”
Through the project, the club helped form a Coalition of Women’s Wings of Political Parties, a group including women from 10 political parties that is working with members of parliament (MPs) to advance policies that impact women.
One of its successes was working with women MPs to generate support for changes to so-called “bride-kidnapping” legislation that would toughen punishment for perpetrators from three years to up to 10 years in prison. An estimated 12,000 women and girls annually are married through abduction or capture each year. Coalition members traveled throughout the country to encourage women to sign a petition in support of the increased penalties.
“We realized as women we need to get together to solve our common issues,” one coalition member noted. Parliament passed the change in the law and since then the number of bride kidnapping cases has been reduced almost 10 fold, with 1,200 cases reported in the last year, according to the office of Kyrgyzstan’s Ombudsman, elected by parliament to represent and protect the constitutional, human and civil rights of citizens.
Through the project, the Women’s Discussion Club has reached hundreds of women throughout the country and established a strong foundation for multi-party collaboration. The group is working with the Women’s Caucus in parliament to help women representatives at the local level of government improve their skills as representatives and prepare for higher office in the future through a series of meetings, training workshops and roundtables on a range of topics such as the importance of women’s political participation, health care policy and gender quotas at the local level. The coalition is also working with community organizations and local councils to create associations of women that work together to address issues and priorities at the local level, such as budget transparency and increasing women’s representation in local elections.
The coalition is also tackling the lack of opportunities and access for women in political parties ahead of the 2015 parliamentary elections by advocating for more women in leadership and decision making positions within each party. Given Kyrgyzstan’s tumultuous political transitions in 2005 and again in 2010 to a parliamentary democracy, political parties are currently reorganizing ahead of the next election, providing a window for the coalition to advocate for more women leaders within each party. The coalition is advocating that men and women have an equal percentage of seats.
The Madeleine K. Albright Grant is part of NDI’s Win with Women Global Initiative, which promotes women’s political leadership worldwide. The grant is made possible through the generosity of the Melvin and Bren Simon Foundation. NDI is deeply grateful to the foundation for its steadfast commitment to the Institute’s political participation programs for women.
Watch the film featuring NDI's 2012 Madeleine K. Albright Grant winner, the Women's Discussion Club of Kyrygyzstan:
- Women's Discussion Club of Kyrgyzstan Awarded 2012 Madeleine K. Albright Grant»
- International Community Should "Loudly Recognize" Reforms in Kyrgyzstan, Deputy Prime Minister Says&raqup;
- Rep. Wasserman Schultz Says Women's Voices Are Curcial to Democracy At NDI's Madeleine K. Albright Awards Luncheon»
Published Oct. 18, 2013