Almaty, 9 December 2020 – Second cohort of ten Afghan women, recipients of the scholarships funded by the European Union, arrived in Kazakhstan to pursue education. The students will begin their academic journey with online English language classes at Almaty Management University (AlmaU) Language School. After its successful completion, they will enroll at one of the top universities in Kazakhstan – Kazakh-British Technical University, to study mining.

The project runs under a €2 million grant provided by the European Union (EU) to support Afghan women in their strive for higher education. In total, 50 Afghan women will obtain higher, technical and vocational education at various universities across Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan by 2025. Empowering women via education creates vast personal as well as economic impact, such as it generates opportunities to realize one’s potential and ability to contribute to their communities upon returning to Afghanistan.

EU Ambassador to Kazakhstan Sven-Olov Carlsson: “Women are central to economic growth and sustainable development and their economic empowerment is crucial to the progress of any country. According to the new EU Strategy for Central Asia, it is in the joint interest of the EU and of Central Asian states to intensify cooperation to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan. In other words, without a peaceful Afghanistan there will be no prosperous Central Asia. Connecting Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan by an ‘educational bridge’ strengthens the social and economic linkages among them, thus contributing to address security challenges, and helping ensure a more peaceful and prosperous future for the region”.

The first cohort of 30 Afghan women arrived in Almaty in October 2019. They have successfully completed language training and enrolled into Bachelor, Master and Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) programmes to study agriculture, finance and mining at Satbayev University, Kazakh-British Technical University and Kazakh National Agrarian University. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the students are currently taking academic courses online.

Afghan women face disproportionate barriers to enter education and employment compared to their male counterparts. According to the 2019 UNDP Human Development Report, only 13 percent of all adult Afghan women have completed a secondary education, while 37 percent adult men have. Poverty, security issues, gender stereotypes and social norms are among the main causes for the limited access to education among Afghan women.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Kazakhstan is an implementing partner of the initiative. Yakup Beris, UNDP Resident Representative in Kazakhstan: “UNDP in Kazakhstan is very proud to be part of this important joint initiative. We strongly believe that the development of any society is impossible without full and active participation of women. Empowering women through removing existing barriers and inequalities is vital for them to stand on equal footing with men and to be able to contribute to their communities and economies’’.

This summer the project was officially launched in Uzbekistan. Ten Afghan women became scholarship recipients to study Agriculture at The Educational Center for Training Afghan Citizens in Termez (ECTAT). Thus, all 50 women have been already selected and are currently at various stages of education in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

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