Gender theory has originated from social sciences more than thirty years ago and, by now, spread all over the world. One of its fundamental provisions is differentiation in applying such terms as sex and gender. In social sciences, the term sex refers to the biologic-anatomic structure of a human being. At the same time, the term gender is used to specify differences between male and female social roles and their emotional characteristics that society prescribes to people according to their sexual distinctions. A hierarchical structure that considers a male as the dominating factor and a female as the subordinated factor underlies gender differentiations. As a result, both men and women are “victims” of the traditional system of social norms and stereotypes. It is necessary to remind that gender relations may be quite different in various cultures; and as our survey has revealed, relations between women and men in countries under consideration are drastically different. It follows from this that gender is the cultural, social, and historical concept, and at the same time, gender relations are changeable in time. This is not a rigid framework into which willy-nilly we have to squeeze ourselves in, obeying its rules; however, this is the system, which needs to be altered if it has become out-of-date and does not meet demands of the times. Gender theory and methodology provide to scientists new analytical tools for investigating society and enables them to discover social and cultural mechanisms that form gender disparity in traditional society.
However, the fundamental values necessary for development of countries and their residents independently of gender differentiation encompass the following concepts:
Freedom. Men and women have the right to prosperous life and parenting of children without fearing famine, violence, oppression, and inequity. The democracies, based on people’s will, ensure these rights in the best way.
Equality. No human being in the country has to be deprived of the opportunity to use advantages of democratic development. Men and women should be provided by equal rights and opportunities.
Tolerance. Given all the many religions, cultures, and languages, people have to respect each other. One should not fear or suppress differences between people; vice versa, it is necessary to keep them for future generations.
Respect to nature. Prudence should be displayed in all aspects including the attitude towards natural resources (water and land). Only in this manner, we can preserve and hand over immense wealth granted by nature to our descendants. Out-of-date and inefficient production and uses should be eliminated in the interests of our descendants.
Responsibility. Responsibility for managing economic and social development in countries.
The executors from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Uzbekistan took part in monitoring gender equality aspects in countries of Central Asia and Caucasus. The executors were empowered to select specific regions within their countries, which would ensure the representativeness of all types of household management (in private farms, agricultural cooperatives (shirkats), family (dekhkan) farms etc.)1. The gender survey was conducted in the form of filling in a questionnaire by interviewers according to answers of owners and members of rural households. Data of questionnaires were entered into the database and then analyzed. As a result, the reports that reflected the existing situation with respect to gender relations were drawn up for each country.
The population in these seven countries, to a greater or lesser extent, is aware of real women’s problems rather than the gender theory. Men’s views on this problem differ from those of women. In other words, the question how “an oriental man” treats gender problems and whether he is ready to be at the one social level together with a woman remains traditionally topical. Traditionally, many explain the difference in social status of men and women and disparity in their rights by biological reasons. However, the analysis of historical, ethnographic, and cultural facts reveals that major causes of antithesis of women and men are social ones, i.e. norms of behavior established (designed) by society. Therefore, these social and cultural norms are in the focus of our studies. We attempted to review whether society deals with men and women in different ways, and why they have unequal opportunities for self-realization in public and personal spheres despite the fact that the equality is legally recognized in all legal documents adopted by the states. However, religion principles, centuries-old traditions, and way of life in countries under consideration primarily presume the gender disparity with respect to the female population in these countries. Only Georgia is the exclusion of the general rule where the attitude toward women always differed from generally accepted norms in the oriental countries. This problem is reviewed in detail in follow-up chapters of this report.
Mentioned problems are aggravated by economic hardships that limit the financial stability of men and women, and, in addition, restrict access of women to control of their own livelihood. However, there are not doubts that poverty affects men and women in different ways both in the context of living in poverty and in context of other key problems related to living in poverty. The quality, composition, and quantity of foodstuff consumption as well as access to good education and qualitative medical services may be indicators that reflect the poverty rate. People who legally have the different rights without economic support do not have any opportunity to use them. The high unemployment in countries under consideration has baneful consequences for women. Women make up about two-thirds of the total number of unemployed in these countries; and women who are working are basically engaged in unpaid or low-paying occupations. Underemployment remains the critical and real indicator of poverty in the country. Women are the especially vulnerable group since they are engaged in low-paying and temporary works. Gender challenges in the field of labor and employment also can depend on the current legislation on women’s social security, which very often limits wish of entrepreneurs to hire women. Conditions of employed women are also problematic since they are engaged in the economic sectors with traditionally low wages – public health and education. Even greater problems exist in the agricultural and informal sectors where women’s labor is not practically protected by the state in the form of social guarantees, and therefore there is high likelihood for violation of human rights and for wrongful exploitation of women’s labor.
Gender disparity in the field of employment takes place at all hierarchical levels. Existing gender disparity restrict access of men and women to specific economic sectors and their professional promotion.
The problem of employment of women in the rural areas is extremely critical. The likelihood to find a proper job is very low; usually this is low-paid, low-skill, and seasonal work.
Rural women are mainly engaged in producing agricultural output for provision of their own families and for sale. Therefore, they are concerned by problems of marketing for their agricultural output, of its hauling, and prices. Banks unwillingly grant credits on the security of property preferring to deal with entrepreneurs that already have profitable farms, and these are usually men.
Rural women have less time for marketing activity, less access to agricultural knowledge, and less professional skill in order to establish own business. Reforms of the rural sector, privatization of agricultural enterprises, and establishing private farms are implemented without due participation of women because of their low representation in local governments and the lack of funds and skill for rural entrepreneurial activity. Taking into account these aspects, we would like to recommend developing the programs of target financing and training addressed to women-farmers, or to women who want to become entrepreneurs.
The curriculum on gender issues is valuable for students and teachers of humanitarian colleges and secondary schools because it covers both discussion and analysis of problems, which affect each of us: a person and his relations with the world, freedom and its limitations, differences between people and the need for observing equal rights (despite differences), marriage, the family, relations between spouses and children, traditional and democratic values, and many other things. In other words, gender curriculum should be aimed at: (i) development of social responsibility of each person; (ii) forming of the system of humanitarian values and sense of equity; and (iii) protection of human rights. The idea of equal secondary education for girls and boys is supported by less than 40 percent of women; at the same time, 60 percent of women speak in support of different curriculums depending on gender. Most male and female respondents consider that such subjects as mathematics, physics, technical and legal knowledge, and physical culture are more important for boys, at the same time, such subjects as housekeeping, history, literature, ethics, psychology of the family life, and sexual education are more important for girls.
The efficient and viable policy on poverty reduction and improving the living standard of the rural population should take into consideration the experience of gender relations in the country.
Based on traditional stereotypes with respect to roles of women and men, the adults themselves who suffer from gender disparity unknowingly bring up their children in the same spirit. A school often follows this way. It is necessary to stop this process and to propose to people the new democratic outlook. Therefore, the need in changing of consciousness of men and women is extremely topical today. None respondents pointed gender equity as the social value. However, any social changes are starting with shift in consciousness.
After collapse of the Soviet Union, in a number of countries in Central Asia, new forms of agricultural entities were established. For example, in Uzbekistan an agricultural cooperative (shirkat) is an independent operating subject with the rights of a legal entity. It is a voluntary association of individuals that produce agricultural commodities and functions on a share basis and a family (collective) contract. A dekhkan farm is a small, marketable family farm where the family members personally work on their garden land plot, which is allocated to the head of the family for life-long hereditary tenure.
The analysis of collected data has shown that certain discrimination of rural women that becomes apparent, principally, in economic dependence from their husbands and other members of the family takes place practically in all countries of Central Asia. As has been abovementioned, only 7.6 percent of women in countries of Transcaucasia and 3.2 percent of women in countries of Central Asia possess the right to manage the family budget independently, however, most women cannot spend money earned by women themselves at their own discretion. A negligible amount of women has received access to land resources for establishing a farm as a proprietress. Discrimination of women shows in increase of unrequited labor on garden plots; in addition, the low level of utilities services negatively affects women by increasing their physical inputs. Mass involvement of women in agricultural works in farms of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan is seasonal, and at the same time they carry out the most labor-intensive and low-paid works.
We revealed that a share of women having higher and special secondary education amounts to 28.3 percent in countries of Transcaucasia and 14.8 percent of women in countries of Central Asia. However, most women are engaged in low-paid budget sectors, and therefore, according to data of the survey, the gender gap in input to the family budget makes up 37 percent in countries of Transcaucasia, and 55 percent in CAR. Neglecting personal interests owing to fear to loss the opportunity for working and earning money, women agree to be engaged in low-status and low-skill occupations without possibilities to improve their professional skill.
There are certain obstacles for developing business undertakings among women. An overwhelming number of women-entrepreneurs operate in the field of small retail trade without access to infrastructure and the systems of crediting and transport-cargo services. Therefore, they have to sell small lots (of goods), in general, (this is quite a labor-intensive occupation taking into account remoteness of markets) to satisfy only the momentary needs of their families. Both men and women treat to developing the female business positively, although men are more cautious in their assessments. Respondents mentioned the following causes that impede active involvement of women to private business (in descending order):
Dynamic revival of such traditions as earlier marriage and isolated life, and decline in prestige of education has resulted in decreasing a share of female students in higher education institutions and colleges. In turn, this has resulted in low representation of rural women at the market of high-skill labor in the regions. It is necessary to note that basic concerns for children and aged people lay on women’s shoulders, and, in turn, strengthen workload on women and do not enable them to use existing opportunities for self-realization and self-perfection.
The general conclusion from this study is that problems of rural women such as access to water, land, financial, and material resources and to education and culture is topical; and it may be considered that most of rural women are restricted in realizing their opportunities. Findings of our gender survey testify that revising the social policy in respect to rural women should be done. It is necessary to initiate a transition towards practical implementation of tasks aimed at decreasing the level of gender discrepancy.
This gender survey has shown that redistribution of gender roles in the family take place in the rural areas. Men are losing the status of “bread-winners”; at the same time, search for job forces many rural inhabitants to leave their households for other regions. All these factors considerably affect the social stability and result in imbalance within households and families. The status of rural women is aggravated by greater workload resulted from non-paid housekeeping labor and traditional possession of many children.
A few major factors that strengthen the rural women’s vulnerability were specified, and among them the following:
The gender survey enabled us to make a conclusion that discrimination of rural women in access to water resources and water management negatively affect the general social status of women. To improve this situation it is necessary to implement the complex of measures, including the following actions:
It is necessary to promote forming the budget plans and seeking additional off-budget financial resources for social aid to rural residents. Rural women should be considered as a specific target group. At the same time, it is necessary to take into account diversity of social groups living in specific regions and conditions of their life, and closer to cooperate with activists of non-governmental organizations created in the regions, whose activity addressed to gender problems.
It is needed to establish the Gender Study Centers, the purpose of which will be promotion of public awareness with respect to gender problems, dissemination of knowledge produced by social and humanitarian sciences regarding gender aspects, developing the gender curriculum for educational institutions, as well as implementing the gender research programs and pilot projects