Kazakhstan has demonstrated commitment to gender equality policy, yet issues of inequality remain. In 2018, the UNDP Gender Inequality Index ranked Kazakhstan 46th among the 162 countries evaluated.
While employment opportunities for women across the country have increased, top government positions continue to be primarily occupied by men, giving them more power in decision-making processes - in 2018, 22.1% of the seats in parliament were held by women. Since March 2019, a woman has occupied the Chair of the Senate, bringing some equilibrium, however, the road to gender-balance in politics is long.
Since 2017, the Nazarbayev University (NU) Library, in partnership with the NU Schools and the Consortium of Gender Scholars, has organised a week-long information programme around International Women’s Day. The annual “Week of Women” supports the global campaign #BalanceforBetter - a call for action aimed at increasing gender equity and promoting women’s rights.
“Week of Women” aims to raise awareness of women’s social and political achievements. It provides a space to discuss how the university community can work to promote inclusivity, achieve gender equality, and deliver quality education in support of women’s advancement in Kazakhstan.The week-long programme offers events such as panel discussions with mother scholars, book displays and book talks, women storytelling events, film screenings, and engaging contests and competitions. More than 100 participants, including students and academic staff, take part in the “Week of Women” events annually.
The work of the library extends out to its allies in the university. This is reflected in the recently concluded 1st Annual Gender Forum where researchers, policymakers, and practitioners converged. The library was a partner in the event, organised by the Consortium of Gender Scholars, and as a result an institutional repository for gender studies was created, with a dedicated collection supporting gender research.
In 2018, the library team carried out a survey to evaluate the impact of the programme. All surveyed respondents agreed that the programme fosters movement toward a gender-balanced society. Nearly one out of every three respondents claimed the programmes have a positive impact on eliminating forms of discrimination in public and private spheres.
The NU staff commented: “Each of the ‘Week of Women’ events provides a direct means to increase awareness of the role and achievement of women, seeks ways to address gender equality, and promotes teaching and learning relating to gender parity. The events brought together men and women across campus to think about, to learn, and to find solutions to support work-life balance in university policies. The Library plays a central role in this work, and it sends an important message throughout the campus and beyond.”
Several student clubs (LIFT-Ladies in Fellowship Together, Art for Charity Club, and E.Quality) engaged in the delivery of the “Week of Women” programme. One of the students shared: “The ‘Week of Women’ gave a chance for many of us working in interdisciplinary fields to discuss our specific work with each other. I was able to connect with faculty members from several other departments to discuss where our research overlapped and how we can work together in the future. The library staff created a space for us to work across departments and disciplines.”