“I’m Not Afraid to Tell”: How Kazakh women are breaking the silence on gender-based violence

28 Jul 2016

By Dina Teltayeva

Over the past few months, I’ve witnessed as women in Kazakhstan break their silence on sexual violence.

A campaign titled #ЯнеБоюсьСказать (I’m not afraid to tell) и НеМолчи (Don’t keep Quiet) has led to many women sharing their stories. One of them is Dina Tansari (pictured), a well-known TV producer.

“…I was unconscious. They left me in front of my flat, rang the bell, and ran away. In the morning I couldn’t remember anything, except for my mum’s screams when she found me…,” she wrote on her Facebook wall.

 

Dina has spoken up after two decades of torturing silence.

When she was twenty, her own classmates drugged her at a wedding party and gang-raped her. Her mother rented an out-of-town flat for Dina when she found out about the incident because she couldn’t bear the shame that her daughter had brought to the family. She was left alone with her tragedy.

#IamNotAfraidtoTell was started by Ukrainian journalist Anastasiya Melnichenko. The speed with which it has spread throughout the Russian-speaking social media is shocking in itself.

After reading many of these stories, I decided to take a closer look at the official statistics on violence against women in Kazakhstan.

The latest information available from the Statistics Committee of the Kazakh Ministry of National Economy shows that 341,291 crimes were committed in 2014, with more than a third of these constituting violence against women.

In general, data provided by crisis centres, the Ministry of Interior Affairs and the Prosecutor General’s Office have a lot of discrepancies on domestic violence.

But we do know that during the first half of 2016, 315 women have committed suicideMost of these cases are directly related to domestic violence, according to the Prosecutor General.

Even if more statistics were available, they would probably not capture the entire scale of the problem as many cases go unreported, just like Dina’s.

What can we do to change that pattern?

A survey we conducted recently showed us that women who have suffered from violence need psychological rehabilitation, legal consultation, and violence prevention support. As UNDP in Kazakhstan, we are collaborating with the Kazakh Ministry of Interior Affairs to build a network of crisis centres and shelters for victims of domestic violence.

However, this work needs to be complemented with efforts to achieve gender equality on a broader scale.

In Kazakhstan, women now run over 40 percent of small and medium-sized businesses andaccount for 27.1 percent of parliamentarians – exceeding the world average of 22.1 percent.

But we still have a long way to go until we achieve an equal society for women and men.

This is why we are providing women, particularly from rural areas, with access to economic opportunities. Having access to their own income affords women the choice to make independent decisions in areas such as marriage, lifestyle, and jobs. It also helps them feel more secure in reporting cases of sexual assault and domestic violence to the authorities.

Dina says that her personal experience can provide hope for other women. She is now working to set up a crisis centre for other victims of violence.

“I don’t want this story to be just another account of sexual violence. And I don’t want it to be perceived as utter desperation. There is a silver lining to it”.

As development organizations, and as women, we can honor that wish in many different ways. We just have to be willing – to speak up and take a stand.