Women’s Economic Empowerment in South Caucasus

Picture credits: UNDP Azerbaijan

Project Summary

Despite some significant milestones, progress towards gender equality in Azerbaijan faces a number of challenges. Many of these challenges (such as sectoral and occupational gender segregation, the disproportionate distribution of unpaid domestic work and gender-based discrimination in the workplace) are similar to those featured in the global trends in gender equality . According to the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Index, Azerbaijan scores highly in reducing the gender gap in educational attainment and health but exhibits gender gap in empowerment (the extent of women's participation in decision-making) and smaller gap in economic participation and opportunities.

A series of UNDP-led assessments and studies carried out between 2011-2018 revealed that gender specific obstacles to greater women participation and inclusion stem from a range of factors, including:

  • restrictive socio-cultural practices and gender based discrimination (marginalization of women and girls in the family and community based decision making, domestic violence and coercive control, gender stereotyping, rigid gender based distribution of family duties and responsibilities, early marriage and school dropouts);
  • weak links between local women entrepreneurs and financial institutions and absence of gender sensitive financial service's targeting women entrepreneurs;
  • lack of networking and capacity building opportunities available for women and girls;
  • gender-neutral corporate policies in the private sector.

The project will aim to bring a transformational change by scaling-up the Womens' Resources Centres (WRCs) network as main hubs to share information and knowledge with women on public services and educational and income-generating opportunities offered by state; private and development partners; and  sensitising private sector to gender needs. While employing the WRC model, which has proven to be a sustainable and effective mechanism in UNDP's previous work at the grass-roots level for women's empowerment in Azerbaijan's regions, the project's strategy also includes testing of innovative approaches, such as improving women's access to markets, via digital technologies. Through this approach, women, particularly the poor and socially excluded, will be provided with skills, economic opportunities and relevant information to be self-employed and/or to join the formal labour sector; corporate policies will become more gender-responsive, and, as a result, gender inequalities in the labour field will be reduced. Additionally, an environment conducive for the realisation of women's economic potential will be created to combat some key structural barriers for women's economic empowerment in Azerbaijan. This project is part of a larger UN WOMEN-implemented and SDC-funded programme “Women’s Economic Empowerment in the South Caucasus”, representing an additional phase of the UNDP gender programme.

Project Objectives

The overarching goal of the project is to ensure that women, particularly the poor and socially-excluded women, are economically empowered and participate in the decision-making. The project specifically aims to support poor and socially-excluded women in increasing the level of their economic activity through capacity development and network building and sensitise the private sector to gender needs and interests of women by promoting Global Compact’s Women Empowerment Principles.

Expected Outcomes

1. Women, particularly poor and socially excluded, will obtain skills and opportunities to be (self-) employed in Azerbaijan
  • Introductory meetings will be organised and trust-building measures with communities, women and local authorities will be carried out in Gusar, Baku-Khazar and a third region of Azerbaijan.
  • Three new Women's Resources' Centers (WRC) will be established in Gusar, Baku-Khazar and a third region to share information and knowledge with women on public services, educational and income-generating opportunities offered by the state, private and development partners.
  • Capacities of rural women, such as vocational trainings, financial literacy, business management and etc., will be built to start or develop existing businesses. 
  • Start-ups and establishments of women-owned small businesses, as well as the expansion of existing businesses will be supported.
  • Women's access to markets via digital technologies will be improved. 
  • An awareness-raising campaign will be initiated to increase women's economic activity rates through engagement in formal labour in Azerbaijan.
  • The basic professional skills, such as CV writing, presentation skills, effective communication, IT literacy, job searching of the poor and socially excluded women, i.e. the WRC constituencies - will be developed to improve their employability.
2. Selected private enterprises will be empowered to serve as opinion leaders in terms of Women's Economic Empowerment Principles (WEPs).
  • Technical support to companies will be provided to adopt the UN Women/Global Compact WEPs - Equality Means Business (WEPs) with a focus on implementing gender-responsive corporate policies and practices.

Project Accomplishments

  • Project awareness raising and informative sessions were held for 8 Heads of Municipalities in the Khazar region, and 10 municipality heads and their representatives in the Gusar region. Information on the project activities, its mission and implementation plans, as well as shared best practices from the other regions were provided during the meeting. The role of the municipalities have been stressed and future collaboration have been discussed. During the period of November – December, an assessment of needs and concerns of rural women has been conducted via FGDs in 8 municipalities of Khazar region, with participation of over 150 women; and in 7 municipalities of Gusar region, with participation of 100 women. The report was prepared by January 2019 and was used for development of Action Plans of the WRC’s.
  • 2 new Women’s Resources’ Centers (WRC) were established in the Gusar and Baku-Khazar regions to share information and knowledge with women on public services, educational and income-generating opportunities offered by the state, private and development partners
  • On the 29 October, the introductory meeting of the Women’s Economic Empowerment in the South Caucasus has been held in the Khazar region and on the 5 Novembe in the Gusar region, with the participation of SCFWCA’s, UNDP and Executive Committee of the region. Ms. Gahramanova (Deputy Head of the SCFWCA’s), Mr. Fracassetti (UNDP Resident Representative, a.i.), Ms. Leyla Fathi (Programme Analyst) and Ms. Gulara Humbatova (Project Manager) have participated in the meetings, providing information on the goal of the visit, as well as project objectives and its mission, its activities in different regions and expectations for an effective partnership. The project team have been introduced and the plans and approach towards project implementation have been discussed in depth throughout of the meeting. The meeting was followed with the visit to the Youth Center in Shuvalan, Khazar region. 
  • The rooms for the WRC has been selected and agreed. Currently, WRC’s has been fully equipped and started their project-oriented activities and the WRCC for Khazar region has been recruited.
  • On 4 December, the project launch took place in Baku.
  • On 4-5 December, representatives of UNW, SDC, UNDP and local authorities visited the WRCs in Khazar and Sabirabad.
  • On December 10, the Project Teams and 5 private sector representatives have participated at the project launch in Georgia.