UNDP and UN Women launched Winter School for Afghan women students in Kyrgyzstan

January 24, 2023

Winter School for women from Afghanistan to empower them in pursuing their education in Kyrgyzstan

In Kyrgyzstan, the  five-day Winter School for young women from Afghanistan has been completed. Eighteen students from the University of Central Asia and the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programme focused on leadership skills and economic empowerment as part of the cross-border initiative funded by the European Union. The Winter School is organized in partnership with UN Women Kazakhstan. 

“It is a great honour for UN Women to be a part of this important project. As outlined by the UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous in her recent Statement on Afghanistan, without education pathways to participation and leadership of Afghan women and girls are constrained, leaving them vulnerable to discrimination and gender-based violence. We need more concrete steps and solutions to ensure their voices are heard, and we will continue to work with partners to support our Afghan sisters through education”, said Maria Dotsenko, UN Women Representative in Kazakhstan.

By 2027, 155 Afghan women will obtain higher, technical, and vocational education at various universities in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Study programmes include BA, MA, and TVET training in various fields including Agriculture, Finance/Statistics, Mining, Construction/Engineering, Marketing, and Computer Science as well as Media and Communications.

Twenty-five out of 155 students study at the University of Central Asia in the city of Bishkek city and at the Naryn Campus. 

“During these five days, students were immersed in vivid discussions and exchange of thoughts on concepts of human rights, gender equality, sustainable development, and peacebuilding. Practical sessions helped women improve their leadership, entrepreneurship and soft skills which could boost their chances for employment in the future,” said Louise Chamberlain, UNDP Resident Representative. 

Claudia de Castro Calderinha, an expert on leadership and gender equality, said: “When we educate women and give them the skills and tools to utilize their diverse talents, we help creating the conditions for societies to be more peaceful, more effective, economically resilient and capable of solving global problems.  The Winter School gathered very courageous, gifted, and intelligent young women from Afghanistan. If it depended on their skills and capacities, Afghanistan would not be as it is today! If their voice and energies could be heard - as they should be heard-, we would have peace and prosperity. In this programme, we are all planting small seeds of that positive transformation. Investing in women’s education means investing in a better world!

Basira, a participant of the Winter School, said she was very happy to get a scholarship from UNDP and to learn things she had never learned before. “At the Winter School I learned that no matter where you live and work from, we have limitations in our heads, and we can improve our lives and knowledge. 

“The University of Central Asia hosts these students from Afghanistan primarily to provide educational opportunities for Afghan women, who face disproportionate barriers to education and employment compared to their male counterparts back home. It echoes our values. UCA has all resources to prepare high-quality specialists,” said Asel Botalieva, Manager of Bishkek Learning Center of the School of Professional and Continuing Education of University of Central Asia.   

Initially, the pilot project was launched in 2019. In 2021 the European Union provided additional funding for the extension of the academic programme. 105 Afghan women from Afghanistan were awarded scholarships after a rigorous selection process.