18 October 2019
Almaty Management University, Almaty, Kazakhstan
Deputy Foreign Minister Vassilenko,
EU Ambassador Carlsson,
President of Almaty Management University Ms. Kurganbayeva,
Vice-president of the Center of International Programmes Ms. Dosmukhambetova,
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, let me extend a warm welcome to our special Afghan guests, women of different backgrounds and interests, who have just joined us here in Almaty. They went through a rigorous selection process and have travelled a long way to be here, some with their kids- with a commitment to study and invest in their own and country’s future.
We wish you a great stay and success in your studies in going forward.
We often focus on women in our work due to unequal vulnerabilities and challenges they face in their societies. This is largely true, and we should continue maintaining this differentiated attention. But with this initiative that we are commencing today, we also have a unique perspective because we focus on the potentials of women by investing in the assets they could bring to their societies.
Women are key contributors to the growth of their economies. They produce food, lead businesses, and take care if children and the elderly. As such, they are significant contributors to the resilience of their communities- including when it comes to facing risks and disasters and building back their communities.
This initiative is also unique because it invests in partnerships at a different scale. It brings together countries and international organizations around such a perspective on assets and seeks to multiply benefits with a long-term perspective. I cannot think of a better way for doing this than investing in education. I would like to extend special thanks to the European Union for investing in such partnerships across countries and institutions.
Special thanks, of course, go to the Government of Kazakhstan for the continuous efforts to contribute to regional and international cooperation through such initiatives. Kazakhstan has been supporting Afghan women in the past and I am glad that they are now scaling up cooperation, along with the Government of Uzbekistan.
As United Nations Development Programme, we feel privileged, and proud to take part in this initiative that is generously funded by the European Union.
Promoting women’s empowerment, ensuring gender equality, and facilitating women’s access to education are priorities for UNDP, on which we continuously work around the world. While having dedicated initiatives through specific projects, we work on the principle of integrating gender equality into all aspects of our work to reduce poverty, build resilience, and achieve peace in societies and communities to accelerate progress towards the Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals. We continuously support women and girls in taking a higher interest and role in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics as well as on all spheres of business, civil society, and state machineries.
Our Gender Equality Strategy strives to remove barriers to women’s economic empowerment, focusing on prevention and facilitating response at the same time. These barriers vary, and include disproportionate burden of unpaid work, gender-based violence, limitations in participation in decision making and leadership positions, etc.
Here in Kazakhstan, UNDP was instrumental in developing the National Gender Concept till 2030 in close partnership with the National Commission for Women Affaires and other stakeholders. Now we support implementation of this Concept, towards the vision of leaving no girl or women behind. In the past we already supported Afghan women by organizing capacity building of 24 civil servants and NGO representatives and 30 public health workers from Afghanistan on the topic of maternal and child healthcare.
I am happy that this initiative builds on our experience and takes the partnership between UNDP and Government of Kazakhstan to next levels, thanks to the EU funding. We see this as a partnership action and will work towards building its sustainability in the context of developing the ODA system in Kazakhstan.
As you know, the main purpose of this project is to support economic empowerment of Afghan women by providing them with education opportunities in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. We hope participation in this programme will help you, dear participants, acquire much needed knowledge and skillsets and contribute productively to the development of your country.
People are at the core of development of any country, and that includes women. Therefore, further development of Afghanistan requires a new generation of professionals who can contribute to the achievement of structural economic and gender transformation of the country.
In the past two decades Kazakhstan has made great strides in development, including strengthening economic conditions, civil service reform, and building strong institutions. I am confident that this initiative will help transfer some of the best practices as suitable for Afghanistan.
It is also worth noting that Kazakhstan is striving to increase international awareness and support for the specific needs of women and girls in Afghanistan as a means of achieving long-term peace and sustainable development and prosperity in Afghanistan.
In the context of regional and international development initiatives, this project is specifically supporting women’s participation in the education sector, mainly targeting the gap areas in national priority sectors for development and economic growth. These sectors include agriculture, mining and applied statistics, and we have ensured that strongest institutions will collaboratively offer the academic excellence and knowledge that women will carry for a lifelong journey.
Peace and democracy are advanced when societies become educated, respect grows for human rights, and equal rights and education are provided for women and girls. I strongly believe that this joint initiative will contribute to the overall development of the country, and more women in Afghanistan will be economically empowered with better education and better jobs.