Joint Statement by Norimasa Shimomura, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in the Republic of Kazakhstan, Elaine Conkievich, UN Women Representative in Central Asia, Natalia Alexeeva, Head of United Nations Environment Programme Sub-Regional Office for Central Asia Vlastimil Samek Representative of Department of Public Information on the Occasion of International Women's Day

Mar 7, 2017

7 March 2017

In celebrating International Women's Day with the people of Kazakhstan we acknowledge the achievements of women in their efforts to ensure respect for human rights and human dignity and to achieve equality.

Gender equality lies at the very heart of human rights and the values of the UN.  “Equal rights for men and women” is a founding principle of the UN Charter, as adopted by world leaders in 1945, and protecting and promoting women's human rights is the responsibility of all States.

This year, in marking International Women’s Day, we in the UN raise the issues of women’s participation in the country’s economic life, and the rights and opportunities of women in the workplace.

Despite the fact that women head 44.2 per cent of small and medium businesses in the Republic of Kazakhstan, according to World Bank figures only 4.2 per cent of large corporations are led by women. The gender pay gap  in Kazakhstan is 33 per cent. Women usually perform different work than that performed by men, and occupy places at the lowest levels of the labour hierarchy. Seventy per cent of paid employees in the health, education and social services sectors are women. Many women find themselves employed in the informal sector, working as domestic workers. The domestic work market operates almost completely on the basis of verbal arrangements between the employee and employer and does not provide social protection for domestic workers. The level of female unemployment remains high compared to male unemployment.

In addition, women in Kazakhstan are not protected from various forms of violence and harassment in the workplace. There is no definition of sexual harassment in the laws of the Republic of Kazakhstan.  Furthermore, women tend to lack protection from sexual harassment in public spaces, and statistics reveal concerning tendencies: 25 per cent of casual bystanders would not take any action if they became witnesses of sexual harassment in public places. However, in the recently adopted Concept on Family and Gender Policy of the Republic of Kazakhstan national authorities have expressed intention to tackle issues of sexual harassment in the workplace and public spaces, as part of its efforts to prevent and end all forms of violence against women.  

Last year, throughout the world, implementation began of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the period until 2030, as agreed by leaders of UN Member States. Gender equality was allocated a separate Goal, Goal 5, which is intended to end discrimination and violence against women and girls, and ensure their equal participation and opportunities in all areas of life. Important provisions concerning widening the rights and opportunities of women are also included in 12 of the 17  Goals.

The full participation of women in all areas of economic life is essential to create a strong economy, to build a stable and just society, to achieve development and human rights goals, and to improve the quality of life of women and men. A green economy, which is one of Kazakhstan’s development priorities, provides an excellent opportunity for both women and men to benefit from green sectors, as entrepreneurs, engineers, academics and professionals, and at the same time to ensure environmental protection for current and future generations. It is important to note that the economic potential of countries cannot be fully realized if half of the population does not have opportunities to apply their creative abilities, skills and entrepreneurial energy to the development of society. Therefore, widening the rights and opportunities of women in the green sectors of the economy both makes economic sense and allows for the principles of sustainable development to be realized.

On this International Women’s Day, we call upon the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan, civil society and the private sector to support the achievements of women, recognise the challenges that exist, and pay greater attention to issues of women’s rights and gender equality in the workplace. Empowering women and girls is the only way to protect their rights and make sure they can realize their full potential.

We in the United Nations believe that  Kazakhstan, which has already made significant progress in the field of gender equality, is fully able to achieve this global goal, namely gender equality – Planet 50-50 by 2030. From our side we are ready to render all possible assistance.

Norimasa Shimomura

Elaine Conkievich

Natalia Alexeeva

Vlastimil Samek