Fostering women’s economic participation in Kazakhstan and Mongolia through knowledge sharing

18 Feb 2016

By Dina Teltayeva, Communications Associate in Kazakhstan

Stepanka Pechakova, UN Youth Volunteer in Communications, Outreach and Youth in Mongolia

‘My recent visit to Mongolia has inspired me to do this fashion show,’ Tarbiya Aidymbayeva says, looking excitedly at curtains separating the backstage from the runway, with a few minutes left before the start of the show.

Tarbiya started her own company 17 years ago. Her work centers on making national costumes and on reviving traditional arts.

‘I try to minimize computerized imaging. Authenticity is the key to comfortable and astounding outfits,’ she says showing high-end floor-skimming dresses adorned with Kazakh ethnic ornaments and elaborate headwear alternate with more formal knee-length cocktail dresses.

Tarbiya was one of 18 Kazakh women who took part in a study visit to Mongolia, organized by UNDP in Kazakhstan and in Mongolia in October 2015. During the visits in Ulaanbaatar region women entrepreneurs, civil societies’ leaders, and representatives of the Kazakh National Commission for Women Affairs, Ministry of National Economy, the Agency for Civil Service Affairs and Combating Corruption, the Fund for Financial Support of Agriculture, visited women-led businesses ranging from textile and leather production to food processing.

Mongolia and Kazakhstan have a lot in common, including similar lifestyles and traditions and cattle-breeding being the bedrock of economic sustainability in rural areas. However, it is the Mongolian economy that is getting momentum, mainly due to a leather-processing business.

‘Looking at official statistics it becomes clear that we are losing our comparative advantage as a meat producing country. Thanks to good climate, forage and natural selection process, the skin of animals grown in Kazakhstan is of very good quality,’Malika Koyanbayeva, UNDP Programme Analyst explains.

In 2015 only 15.5% of skin sold in the country was processed. There is no data how much skin is being burned or simply thrown away. While there are 4 skin-processing plants in the country they are not working at full capacities and do not meet production needs of even a limited number of producers such as shoe makers or souvenir and clothes producers. ‘Producers tend to buy their material from Russia and China, where Kazakhstan exports its skin, therefore Mongolia’s experience in small skin processing plants can be rather interesting and useful’, Malika adds.

The Kazakh delegation was particularly interested in learning new business modality regarding outsourcing services by larger or medium-sized companies from small producers in villages.

“For instance, a group of women lives on the outskirts of a town, in a village. Chances that they will ever set up a business of their own are slim, to say the least. But what they can do is take up small orders from bigger producers and get an income,” Murat Narkulov, UNDP Programme Analyst says.

The participants also discussed strategies for enhancing women’s participation in the ‘green economy’ and the practical implications of women’s involvement and leadership in private sector. The exchange of information how to ensure the best quality of leather products to the best ways of processing cashmere led to forming business partnerships between the two parties.

Both counterparts agreed on the need to implement best practices for achieving gender equality in both of the sectors. They are now also discussing how to promote craftswomen from both countries during international exhibition "EXPO-2017" in Astana in 2017. 

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