UNDP in Kazakhstan and Nazarbayev University join efforts to promote gender equality in academic settings through alliance

April 11, 2023
Photo: Nazarbayev University Press Office

The memorandum of understanding signed between the United Nations Development Programme in Kazakhstan (UNDP) and Nazarbayev University (NU) aims to create an alliance of universities to promote gender equality and women's empowerment. The alliance will bring together faculty members, researchers, and students to share best practices, conduct research, and promote gender equality.

Although more than half of the scientific community in Kazakhstan is represented by women, the high dropout rate for PhD studies and low representation of women among top managers demonstrate systemic dysfunction. By using a gender lens in higher education management and identifying the root causes of such disparities in a timely manner, universities can benefit from the untapped potential of a previously invisible cohort of women.

Photo: Nazarbayev University Press Office

The recent skill-building marathon for Kazakhstani women scientists, organized by UNDP brought together about 40 participants from different universities. The event aimed at strengthening the soft skills of women scientists to advance their careers and promote their research. Participants later stressed the need to establish regular platforms where women scientists can network, get feedback on their research ideas, and discuss their career paths and ways to advance them.

UNDP in Kazakhstan works to empower women at all levels, enabling them to play effective roles in their industries, including in male-dominated sectors such as energy, oil and gas, ICT, etc. Collaboration with academia in this area is critical and fortifies efforts to address pervasive inequalities across the country.

Photo: Nazarbayev University Press Office
"Universities are the place where future leaders, innovators and influencers are educated. By promoting gender equality at the educational institutions, we set the tone for the rest of society, which ultimately has a positive impact on the economy,"
said UNDP Resident Representative Katarzyna Wawiernia.

The alliance aims to leverage the collective resources and expertise of interested higher education institutions in Kazakhstan to jointly develop a long-term roadmap for embedding gender equality principles into strategies and policies.

"Nazarbayev University has been spearheading educational reform over the past 13 years. We believe that now is the time to broaden our understanding of the structural dimensions that underlie gender inequality. We need to think about what gender equality means in the context of Kazakhstan taking into account the society’s sentiments towards gender issues. It has to be a gradual process,”
said NU President Shigeo Katsu.

The collaboration between Nazarbayev University and UNDP began back in 2020, when the first joint meeting on gender equality and harassment prevention was held. As a result of this collaboration, students, faculty, and administrative staff discussed the action plan to create equal opportunities and a safe working environment.

UNDP has been supporting public institutions and private organizations worldwide in their gender mainstreaming efforts since 2019 through the Gender Seal programme. Gender mainstreaming is woven into all dimensions of UNDP's work, e.g., project activities, communications, recruitment, operations, etc. Such a holistic approach to addressing the intersecting issues of gender inequality has proven to be the best way to achieve tangible results.

UNDP and NU have agreed to develop an action plan and create a regular platform open to all interested universities to showcase the best approaches to gender mainstreaming in the academic environment.