Gender survey in Turkmenistan

Study areas

Two provinces, six districts, and nine farms were selected for this gender survey:

  • Farm Geokcha, Rukhbad District, Akhal Province
  • Farm Gunesh, Sakarchaga District, Mary Province
  • Farm Chashdyn, Murgab District, Mary Province
  • Farm Vatan, Vekilbazar District, Mary Province
  • Farm Nurana, Turkmengacha District, Mary Province
  • Farms Mekan, Taze Daykhan, Ak Altyn and Atabaev, Garagum District, Mary Province

The Akhal Province with the administrative center Ashgabad City consists of nine districts, two cities, and fifteen settlements. The Mary Province with the administrative center Mary City consists of eleven districts, five cities, and fifteen settlements.

The Garagum Canal that is the greatest hydraulic structure over the world (the total length of 1,380 km) plays an important role to meet the water needs. The man-made river that was constructed for irrigation purposes delivers water practically to all industrial centers of the country including Ashgabad and Mary. The greatest changes in development of productive forces in Turkmenistan were related to reformative “activity” of this man-made river, which united rivers Amu Darya, Murgab, and Tedjen into the one water system.

It should be mentioned that water resources of the Garagum Canal are ecologically clean because drainage water formed over the catchment area does not dispose into the Amu Darya River.

Households and their owners

One hundred households with 645 residents were surveyed. Figure 1 shows the ratio of men and women who head households.

Fig. 1

General characteristics of households and their sizes

The basic part of irrigated land is used by dekhkans’ (peasants’) associations, which apply the advanced forms of lease relations. The main agricultural activity in these farms is based on signing a leasing contract. During years after gaining independence, considerable changes in the land use pattern took place. The class of landowners and agricultural entrepreneurs are in the process of forming.

The most successful farmers can receive a land plot as private property under the condition of providing high harvests during a few successive years. According to official statistics, about 249,000 hectares were transferred to citizens of Turkmenistan as property in land free of charge. Such an approach facilitates maximum mobilization of resources of individual farmers who would like to acquire property in land. As a rule, the most successful farmers achieve high harvests in contrast to farmers with “average potential.” However, there are also “careless” farmers who cannot provide even “average harvests.” These facts confirm that welfare of each individual family can be different.

The gender survey was carried out in households whose inhabitants are farmers (tenants). Each family has its garden plot where they cultivate food crops and raise livestock. Figures 2 presents data (average data per one family in the district under consideration) on areas occupied by houses, garden plots, and fields. Figure 2 shows that, on average, a size of a yard including a house with adjoining sheds, cow-houses and other premises is 0.11 ha. This area is sufficient to raise ample quantity of cattle. An average area under a garden plot of one family amounts to 0.13 ha. The garden plots are used to cultivate vegetables both for domestic consumption and for market, and all members of the family cultivate their garden plot. Both women and men are engaged in fattening of cattle.

Fig. 2

Fundamental changes took place in Turkmenistan during recent years. The consumer market is increasingly filled up by various kinds of national high-quality and ecological clean foodstuffs. By this time, the population is completely supplied by dairy products, flour and other foodstuff made in Turkmenistan. At present, there are two types of agricultural production: public and private. In 2001, 76 percent of output was produced in the private sector. According to data of the Committee for Statistics of Turkmenistan, 98 percent of potato, 72 percent of vegetables, 78 percent of fruit, 90 percent of meat, 95 percent of milk, 93 percent of eggs, and 83 percent of wool are produced in the private sector.

The special attention is focused on agriculture since this is the most important sector of Turkmenistan’s economy. During recent ten years, production relations have radically changed; the same can be referred to forms of ownership and developing private business. The Government promotes developing the agricultural sector in the form of granting preferential credits, exemption from taxes, 50-percent payment for material and technical services rendered to producers of cotton and wheat who fulfill their activity on the contract basis with the State.

One hundred percent of families have fields where they cultivate cotton, wheat, and other crops (potato, vegetables etc.). Fields’ sizes are different and vary from one to five hectares. As a rule, the family rents cropland. Sometimes, a few families associate into cooperatives. Figure 3 shows that, on average, one family has about 3 hectares of cropland. The area under cotton occupies the basic portion of peasants’ land. Vegetables and fruits grown on garden plots are quite diverse (Table 1). 89 percent of rural residents cultivate tomato on their garden plots, 69 percent – potato, and 37 percent – grape and other fruit and vegetables. With respect to poultry and livestock, the most families (87%) are engaged in raising hens; 69 percent of families are fattening cows (the second rank); and 68 percent of families are breeding sheep (Table 2).

Fig. 3

Composition of a rural family

As a rule, the Turkmen rural family is numerous. An average size of the family amounts to six people (17 percent of families consist of 3 to 4 people, and 52 percent of families include from 7 to 14 people; remaining 31 percent consist of 4 to 5 people). Usually, the family consists of two spouses and children, whose number varies from one to seven. Sometimes, aged parents live together with them as well as the families of adult children. Table 3 shows a composition indicator of the average rural family (Column 2) and a percentage of its members (Column 3), if the total number of members living in a household is taken as 100 percent.

Birth rate

One of typical features of the modern demographic situation in Turkmenistan is the stable trend of decreasing the birth rate. The analysis of the quantitative composition of each rural family shows that after 1991 the birth rate curve drastically descends (Figure 4), and the birth rate decreased two and more times in comparing with the demographic situation in the beginning of the 1990s. It should be noted that prior to the beginning of the 1990s, fertility was rising, but latter the demographic situation has abruptly changed towards decreasing. Turkmenistan is not an exclusion from the trends prevalent over the entire post-Soviet territory related to decline in the birth rate after disintegration of the Soviet Union. Decline in the birth rate is typical for both rural and urban areas. Infant mortality along with the birth rate is the important component of reproduction of population. In the future, increase in the average life interval is mainly related to reducing infant mortality during first and second year of life. Just in these ages, there are reserves for decreasing the mortality rate, which can be realized in full.

Fig. 4

The style of life and local traditions formed in the country during many years determine the rather large amount of children in the family. In spite of changes in the living conditions of Turkmen rural inhabitants, the deep-rooted opinion regarding an amount of children exists until now. Most respondents consider that an ordinary rural family should have, on average, 4 to 5 children (the opinion of 22.9 percent of men and 34 percent of women) or 5 to 6 children (the opinion presented by 21.8 percent of men and 19 percent of women) (Figure 5).

Fig. 5

This diagram shows that opinions of men and women regarding an amount of children are different a little. However, since an average age of surveyed men and women is 42 years it is possible to say that we deal with well-organized families with the sufficient number of children. Therefore, owing to their age, most men (71.2%) and women (73%) gave the negative answer to the question: «Do you want to have any more children?» (Figure 6), and only 27 percent of women are ready to give birth again.

Fig. 6

Marriage age (nubility)

An important indicator of women’s status is the marriage age, since it is closely related to their reproductive ability. Both mothers and children undergo the high risk of death if a mother is too young (younger than 20 years) or relatively old (35 years and older). Figure 7 shows that 43 percent of women get married at the age under 20, and 34 percent of women at the age of 20 to 22. As a result, there are problems of early marriage, short intervals between childbirths (less than 2 years), and numerous childbirths (5 and more times). At the same time, men create their families mainly at the age of 20 to 25 (37.9 and 22.9 percent accordingly). In this age, men are ready, physically and morally, to create their family and to have children. By the time of marriage, they acquire a profession and are able to endow their families. However, there are a rather high percentage (28.7%) of early marriages of men.

Fig. 7

Economic aspects

Forming the rural family’s budget

According to selected data, main sources of households’ income (Figure 8) are the following:

  • personal garden plots;
  • labor at a permanent place of employment or temporary work for a wage, by one or all capable members of a family;
  • state funds allocated to specific social groups of the population in the form of pensions, benefits, grants etc.; and
  • secondary employment

Fig. 8

Other sources of income do not play an essential role in the family budget. Main sources of income of rural residents in surveyed villages in Turkmenistan are the following: income generated on personal garden plots (42.3%) and wage works (36.5%). In this case, income generated on personal garden plots implies money resulting from sale of vegetables and fruit grown on as well as resulting from raising livestock and poultry in their households. With respect to income at a permanent place of employment, this is the income, which rural residents have owing to activity on the rented cropland and fattening livestock. The favorable conditions for developing cattle breeding are established in Turkmenistan. Exemption of taxes for keeping of livestock and poultry and transfer of most livestock to the long-term leasing promoted stable and efficient development of this important sector of economy. Most rural women work in textile industry, one of rapidly developing sectors of national economy, or in kindergartens, hospitals, and schools.

Input of pensioners, and members of the family receiving state benefits into the family budget, on average, amounts to 14.9 percent. It should be noted that this income is exclusively based on payments to retired and disabled people in the form of state pensions and benefits. Income related to secondary employment amounts to 6.3 percent. However, it should be mentioned that only 4 percent of men and 0.4 percent of women have secondary employment.

Input of women into the family’s budget (Fig. 9) approaches to that of men, in spite of the fact that usually in oriental countries the extent of women participation in activity in the public sector is lower than in other countries. This is related to national distinctive features and orientation of Asian women toward their families and children. However, input of women into the family’s budget in Turkmenistan is higher than, for example, in Russia, Uzbekistan or Kazakhstan. Nevertheless, women are more engaged in housekeeping, and this workload is very heavy but is difficultly measured in money terms.

Fig. 9

The greatest share of women’s income (18.4%) is generated on the personal garden plots (Figure 10); their labor in full-time jobs generates only 4.7 percent of income.

Fig. 10

Expenses of rural families

Earned income in rural families (Fig. 11) is mainly distributed between the needs of the family itself and the production costs. The production costs include expenses for developing garden plots, purchase of seeds, household implements, and young cattle for fattening, as well as expenses for soil treatment and crop growing. Figure 12 shows that the production costs amount to 25.3 percent of income.

Fig. 11

In their turn, funds allocated for the needs of the family are used for financing a number of items necessary for supporting the family’s life (Figure 12) that consist of the following:

  • foodstuff;
  • non-food items;
  • household needs;
  • medicines and medical services;
  • public utilities services;
  • education; and
  • other expenses.

Fig. 12

Income per capita can be used as an indicator of the standard of living. It amounts to US$ 108.4 per month in Turkmenistan. Only 0.1 percent of respondents gave a positive answer to the question: «Does current family income satisfy you?».

As was mentioned with respect to other countries, expenses for foodstuff are a very important indication of family’s welfare. If these expenses exceed 20 percent of income then the income cannot be considered as sufficient. In our case, expenses for foodstuff, on average, make up 43.2 percent of income. However, it is necessary to note that the difference in expenses for food within the republic is considerable (from 15% to 95%) The proportion of families whose expenditures for food do not exceed 15 to 20 percent is negligible, only 8 percent of all surveyed families. Expenses for education and medical services (1.2% and 4.1% correspondingly) are also extremely small. Taking into consideration our attention to gender aspects, expenses of men and women for their own personal needs (for example, expenses for hygienic materials etc.) are of interest. Men and women cannot satisfy their personal needs in full; these figures are rather small in Turkmenistan and amount to US$ 12.2 for men and US$ 12.3 for women on average (Fig. 13).

Fig. 13

Foodstuff consumption

The amount of foodstuff consumed is quite different not only between families but also between regions. Regional differences are caused by the location of residence and national, religious, and other traditions.

A specific diet (quantity and quality of different foodstuff) of each family depends on the financial status of the family, tastes, and the level of health of its members, as well as the age structure. However, there are so-called medical rates of food consumption, and their infringement results in abnormalities in development and vital functions of a human being. One should not associate these medical rates with a basket of goods, which directly depends on the economic status of the region as a whole. These medical rates can be considered as the standard for balanced nutrition. A specific amount and combination of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins provide calories to a human being’s organism, ensuring his mental and physical abilities.

The following situation was revealed in the process of analyzing foodstuff consumption in an average rural family in Turkmenistan (Fig. 14).

Fig. 14

Nutrition in an average rural family in the surveyed districts of Turkmenistan is rather peculiar. Kazakhs are always considered as cattle-breeders, and therefore meat consumption is approaching to the nutrition norms in their diet (actual consumption makes up 2.2 kg/month against 2.3 kg/month according to the norms), but consumption of other food containing proteins, such as dairy products, eggs etc. is considerably less than rates. Carbohydrates are mainly consumed in the form of bread and bakery items, and consumption of sugar and vegetables is less than biological rates. Consumption of fruits is at an acceptable level. Such nutrition cannot be considered as a completely balanced diet.

Gender status in a family

As has been shown in this survey, opinions of men and women on woman’s status are different. 70.1 percent of men and 52 percent of women define the role of women as “subordinated persons”, and only 28.7 percent of men and 33 percent of women consider the position of a woman as equal to a man (Figure 15). 15 percent of women consider that they play the leading role; however, in this case, single women are, as a rule, heads of families. An indicator of actual equality in rights of women within families can be the right to manage the family’s budget according to her discretion i.e. to have access to financial resources, and to make decisions. A woman can possess this right if she has economic independence from her husband or other members of her family. As mentioned above, the income of women is approaching to the income of men. However, only 2.2 percent of male respondents and 13 percent of female respondents consider that women have the right to manage the family budget, 57.4 percent of men and 23 percent of women consider that only men can do it. 22.9 percent of men and 50 percent of women think that all decisions regarding expenses should be jointly made (Figure 16).

Fig. 15

Fig. 16

The right to participate in decision-making regarding purchase is the important indicator of the status of women in a family. In this case, purchasing of goods and services (regardless their costs) for family’s needs is kept in mind. According data of this survey (Figure 17), the overwhelming majority of men (60.9%) answered that that they singly make decision concerning different purchases, 22.9 percent of men consider that women should ask advice of their husbands before making any purchase, and 16 percent of men consider that that women can make a purchase only after receiving the permission of their husbands. In these cases, self-dependence of women is not permissible.

Fig. 17

Labor and employment

Employment of rural men and women

Findings of the gender survey show that in a rural family, both spouses are actual and necessary “bread-winners.” It allows speaking about the almost equal responsibilities of men and women for welfare of their families. The analysis performed enables us to draw a conclusion that women are working in the public sector, in farms, and on personal garden plots, and, at the same time, they are busy in all housekeeping work and duties such as cooking, laundering, cleaning, and care for children and aged people. However, in spite of the time deficit, women actively participate in public production. A woman, who is engaged in managing her personal garden plot under conditions of lack of specific machinery and sufficient funding and in housekeeping, which cannot be evaluated in money terms, apparently has the income in cash equivalent practically equal to that of a man. Thus, one can say that rural women are engaged both in producing agricultural output and in housekeeping. As a rule, if women are working in the public sector, they work at low-paying jobs.

Time budget

We asked respondents to describe their daily routine in order to have more detailed information on the division of labor between men and women in the rural area regarding both income-generating activity and housekeeping. Annex 6 shows data averaged through the week.

The key matter of the gender problem is rural employment (both men and women). As has been mentioned, the main sources of rural families’ income in surveyed districts of Turkmenistan are incomes generated from farming on the rented land plots and on their personal garden plot. As it proved, the income of women is approaching to the income of men. However, if we take into consideration that a woman carries out actually all housekeeping works and duties including cooking, laundering, cleaning, and bringing up children, it become obvious that she is engaged considerably more than a man. In comparing with a man, a woman spends her time for housekeeping more than 6 times (Fig. 18). In Table 4, we tried to show the time proportion in the workload on men and women. Data of this table make it clear that men spend more time for a wage work (4.6 times); women spend more time for works on their personal garden plot (1.1 times). Men are busy with visiting a market, watching TV, and fulfilling devotions more than women.

Fig. 18

Women spend for cooking, laundering, washing, and nursing, on average, more than 9 hours a week in contrast to men, who practically do not do these activities.

Based on above, it is possible to draw a conclusion that in the overwhelming majority of families, a woman carries out housekeeping duties. She makes her input in the form of manual labor for maintaining some comfort and cleanness in her house and cooking in spite of her work in the public sector and on her own personal garden plot. It is the fact that women practically do not have time for valuable leisure and entertainment. Regardless of anything, 99 percent of Turkmen women gave a positive answer to a question concerning their wish to manage their households (Fig. 19). This confirms that potentially women are ready to manage their households, and women consider that they can do it no worse than men.

Fig. 19

Education and cultural aspects

This survey has shown that the level of education of rural inhabitants is relatively low (Fig. 20). Most of all men (83.9%) and women (77%) that live in the region under consideration have secondary education, i.e. they left secondary school but did not have opportunities to continue their training in special secondary or higher education institutions. As has been mentioned, the average age of respondents equals to 42 years i.e. their young years have contemporized with the period of fundamental transformations in the country and receiving good education was problematic.
Fig. 20

The present-day phase of developing the national system of education is related to the new policy of the President of Turkmenistan in the field of education. According to the adopted law “On Education,” the following principles of developing the national system of education were specified to be the basis for the transition period and outlook:

  • Accessibility of all forms and types of educational services provided by the State for each citizen;
  • Equal rights of each citizen to actualize his capabilities and talent in full;
  • Educational services in the public educational institutions should be free of charge;
  • Intimate links with national history, culture, and traditions;
  • The secular education in the state educational institutions;
  • Integration with science and production;
  • Co-ordination with educational systems of other countries; and
  • Flexibility of the educational system.

Each citizen of Turkmenistan can receive free of charge education within the framework of the state standard. At the same time, the first and second levels of education (secondary school) are mandatory for all. The high share of the state expenses (on average, ninety percent) provides accessibility of all forms and types of educational services. At present, equal access of all citizens independently of gender, nationality, and social origin to educational institutions is ensured in Turkmenistan. Although most of institutions of higher education are situated in Ashgabad, the open enrolment is implemented according to quotas that take into account the needs of regions (provinces) and based on interviews carried out locally. There are some direct and indirect limitations, as all over the world, related to the potential of educational institutions and ever-growing demand for a number of professions, also there is the age requirement.

However, during recent years, in spite of potential opportunities, decrease in the amount and share of women who are studying in institutions of higher education and special secondary education takes place and can results in lowering their educational level. Shifts in professional orientation of women are observed.

The share of women who are studying in institutions of higher education, which train specialists for such economic sectors as industry, construction, transport, communication, agriculture, public health, physical culture, and sport has increased. At the same time, the share of women who are studying in institutions of higher education, which train specialists for such economic sectors as economy, jurisprudence, education, arts and cinematography has decreased. In other words, the professional background of women has natural-scientific and technical tendency, and according to the international practice, this has to facilitate increasing their salary.

Leisure and entertainment of rural inhabitants is rather monotonous (Figure 21). Due to the lack of functioning cultural institutions (cultural centers, clubs, cinema theatres etc.) most respondents have quite limited possibilities for valuable leisure. As entertainment, almost one hundred percent of inhabitants prefer watching TV and meetings with friends.

Fig. 21

All these tendencies take place on the background of renascence of Turkmen people’s traditions. At present, developing arts in Turkmenistan is also on the rise owing to the policy conducted by the Government of the country. However, to a greater or lesser extent, this refers to urban inhabitants. In villages, as before, their residents have the very limited opportunities for leisure and entertainment.

Medical care

Reforms of public health in Turkmenistan envisage, on the one hand, reservation of guaranteed free of charge medical aid in the state institutions, and on the other hand, reorganization of the existing medical network, reform of medical education, social security of public health’s employees, introduction of insurance medicine and paid medical services, as well as developing private medical services and production of medicines. Thus, the state specifies and ensures the minimum necessary for all citizens, and proposes a set of reasonably paid medical services that are completely adjusted with provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights regarding “vital human needs.” As needed, the ensured minimum may be supplemented with other social measures. Implementing the National Program “Health” approved by the President should result in considerable changes in the public health sector and promote measures for improving population’s health in the country. However, rural inhabitants are not covered by these reforms in full. They do not have the specialized medical aid posts in their residential area and, therefore, they have to go to a polyclinic or a hospital in the regional administrative center to receive qualified medical services. Data of the gender survey shows that only 8.5 percent of women and 14.9 percent of men are satisfied by existing medical services (Fig. 22). 54 percent of women and 48.2 percent of men found difficulty in answering given questions. Such results confirm that medical care in Turkmenistan is unsatisfactory yet.

Fig. 22

Priority goals and personal features necessary for achieving success

Female respondents were asked to answer the following question: what goals do they have in their life? What does each woman aspire to in order to make sense of her life, to gain satisfaction, and to feel needed by her family and other people? Data of the gender survey shows that family’s happiness and welfare are the leading goal for rural women, and active participation in the social life is the secondary aspect of their life (Fig. 23).

Fig. 23

Women specified intellect, diligence, to be well-bred, honesty, adherence to principle, and education as chief personal features necessary for achieving success. They consider such features as strength of character, perseverance, selflessness i.e. those features that promote to be an active member of society as secondary features (Fig 24).

Fig. 24

Water use

The water management organization renders one hundred percent of services on domestic-potable water supply to the population, institutions, and organizations of districts where irrigation water is a main source of water supply (Fig. 25). Not all rural residents in study regions faced water use problems equally. The level of water supply is directly related to the seasonality, for example, there are irregularities of water supply in the spring-summer period. As a whole, it is possible to assert that water supply is not always equal and regular (Fig 26).

Fig. 25

Fig. 26

One hundred percent of respondents consider that there are both seasonal and hourly limitations in water supply. At the same time, although one hundred percent of respondents answered that there are both seasonal and hourly limitations in water supply, one hundred percent of respondents consider that potable water and water for irrigation are quite accessible in the summer period (Fig. 27).

Fig. 27

According to 98 percent of respondents, there are not water conflicts among inhabitants in the summer period (Fig. 28). Most respondents (80%) consider that it is necessary to put the water-saving technologies into practice both in domestic water use and in irrigation.

Fig. 28

By the example of water allocation, it is possible to show that women have quite limited access to the decision-making process (Fig. 29). They can distribute water in their own household (98%) but not at the farm level. Since they completely manage housekeeping, water use in households is the priority of women. It may be mentioned that women have possibilities to distribute water at the farm level only in 9 percent of cases.

Fig. 29

Paid water use was introduced in the republic, but respondents do not point a size of payment. Therefore, fee in money terms âåëè÷èíà is not shown.

Household water use

According to data of the gender survey, 47 percent of rural households have a water-tap in their yards (Figure 30). The overwhelming majority of respondents who do not have a water post in their yards take potable water from wells. Figure 31 shows that teenagers are mainly busy with domestic water supply (49%). Men (31%) and women (35%) also participate in domestic water supply. Families that do not have a water-tap in their yards spend for water supply from 15 minutes to one hour every day.

Fig. 30

Fig. 31

Options for water storage are approximately the same. Everyday, water is filled and stored in big metal flasks or in other adequate tanks.A very important aspect is sanitary conditions for water supply, and water quality and safety, which residents do not adequately realize. Water that they use and the way of its delivery to households are not always secure for their health. Most rural residents consider that it is enough to boil water, and it will meet all water safety standards. Figure 32 shows that practically nobody has any information on water quality consumed.

Fig. 32

Land use

Because rural residents are tenant farmers in a practical manner, they have quite certain ideas about priority rights regarding land ownership.

From 86 to 91 percent of respondents consider that only a man:

  • allocates land plots for vegetable gardens;
  • has access to agricultural machinery;
  • has access to a market;
  • has the priority in receiving credits;
  • posses land and water rights;
  • makes decisions in regard with a crop pattern in a farm; and
  • has real access to a ready sale

A scanty percentage of respondents (25.7%) considers that women may make decisions concerning a crop pattern only in their households.