Date: 6 March 2020

Venue: Dushanbe, Hyatt Regency Hotel

Time: 9.00 a.m

Happy International Women’s Day.

Today we celebrate women as Human Beings who have equal Rights to men.  We celebrate the great women activists who fought for women’s right to vote; we celebrate the activism of 10-year-old Yemeni girl Nujood Ali, who fought and won a case to divorce her 30 years old abusive husband which changed the minimum age of marriage in her country. We celebrate Malala Yusufzai for her fight for the right of girls to education, Greta for galvanizing millions for climate action,  we celebrate the victories of Zebuniso Rustamova, Mavzuna Chorieva, Sabina Tyuryaeva, who glorified Tajikistan in the world’s sports; and we celebrate women political leaders who are boldly promoting feminist policies to make the world an equal place for all .

But it is also the day to pause and reflect on the unfinished business of gender equality.

25 years ago, the world leaders in Beijing made a commitment to women and girls, but they have only made partial progress on their promise.  Still everywhere women are worse off than men simply because they are women. But regrettably in many places we are also seeing reversal in gender equality laws, shrinking space for CSO and civic activism.    

Here in Tajikistan legislation grants equal rights to both men and women and the country is committed to meeting its international obligation for gender equality and has adopted very good strategies and programs.  However, Tajikistan still has one of the lowest gender parity index in the CIS region (0.679). And regardless of progress and evidence of important advancement in the last decade, harmful social norms and practices continue to perpetuate gender inequality.

In the recent years, the labor force participation of women has declined and is largely concentrated in agriculture and unpaid care work, only 35.6% of teachers in universities are women and only 28% women are teachers with science degrees.  24% women at age 15-49 have experienced physical violence; 31% of ever married women experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence. But only 1 in 10 women has sought help to stop violence they experienced. Fundamentally, gender equality is about power balance between men and women and freedom to make choice.

There are at least five areas in which achieving gender equality are needed. First, eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls. For years, domestic violence has been considered a private family matter that no one should interfere with, or even speak about. For generations our gender stereotypes have made us all “normalize” violence and put the blame on women and justifying the behavior of men, who should actually be held responsible for their crime to physically or emotionally violate women. Tajikistan has adopted a law to stop domestic violence but implementation of law requires increase in budget allocation and staff.

Earlier this year with support from the European Union, UN in Tajikistan has launched an ambitious global initiative called the Spotlight Initiative which will use a multi-pronged approach to eliminate sexual violence against women and girls and will be  implemented jointly by UNDP, UN Women, UNFAP and UNICEF with full involvement of communities and CSOs.

The second area is building inclusive economies.  The gender pay gap is one reason why women remain poor but also because they don’t get paid for their daily household and family care work. The President’s initiative to improve women entrepreneurship is excellent but much more is needed to expand skills of women, access to credit, day care for children, financial literacy, and creating opportunities for them to become entrepreneurs.

Third, in the changing world, digital technology and innovation are becoming indispensable for progress and growth but there is a huge digital divide between men and women. We need to step up efforts to promote women in science, and technology, create opportunities for them to learn computer skills, access to internet.

Fourth, increasing women’s political representation. Currently, 20% of parliamentarians in Tajikistan are women, we hope that this percentage will go up in the recent elections.  

Lastly, gender equality requires breaking gender stereotypes and changing attitudes across the society. This requires changing the way we bring up girls and boys and socializing them so they learn to respect and regard each other equally as champions of gender equality.

Thank you!

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