Gender equality is one of the basic human rights, which means that men and women have the same and equal opportunities and potential to develop themselves in all spheres of life. For a long time, politics has been a field of males, while females were kept away from politics for centuries. There always existed a debate on whether females can be political leaders and occupy senior positions in politics. Governments thought that only men should be dominant in the political scene and the representation of women in power was quite poor due to the number of challenges that they faced in a male society. The major aspects, which significantly affect the political participation of females, include such factors as culture and gender inequality. Culture predominantly influences the role of females, as their status, role and behavior are dictated by society that excludes females from the political arena. Even so, at the present day the number of women in political positions of power have begun to increase.
In this day and age, women are holding senior government positions in many countries across the globe, particularly, in developed countries, which promote gender equality. An effective democratic state requires equal participation of men and women in the political arena. For this reason, the active, equal and efficient participation of women in politics is regarded as an inherent prerequisite for true democracy, as it helps to establish the principle of society for all, in which all citizens have an equal right to elect and stand for election and the government protects the interests of those citizens. The recognition of this principle is essential in ensuring universal human rights in all democratic states. The presence of women in high-ranking positions is a reality of our time. According to the Forbes magazine (2019), the world’s top three most powerful women are politicians or political leaders. The most powerful woman in the world is the chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel. Being the leader of the fifth largest economy in the world, Angela Merkel is the most well-known and powerful political figure. Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil, and Tarja Halonen, President of Finland, are also representative examples of women in power [Time, 2019]. These authoritative women in power should be a prototype for other countries to promote equality.
This principle of equal gender rights in politics is also recognized in Kazakhstan. In December 2012, First President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev emphasized the importance of equal gender rights and opportunities in his address announcing the “Kazakhstan 2050” strategy [Akorda, 2012]. Kazakhstan is ranked 60th internationally for its proportion of women in the Parliament with 29 seats in the lower house, or the Mazhilis, and five seats in the upper house, or the Senate [Inter-Parliamentary Union, 2019; UN Women, 2019]. According to this indicator, our country is ranked higher than the USA, Canada, Japan and China. At the same time, in spite of international recognition of Kazakhstan’s achievements in the promotion of gender equality, the current situation shows that women are still poorly represented at the level of decision-making in the government and at high-paying professions in various areas of the economy. A woman in Kazakhstan is yet to become a full-fledged and influential participant in the political process. Nevertheless, there are some examples of successful careers of women in politics of Kazakhstan.
After Kazakhstan gained its independence, three women represented our country at the international level as extraordinary and authorized representatives of Kazakhstan to the United Nations – Akmaral Arystanbekova, Madina Dzharbusynova and Byrganym Aitimova [UN, 2019; OSCE, 2019, Kazinform, 2019]. Another illustrative example of woman in politics is Dariga Nazarbayeva, who was elected as Chairperson of the Senate of Kazakhstan [Tengrinews, 2019]. On March 28, 2020, Gulshara Abdykalikova was appointed as Akim (governor) of the Kyzylorda region, becoming the first female to head a region in Kazakhstan [Kazinform, 2020]. Moreover, according to the Agency for Civil Service Affairs, 260 women hold positions in akimats (local administrations) – 253 of them as akims of villages and rural districts and seven women as deputy akims of regions and cities [Abilmazhitova, 2020]. In September 2019, the Alliance of Female Power of Kazakhstan was founded and officially started its activity. The alliance includes 20 non-governmental organizations that address issues related to rights of women and children, gender inequality and the creation of equal opportunities for women in politics, economy and public activities [Zakon, 2019]. Thus, in order to promote democracy equally for all citizen regardless of gender, the Kazakhstani government improves the situation of gender inequality by encouraging the creation of women supporting organizations and appointing women to high-ranking positions in politics.
Females have a dramatic impact on international politics and the political culture of society. They take an active part in solving many issues that arise in the life of society. Moreover, the range of issues is not limited to purely gender issues, but covers practically any area of modern civilization. Females make up half of Kazakhstan’s population and the problems, which females encounter, are of fundamental importance. In general, the policy of gender equality is a policy of justice, which takes into account the interests of both women and men equally and fairly. Women play a critical role in present-day society and participation of women in politics is no longer a matter of discussion. Females’ struggle for their rights over centuries have demonstrated that the empowerment of women is a high priority. Therefore, governments of many countries around the world promote gender equality and ensure access of women to political power. Many experts share the opinion that the 21st century is a time of women in politics and gender democracy.
Kazakhstan should not waste one of its precious human resources – skilled and educated women, who are ready to use their professional knowledge and abilities for the benefit of the country and society. At the same time, females are still underrepresented in senior positions in political hierarchy. Women’s participation in politics expands the democratic foundation of Kazakhstani society. Thus, society benefits from the use of female talents in solving complex problems and issues. It is also quite obvious that the wider presence of women in politics leads to the inclusion of new issues on the political agenda.
Abilmazhitova, Aigerim (2020). How Many Women Akims Are in Kazakhstan? Retrieved from https://tengrinews.kz/article/skolko-jenschin-akimov-v-kazahstane-1285/. Accessed on 14.04.2020.
Akorda (2012). The Strategy for Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Retrieved from https://www.akorda.kz/en/official_documents/strategies_and_programs. Accessed on 14.04.2020.
Forbes (2019). The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/power-women/list/#tab:overall. Accessed on 15.04.2020.
Inter-Parliamentary Union (2019). Women in National Parliaments. Retrieved from http://archive.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm. Accessed on 14.04.2020.
Kazinform (2019). Byrganym Aitimova Elected Deputy Chairman of the Council of Senators. Retrieved from https://www.inform.kz/ru/byrganym-aytimova-izbrana-zamestitelem-predsedatelya-soveta-senatorov_a3570940. Accessed on 15.04.2020.
Kazinform (2020). For the First Time a Woman was Appointed Akim of the Region of Kazakhstan. Retrieved from https://www.inform.kz/ru/vpervye-akimom-oblasti-v-kazahstane-naznachena-zhenschina_a3630400. Accessed on 14.04.2020.
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (2019). Madina Dzharbusynova. Retrieved from https://www.osce.org/ru/secretariat/340416?download=true. Accessed on 15.04.2020.
Tengrinews (2019). Dariga Nazarbayeva Elected as Speaker of the Senate. Retrieved from https://tengrinews.kz/kazakhstan_news/dariga-nazarbaeva-izbrana-spikerom-senata-378027/. Accessed on 14.04.2020.
Time (2019). Top Female Leaders Around the World. Retrieved from http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,2005455,00.html. Accessed on 15.04.2020.
UN (2019). Akmaral Arystanbekova. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/ru/taxonomy/term/1212. Accessed on 15.04.2020.
UN Women (2019). Women in Politics: 2019. Retrieved from https://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/2019/03/women-in-politics-2019-map. Accessed on 14.04.2020.
Zakon (2019). Stop Degradation – It Is Proposed to Increase the Role of Women in Kazakhstan. Retrieved from https://www.zakon.kz/4990422-ostanovit-degradatsiyu-v-kazahstane.html. Accessed on 16.04.2020.
Note: The views expressed in this blog are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the Institute’s editorial policy.
Dautova Ilana holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from KIMEP University (Almaty, Kazakhstan). She has also studied at the Foundation course at Lancaster University (Lancaster, United Kingdom) and on the exchange program at Ewha Womans University (Seoul, South Korea). Previously, she worked as a business development manager at the POSCO International Corporation.