#WONDERWOMEN: How Kazakhstan's female activists change society?
By: Anar Kassymova
Social changes never come by themselves. They are always driven. Driven by the incredible efforts, by the unshakable faith and by continous enthusiasm of activists, who dare to bring positive changes to solve the existing problems. On the International women’s day, we would like to share with you the inspiring stories of three Kazakhstani women, who work towards building a safer, more inclusive and just society for all.
Anar Rakhimbayeva – the co-founder of “Dom Mamy” social fund
Anar Rakhimbayeva is a doctor, a mother of seven, and an MBA degree holder, who was the head of the Sales Department of BI Group for over 10 years. In 2013, she and her husband founded the “Dom Mamy” (“Mom’s Home”) social fund providing assistance to young women, who are planning to give their children up for adoption.
In the “Mom’s Home” the women are provided with shelter, psychological and medical help, and are assisted with the recovery of their identification documents, registration for welfare benefits, getting an education and finding a job. But more importantly, the women are given time and an opportunity to enjoy motherhood in a safe environment and to think over their initial decision. Today, there are 25 Mom’s Homes across the country that are supported by 17 entrepreneurs.
Over five years since the Fund was commissioned, over 3000 children stayed with their biological mothers and were saved from a life in an orphanage. The aim of the Fund is to get rid of the social orphanhood in the country. That is why in 2016 the Fund launched a project called “Zhanuya” (“Nest”) whose aims are two-fold: the first one is to support the adoption and the second is to support women orphanage graduates. . The center of adoption support “Zhanuya” provides consultations on adoption, courses for the host parents and support the family after adoption.
«The difficulties associated with a kid’s adaptation are inevitable and the parents have to be aware of them. Knowledge and skills that form parental competence and a mature, balanced decision is what should be in the arsenal of the family that is preparing to adopt a child” – says Anar Rakhimbayeva.
The Fund advocates for the improvement of the legislation in the area of protecting the rights of children to ensure the right of every child to have a family.
Khadicha Abysheva – the founder of the Legal center of women’s initiatives “Sana Sezim”
Khadicha Abysheva founded Legal center of women’s initiatives “Sana Sezim” seventeen years ago. Over all this time, “Sana Sezim” has been providing free and confidential legal, social and -psychological help to vulnerable people, whose rights were violated, such as victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. To streamline efforts, she also opened a shelter for the victims of domestic violence and human trafficking in 2016.
“I worked in a school for a long time and I saw a number of people who had different challenges that made them suffer. Most of these people were women and kids. That was when I made a decision to start helping them” – says Khadicha Abysheva.
Since its inception in 2001, “Sana Sezim” has set up an efficient network for interaction with state structures, law enforcement agencies, and the media to provide services for vulnerable people. Thanks to her work hundreds of victims of violence and trafficking have found the much-needed help. Besides providing shelter, the center helps to reintegrate the victims of violence into society and to help them regain faith in themselves.
Khadicha Abysheva says that the biggest motivator for her is the realization of the impact that her work has on other people. “My life motto is to be faithful to myself, to be decent with other people, and to be proactive in everything” – says the head of the center.
Kamila Rollan - the founder of “School For All” inclusive education center
Kamila Rollan is a founder of “School For All” inclusive education center, where children with and without special needs learn and develop together. Her path towards becoming an advocate for inclusion started in 2012, when she as the president of Nazarbayev University Red Crescent Society initiated the academic support courses under the name “The WeekEnd School” for children from low-income families, migrant backgrounds, and with mobility-related disabilities.
The project has been successfully ongoing for four years. In November 2016, she together with her team members registered “Education For All” NGO to transform the WeekEnd School project into an inclusive educational center and to dedicate her professional life to the field of inclusive education.
“School For All” is now a social enterprise aimed to serve all children including those with intellectual and behavioral disabilities, who are often denied the access to mainstream education in Kazakhstan.
"I am doing research in the field of Inclusive Education and completing my Master's program, and I also studied at University of Minnesota and Tsinghua University, participated in various training programs and seminars, interned locally and abroad. I believe this knowledge must be put into actions, otherwise what is its value? School For All project is an actual contribution of me and our team to the development of equitable and open society" – says Kamila Rollan.
The major difficulty of managing and promoting such project is cultural stigmatization of children with disabilities, as Kamila admits. Therefore, one of the central goals is to celebrate diversity of learners.
"Some children who attend our center have never been to school, neither special nor mainstream one. They are taught at home in isolation. Our center, therefore, became the only mainstream educational environment, where they can study, develop with their peers, and make friends. Seeing their joy and progress assures me that my endeavor is worthy and my life is meaningful,”- says Kamila.
Currently, Kamila Rollan also works as an expert for “Social Trust Foundation” public fund and completes her Master’s Degree in Inclusive Education at Nazarbayev University.