ASHGABAT – Traditional views of their role in society have often kept women in Turkmenistan from experiencing the equal rights promised by the country’s laws. Women are seen primarily as mothers, responsible for childcare in families, and employed in low-paid jobs – stereotypes that have hindered their access to equal opportunities in education and the workforce, and put them at risk of violence in the home.
A significant move towards closing the gap between laws and reality was made in late January with the government’s adoption of the first National Action Plan on Gender Equality in Turkmenistan. The plan, which covers the period 2015-2020, was supported by UNFPA through extensive advocacy efforts and technical assistance, including the organising of seminars, workshops, and study tours to expose local officials to international best practices.
‘The National Action Plan will help define more concrete and clear direction for work on gender issues in Turkmenistan,’ said Shemshat Atajanova, head of the Department of Human Rights, National Institute of Democracy and Human Rights under the President of Turkmenistan. ‘Implementation of the goals and objectives of the National Action Plan will make positive changes in women’s enjoyment of their rights and will help the state fulfil its international obligations to ensure equal rights between men and women.’
The action plan includes steps to create more gender-responsive legislation, raise awareness among women of their rights, assess the effectiveness of current mechanisms for gender equality, transform and eliminate gender stereotypes, address all forms of gender-based violence, increase the number of women in top management positions, promote women’s participation in non-traditional educational fields, increase the competitiveness of women in the job market, and promote better access to healthcare and reproductive health services, as well as ensuring the fulfilment of international treaty obligations.
‘It’s noteworthy that the plan also outlines actions for the elimination of violence against women, which will help address for the first time the issue of domestic violence in Turkmenistan,’ said Dovran Yamatov, a National Programme Associate on Gender, Population and Development in UNFPA’s Turkmenistan Country Office.
Currently, there are no official statistics on the level of domestic violence in Turkmenistan, making it difficult to formulate an effective response to the problem.
As part of the new National Action Plan, a sample survey on domestic violence will be conducted by the National Institute of Democracy and Human Rights, with UNFPA technical support. The results of the survey, which is scheduled to be carried out in the second half of 2015, will be analysed and provide evidence-based data to identify the next steps forward.