UNDP’s Groundbreaking project Supporting Women’s Legal Education in Tajikistan
September 28, 2023
Two months ago, UNDP Tajikistan launched its new Supporting Women’s Legal Education project (SWLE) with trainings on key legal skills using international practices for law professors and female law students. Fully funded by UNDP, the SWLE project aims to address the gender gap in the justice sector in Tajikistan by promoting women’s empowerment through providing access to high quality legal education opportunities, and exposure to digital skills and international best practices for young women in the country. The ultimate goal of the project is to increase the number of women in the legal profession and boost their representation in leadership positions.
Tajikistan faces challenges in gender equality that also impact the justice sector and access to justice for vulnerable groups. The 2019-2020 UNDP Access to Justice study revealed that 50 percent of the population feels the formal justice system is inaccessible to them, while a quarter of the population lacks basic knowledge about how the justice system works. Women are among the most impacted by low awareness of rights; that same study revealed that only one in nine women knew that she had a right to a divorce. Women are under-represented in the justice sector, with only 20% of judges being female and less than 30% of practicing advocates being women. In some regions, girls face multiple challenges in the form of social and institutional barriers when accessing quality education. While law schools are seeing more and more female students enrolling, the percentage of women going on to practice law remains much lower than men.
The first activity in the Project developed the capacity of the four law faculties in the country to encourage the development of analytical and communication skills among their female law students. In the first week 16 professors from the country’s law faculties received training from visiting international professionals, and then the trained professors and visiting law professors led a five-day co-training session for 18 female law students from around the country. This provided a nurturing environment for the students to gain valuable skills and openly communicate about their experiences as young women in the country. Kibriyo Roziqova, fourth year student of Dangara State University, said, “I am so excited and grateful that I was able to take advantage of this opportunity for the first time, and hope to participate in the related training in the nearest future as they will definitely allow us to make a positive impact in our community.”
The program concluded with a mentoring event hosted by visiting American Law professor Danya Reda where young women shared with the professor their career ambitions, and candidly discussed gender stereotypes that prevent Tajik women from pursuing legal careers after law school. The audience, which included family members of the training participants and deans and law faculty, was pleasantly surprised by the how confidently young women from areas far away from Dushanbe spoke in public following the training.
The activity also shed light on the barriers to gender equality in Tajikistan. During the training, the participants described that the main barriers preventing them from participating in similar initiatives to boost their career prospects were lack of trust, safety concerns, and cultural norms. The digital communications gap was also revealed as several did not have access to the Internet or even mobile phones.
The second activity under the Project was a digital skills training for female law students at the Dangara State University when the academic year started in September. This event contributed to narrowing the digital gender gap by equipping 45 female university students in Dangara with essential digital knowledge and skills empowering them to be competitive candidates in the justice sector job market. The majority of the female law students were attending this type of training for the first time, and they had no idea how to use basic IT equipment apart from smartphones.
Recognizing that with access to digital technology comes concerns for contemporary challenges in the online space, the two-day training also included a separate session on how to handle with misinformation and cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is reportedly a serious issue in Tajikistan and women and other vulnerable communities are the main victims of cyberbullying and misinformation.
Next steps for the SWLE project include the upcoming National Youth Forum on October 5, 2023, in Dushanbe on “Engaging Youth for Promoting Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies (SDG 16)”. The event will provide a platform for dialogue with youth on issues of human rights and rule of law, allow for an exchange of ideas for actionable solutions to the challenges they face. The forum will also provide an opportunity to support the national dialogue on the advancement of rule of law in Tajikistan and action on the new National Human Rights Strategy for 2023-2038.
The SWLE project will work with law faculties to promote the long-term sustainability of its impact. The core group of professors and female law students who participated in the previous activities will be engaged for the upcoming events and for the rest of the year to develop sustainable initiatives aimed at reducing the gender gap. This Project is a significant step towards creating a new generation of empowered young people who will help shape a brighter future for the country.
Stay tuned for more news!
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