Equal participation of women in green decisions is the key to the successful development of the country's economy

March 6, 2024

Why should the green economy become inclusive?

According to international experts, if current trends continue, by 2050 the global use of natural resources per capita will increase by 70 percent. Awareness of this fact has forced, at the global level, to initiate the creation of a comprehensive system of interconnected economic, social, and environmental obligations reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The issues of fair access to natural resources, distribution of benefits, and minimization of risks arising from climate change for various social groups were at the forefront.

It is obvious that the poor in many countries are more dependent on environmental conditions; their households are less able to adapt to climate change due to limited financial and social resources. The widening wealth gap is exacerbated by gender inequality. By 2025, climate change is projected to trap an additional 158 million women and girls into poverty worldwide and an additional 236 million women into hunger. The climate crisis is fueling escalating conflicts and forced migration.

In these conditions, the concept of an inclusive green economy has emerged, which not only can create new opportunities for sustainable economic growth but also can ensure the implementation of the principle of “Leaving no one behind” with special attention towards women and girls.

In recent years, the Kyrgyz Republic has been making efforts to transition to a greener economy. But why does it have to be gender-oriented?

Women of Kyrgyzstan: what do the numbers say?

Poverty exacerbates gender inequality. Over the past decades, the overall poverty level of the population of the Kyrgyz Republic has gradually decreased (from 49.9 percent, that is, half of the population, in 2003, to 20.1 percent in 2019). However, since 2020, including as a result of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic (every second household in the country reported a decrease in income, with 61 percent in cities and 43.4 percent in rural areas), the share of the poor population has increased. By the end of 2022, the poverty rate rose sharply to 33.2 percent.

First, this is due to a decrease in the share of women in the labor market: the participation rate of men in the labor force in 2022 was 75 percent, and women - only 46 percent. Among the economically inactive population, the share of women is 69 percent.

One reason for inactivity is unemployment, which is higher among women than among men and forces people to look for work in other countries. A feature of migration processes in Kyrgyzstan, in contrast to other Central Asian countries, is that in the age and gender structure of migrants, there are no significant differences in the ratio of men and women, that is, women leave to earn money on an equal basis with men, and at the age of 55 years and older the number of women even noticeably prevails.

Of the total number of those leading the households, 97 percent are women. Women spend much more time on unpaid housework, while men, both urban and rural, spend only about one hour a day on housework; for urban women - about four hours, for rural women - about five hours. Climate change is affecting water availability and quality in the Kyrgyz Republic due to the rapid melting of glaciers. As a result, water shortages will become more severe and droughts will become more frequent, especially in the south of the country. As a result, women bear even more of the reproductive and physical burden of unpaid domestic labor and caring for children and elderly family members.

Reduced harvests could lead to the spread of hunger in regions where livelihood options are limited. This is even though today about 50% of pregnant women in the country suffer from anemia, which increases the risk of maternal and neonatal mortality.

The loss of guaranteed income for men which occur due to persistent gender stereotypes, can lead to a loss of self-esteem and increased violence on their part towards women and children. In 2022, about 10 thousand people applied to crisis centers and other specialized institutions that provide socio-psychological assistance to the population in cases of domestic violence, 92 percent of them are women. However, it should be noted that the conversion rate is very low.

The lack of constructive mechanisms for fair access to natural and social resources can lead to an increase in the number of social conflicts. This is especially important in the conditions of border areas in the Fergana Valley, where about 15 million people live on a piece of land of approximately 22 thousand square km (650 people per sq. km). At the same time, women, who traditionally prefer non-forceful methods of resolving conflicts and regulating relationships, show great initiative in conflict prevention and restoration activities, but rarely have access to decision-making, especially in law enforcement agencies.

Thus, in the Kyrgyz Republic, as in most countries of the world, women take on disproportionately greater unpaid care responsibilities and have fewer economic resources and access to decision-making than men.


What is being done to transition to an inclusive green economy?

In recent years, Kyrgyzstan has made efforts to transition to an “inclusive green economy,” which means creating a resource-efficient and environmentally friendly model of economic growth. At the country level, the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) has been adopted, and national adaptation plans are being developed. Currently, the process of developing the second Green Economy Development Program in the Kyrgyz Republic for 2024-2028 is being completed.

“The drivers of the development of the green economy are private business and the financial sector, while the role of the state is to create favorable conditions and establish clear rules of the game. At the same time, the concept of a “green” economy is quite complex; understanding it requires quite extensive knowledge, since it is a systemic concept that combines issues related to climate change and sustainable development. In these conditions, only high-quality and competitive education can become a long-term tool and strategy for the population to escape poverty.” - Ermek Ashirov, Head of Strategic Planning Department, Ministry of Economy and Commerce of the Kyrgyz Republic

Therefore, in Kyrgyzstan, projects associated with UNDP are working to offer an open and transparent process of informing policy development, as well as training to build local capacity, prioritizing investments in the development of rural women's business initiatives that not only contribute to the conservation of biodiversity, but also serve as an example of successful activities within the framework of the “green” economy, where attention to natural resources is combined with an entrepreneurial approach.

In the Kyrgyz Republic, one of the priorities of the “green” economy is to raise awareness of the need for energy conservation, since with a population of just over 7 million people, the Kyrgyz Republic is one of the 15 most energy-intensive countries in the world. Due to the climate, the energy consumption of the Kyrgyz economy is ten times higher than the world average. At the same time, 61 percent of all fuel and energy resources consumed are in the residential sector, of which more than 80 percent are for heating buildings.

Banur Abdieva, the owner of the guest house "Apricot"

UNDP / Kyrgyzstan

Banur Abdieva, a civil activist and entrepreneur from Issyk-Kul province, installed thermal insulation for her house (in summer the building serves as a guest house) with penoplex foam under the Kyrgyzstan Sustainable Energy Financing Program - KyrSEFF, taking out a loan from a bank. As a result, she saves 45 percent of previous financial expenses spent for heating and electricity. There were savings on a bank loan with a return of $2,500, and on paying for the heating system in winter and air conditioning in the summer.

The priority areas of the Green Economy Program include the conservation of biodiversity, reduction of harm from the impact of transport, energy, industry, agriculture, and the development of sustainable eco-friendly tourism. Including increasing energy efficiency among community-based tourism entities, reducing emissions, and developing green tourism.

Jyrgal Omurakunova, a founder of the “Jyrgal” yurt camp located in the upper reaches of the Kurumduk River in the Naryn province, has been developing a tourism business for the last 7 years in the harsh conditions of the highlands. As part of the UNDP project, she and her daughter took part in a series of training courses on marketing, management and tourism hospitality, business planning, sales and financial management that helped them to increase sales volume by 3.3 times. Registration on the online platform booking.com allowed them to enter direct sales to foreign clients. From year to year, the yurt camp is becoming more and more popular, the number of travelers is increasing, which in turn creates opportunities for business expansion and the creation of new jobs.

Women's knowledge and potential are critical to mitigating climate change and developing adaptation measures, as women have different skills than men in the sustainable use of natural resources.

Takhmina Babeva, entrepreneur.

UNDP / Kyrgyzstan

Takhmina Babaeva started her entrepreneurial activities in 2017 by producing 3 tons of dried prunes per year, which reached 8 tons in 2021. Before working with the UNDP Aid for Trade project, Takhmina’s workshop and drying equipment did not meet food safety requirements, and products were exported through intermediaries who dictated pricing policies. As part of the project, she was provided with consulting and grant support. She re-launched her workshop now with a capacity of 0.5 tons per day and which complies with HACCP food safety standards. She has applied green technologies by purchasing drying cabinet with a heat pump and solar battery. For the first time, she has managed to enter a direct export contract with a buyer from Uzbekistan for $47,500.

The approach in which “green” technologies will help improve the living conditions of not only rural women, but also representatives of other vulnerable groups of the population is based on leadership, innovative solutions, the formation, and dissemination of new role models.

Novikova Lyudmila, a herbalist and an entrepreneur.

UNDP / Kyrgyzstan

Novikova Lyudmila, a herbalist with extensive experience and expertise in herbs, and her daughter Elena produce high-quality fruit and berry tea under the domestic brand “Bouquets of Issyk-Kul”. Their technology does not include the use of any artificial flavors, dyes, and GMOs. The production uses local fruits and berries, mainly from the Issyk-Kul region: currants, raspberries, sea buckthorn, apples, pears, rose hips, etc., which are dried using low-temperature vacuum drying technology, which allows to preserve all vitamins, microelements, taste, and aroma when brewing. The enterprise has implemented and certified the HACCP food safety system. To supplement the line of tea products with an eco-friendly dessert (fruit and berry marmalade), within the framework of the UNDP Aid for Trade project, Elena was provided with assistance in terms of marmalade production technology and equipment to produce new products.

Is it important for women to participate at all levels in the transition to a green economy?

As examples of initiatives of rural women from Kyrgyzstan show, combining the “green” agenda with the desire to give women access to decent work, free from discrimination, efforts to digitalize all spheres of life in the country, can be the key to the successful development of the country’s economy.

Therefore, decision-makers must recognize the experience and knowledge that women have, particularly young women and women from rural communities, and they must be fully considered. And this is not just a matter of women's participation in decision-making processes.

Given that green technologies are often expensive, government should take primary responsibility for promoting gender-sensitive climate policies, as well as ensuring fair access to resources and opportunities and women's economic empowerment. A positive fact is the willingness to introduce a gender dimension into the Green Economy Development Program in the Kyrgyz Republic for 2024-2028, which is currently being developed.

In particular, the project involves the development of a new state program to subsidize interest rates on loans issued for business development; the funds received are used to reduce energy and resource consumption by introducing “green” technologies. Additionally, regional development funds will strengthen funding for initiatives and start-ups in order to create new jobs in the country's regions, requiring at least 50 percent support for women's initiatives.

What needs to be done today?

The government needs to support the efforts of women who strive to escape poverty and improve their living conditions, which will simultaneously improve the lives of children and other family members who depend on her. It is necessary to support children, and in particular girls, in their desire to receive better education through green solutions - and this is the responsibility of all decision-makers.

The current legislation in Kyrgyzstan provides for ensuring gender equality, but it is not always implemented and applied in practice. The state does not have an effective mechanism for monitoring the implementation of laws and changes in practices. In this regard, gender equality issues should always be on the agenda. Responses should consider non-economic losses and damages, such as rising levels of gender-based violence and unpaid care work.

Given women's limited access to financial resources and their lack of inclusion in decision-making processes, policies need to be followed to improve women's access to green solutions. It is necessary to introduce a criterion for increasing the participation of women and persons with disabilities at all platforms where climate policy and the “green” agenda are discussed. Leaders and policymakers must ensure that all programs consider the needs and rights of women and girls.