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Central Asia Sub-Regional Report to the Regional NGO Symposium Women 2000

Paper Presented at the Asia Pacific NGO Symposium
By Elmira Suleymanova,
Central Asia Sub-Regional Coordinator,
Ph.D., Professor, President of the Azerbaijan Women and Development Centre

Fourth World Conference on Women (FWCW) accelerated Woman movement in the New Independent Countries (NICs) of the Central Asia-Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan with total population over 60 million people, half of them being women.

General situation in these countries in the post-Soviet period is characterized by the increase of poverty level, unemployment, ageing of population due to the reduced childbirth and migration of youth, limited participation of women in governance and decision making.

The situation in Azerbaijan is aggravated by the eleven-year Armenian aggression with great damages: 20% of the country's territory is occupied, hundreds of the civil population are taken as hostages, about one million people have become refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

Nevertheless, women in the Central Asia countries have made important steps towards the implementation of the Beijing Platform of Action (BPFA).

The number of the new woman organizations reached 25, in some countries, instead of the only organization in each country in the Soviet period.

For mainstreaming and coordination of their activities the new Institutional Mechanisms and Government National Machineries for the Advancement of Women were created in all the Central Asia countries:

Except that, Gender in Development Units (GID) of UNDP were created in each Central Asia country, that stimulated local NGOs participation in working out and implementation of the National Plans of Action (NPA) based on BPFA. Nearby the women's issues are included also into different other National Governmental Programmes for Sustainable Development. Women NGOs in the Central Asia are in the process of networking in order to focus their capacities on the implementation of the NAPs. For example NGO Forum with the Department on Advancement of Women was created in Azerbaijan. Forum of Women's NGOs in Kyrgyzstan etc.

They are important actors in constructing and realization of the NAPs but this work is unfunded. NGOs usually have no financial support from the Government and their activities are limited by own capacities of volunteers or irregular short-term small grants from international donors.

Anyway, woman NGOs in the Central Asia are dealing with all the main concerns of BPFA, sometimes with the prevalence of any concerns, according to their national priorities and urgent needs.

Even having too limited capacities, they are trying to involve as many women as possible on the grassroots level in different urban and rural districts into the implementation of the ongoing process on NAPs and CEDAW.

Unfortunately, the reports on Beijing +5 are not yet available for all these countries. That's why I have prepared only summarized general report and enclosed the Sub-Regional GID Bulletin on Beijing+5 Review (issue number 3), produced by the UNDP Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS (UNDP/RBEC) Regional Programme in support of Gender in Development (GID). This issue is dedicated to the follow-up to the FWCW in the Central Asia and Caucasus in order to review the progress made four years after Beijing and prepare these countries for the UN General Assembly Special Session to be held from June 5-9, 2000 in New-York.

Woman NGOs provided a lot of researches and surveys on the 12 critical areas of concern of BPFA reflected in the National Plans of Actions.

Some of them were involved into the surveys provided by the World Bank on poverty study and eradication, studying the living standards of the population, including vulnerable people, refugees and IDPs in the rural and urban districts. Their urgent needs were identified and the recommendations and outcomes of these researches and assessments will be used in the design of the new country assistance strategies.

A lot of thematic and vocational training were organized for jobless women, also the new income generation sources, agricultural farms were created for them to reduce the poverty level and the number of the vulnerable people.

Health and educational surveys were also provided and special healthcare and Family Planning programmes on the community based service were implemented in the cities and rural districts.

Human Rights study was provided on the grassroots level, using BPFA, CEDAW and other conventions. Some of them were translated into native languages and disseminated among woman NGOs all over the country that have organized dozens of training courses, seminars, workshops, conferences on the public level.

Surveys on domestic violence and violation of the Women's Human Rights at the workplace, in the community and at home were provided. Free juridical consultations and crisis centers were organized for women, suffered from different kinds of violence.

To illustrate the activities of the Woman NGOs, I shall present you a few samples of some surveys and projects provided by our organization-Azerbaijan Women and Development Center (AWDC) that is the first research center on women and gender issues in our country, focal point of the UN Institute for training and researches on the Advancement of women in Azerbaijan. AWDC is also granted by the Consultative Status with UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and UN Department on Public Information (UNDPI).

Here are some samples:

  1. Survival project for Internally Displaced Persons.
    Survey was provided in 4 tent camps in Saatli Rural District total for 12000 IDPs and in 2 tent camps in Sabirabad Rural District.
    Follow up: The results of Survey were directed to the country Parliament, Cabinet of Ministers and State Commission on Refugees, UNICEF and IDPs
    Outcome: Each IDP family in these camps received fuel, food and non-food assistance. Volunteers from the AWDC distributed sugar, tea and also clothes and shoes for children etc.

  2. Primary Health Care
    Health Survey was provided in the Saatli tent camp
    Follow up: The lists of women, children and elderly persons that need health care were directed to the Ministry of Health.
    Outcome: the doctors-volunteers provided free medical treatment and Primary Health care for the IDPs living in the camps:

    • pediatricians (for children)
    • ophthalmologists (mainly for elderly persons)
    • therapeutists - for all the IDPs
    • gynecologists (mainly for women in fertile age)
  3. Migration of the local population
    Survey was provided in City of Sheki (Azerbaijan)
    Follow up: The result of the Survey and report with Database were directed to the International Organization for Migration (IOM)
    Outcome: Recommendations on rehabilitation of the city factory for employment of thousands of people to decline migration of the young men from Sheki were presented to the related organization.

  4. Agricultural Assessment was provided in the Country Rural districts
    Follow up: The results of survey and database were sent to the World Bank (WB) and presented at the Special Workshops in WB offices in Baku and Washington DC.
    Outcome: The survey is being used in the Appreciation of the Agricultural Reforms and Privatization of land in the Rural Districts. It will also be used for the distribution of the credits for farmers, including women, organisation of income generation for refugees, IDPs, vulnerable.

  5. Assessment on living conditions of IDPs was provided in 12 rural districts.
    Follow up: The results of survey and computer analyses were directed to the World Bank.
    Outcomes: The survey is being used for designing of the World Bank Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) for identification of the investment for Country sustainable Development.

  6. Poverty eradication and living conditions of the population ( non- refugees and IDPs ) and creation of income generation.
    Survey was provided in more than 30 urban and rural districts of the country for the local population excluding refugees and IDPs.
    Follow up: The results of computer analyses were directed to the World Bank.
    Outcomes: The survey is being used for designing of the World Bank Country Assistance Strategy ( CAS) for identification of the investment for country Sustainable Development.

  7. Kinder Rehabilitation Centers.
    Survey was provided in refugee camps in the rural districts all over the country.
    Follow up: The number of the preschool children was identified and directed to UNICEF.
    Outcomes: 37 kindergartens in 11 different refugee camps and in 23 rural settlements for 2500 preschool refugee children were organized.AWDC volunteers trained 238 refugee women teachers for those kindergartens. AWDC and UNICEF manage these units up to now.

  8. Domestic violence.
    Survey was provided in Baku City covering over 1000 families.
    Follow up: The results of the survey are sent to UNIPEM.
    Outcomes: A lot of training, workshops, round table discussions for NGOs and journalists, TV and broadcast programs, publications, brochures, leaflets etc.

  9. Vitaminizaton of the vulnerable people.
    Survey was provided and the most vulnerable people including pregnant women suffering from anemia were listed.
    Follow up: The lists were directed to the Ministry of Health, UNDP and UNICEF.
    Outcomes: Thousands of vulnerable people in the cities and rural districts, including pregnant and breastfeed women, children, elderly people have received different vitamins recommended by doctors and distributed by AWDC volunteers.

  10. Reproductive Health and Family Planning.
    Survey was provided in the industrial Sumgait City and the Sheki rural district.
    Follow up : The results of the survey are represented to UNFPA and used in CBS.
    Outcomes: A lot of training for project personnel and journalists, conferences, round table discussions.
    Distribution of knowledge (brochures, leaflets etc.) Free distribution of modern contraceptives and regular Community based Service for about 45000 women in reproductive age in Sumgait City and about 30000 women in the Sheki Rural District.

For providing of the above mentioned surveys National Questionnaires were prepared and fulfilled through home to home visits.

Individual case studies and focus groups discussions also were practiced.

The results of these and other surveys and projects were discussed at the weekly seminars and meetings with the participation of the members of parliament, representatives of the governmental bodies, local Woman and Youth NGOs.

Recommendations were disseminated among women's communities. Sometimes they were addressed to the Government in order to organize the Special Commission on Woman and Family status under the umbrella of the country's parliament or to adopt new laws or to improve, the current laws and regulations in order to make them more gender sensitive.

Woman NGOs in the Central Asia are working in close collaboration with mass media, using the capacities of the National TV, broadcasting, magazines and newspapers.

But, unfortunately, most of them have limited capacities for publication and dissemination of information on women's issues inside and outside the country.

So, surely some positive changes in the Status of woman in the Central Asia are reached, but nearby there is sometimes a big delay in adoption and implementation of the NAPs, due to the lack of funds, linkages and coordination of the efforts of the National NGOs between themselves, also with their Governmental bodies, UN and International Organizations inside the country, on regional and global level, lack of the technical capacities.

I. The following gains can be attributed to the implementation of the BPFA:

  1. Adoption and implementation of the National Plans of Action based on the BPFA on the Governmental and Community level.
  2. Creation of new institutional mechanisms and machineries.
  3. Big number of the new NGOs instead of the only women organization in each country in the Soviet period.
  4. Networking of the Woman NGOs, focusing their efforts on the implementation of NPA for advancement of women.
  5. Total literacy and equal access to the education.

II. Gaps and obstacles:

  1. Limited participation of women and their organizations in the governance and decision making.
  2. Lack of the financial support for implementation of the projects in accordance with the critical areas of the BPFA.
  3. Lack of researches in order to study different problems of women's status.
  4. Feminization of unemployment and poverty.
  5. Lack of capacities for documentation, information dissemination, and technical equipment.

III. Persistent and emerging issues:

  1. Equal opportunities for the implementation of the equal Rights on participation in decision-making.
  2. Surveys for identification of high Social risk groups of women (elderly, women headed families, jobless, disabled etc. and their urgent needs.
  3. Vocational training and income generation for adaptation of women in the new situation of market economy also for the creation of the new microcredits for women in order to reduce unemployment and poverty.
  4. Implementation of the Family Planning programmes through the Community based dissemination of knowledge and distribution of the modern contraceptives in order to make them accessible for each woman in a fertile age.
  5. Adoption and implementation of the new laws for protection of Women's Human Rights and prevention of the violence against woman at work, in the Community and family.
  6. Strengthening of the women's role and their participation in the peace making processes.
  7. Creation of the Women's Communities and Crisis Centres for medical, social and psychological support for the women and children, suffered from war, natural disasters, any kind of violence.
  8. Strengthening of the Capacity building of the woman NGOs through the Documentation and Information Resource Centres with the necessary technical equipment.

Big plans and a lot of events are designed in all countries of Central Asia to be implemented up to 2000 and beyond. Their main efforts will be directed on Gender mainstreaming and sensitivisation of the National laws, strengthening of the women's opportunities in the implementation of their basic Human Rights, their participation in the decision making at all, levels of governance, working out and realizing of the policies, programmes, projects for the advancement of women at work, in the community, in the Family: providing researches and surveys for identification also medical, social, juridical protection of the most vulnerable people, including refugees and IDPs, aged and vulnerable, poor and jobless; networking of the local NGOs and their integration into the world Community and World womens movement. And these activities will be continued up to full implementation of our plans on Gender equality, peace and Development.

Every excluded woman has to be included into the processes of the sustainable development - that's what we dream of.

And we hope, the women's solidarity will help us to transform our dreams into reality.

On behalf of millions of my sisters in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan I want to ask ESCAP, UNIFEM, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, ECE and other donors to pay special attention to support and meet the needs of woman NGOs in these countries in hard transition period.

Even this time no allocations were planned and provided for the participation of the Central Asia Women in this Regional NGO Symposium.

Hope you will help us to organize the Subregional meeting up to the end of the year to summarize our proposals and recommendations for the 44th Session of the UNCSW and for the UN General Assembly in the year 2000.

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