Workshop “Gender aspects in water resources management in Turkmenistan”

7 May 2008, Ashkhabad, Turkmenistan

Gender mainstreaming in Turkmenistan’s laws: gender equality and balance
Lidiya Kerimi, Democracy and Human Rights Institute

Gender equality was studied by various international and national agencies in Turkmenistan. The more comprehensive study was conducted within the framework of joint project by UNDP Turkmenistan and the National Democracy and Human Rights Institute affiliated with the President of Turkmenistan.

Woman occupies a fitting place in many spheres of national activity: public authority, local authorities, community, economics, science, literature, and arts. Women play leading roles in health-care and education.

On 25 November 1997, Mejlis (Parliament) of Turkmenistan adopted new laws about elections to the superior public authority - People’s Council (Khalk Maslakhaty) and to local authorities - Gengeshi. In December 1998 and April 1999, the Mejlis amended the Law about election of Parliament delegates by new provisions that extended democratic principles of the electoral system, according to internationally-accepted regulations. Another important step was the adoption of laws about the Central Election and Referendum Commission of Turkmenistan and about securities of people’s suffrage.

The new election law completely corresponds to international documents on elections, including the involvement of women in this process.

There are no any formal quotas for election of women in Turkmenistan. Since the beginning of election process, women take an active part in it. The fact of women’s involvement in politics is proved by the following: Mejlis delegate women - 26% (quite high number according to world’s standards); representatives of khalk vekilleri – 7%; gengeshi – 14%. Many women occupy leadership positions, including ministers, representatives in UN, etc.

Once again I would like to emphasize that Turkmenistan has well-developed legal framework of gender equality, and currently there is a task to establish an economic basis to ensure gender equality as provided for in the National Constitution and guaranteed by the President of Turkmenistan. The success of this endeavor largely depends on women, who represent people’s interests in the national Parliament.

Challenges and prospects of IWRM in Turkmenistan
Usman Saparov, Member of GWP CACENA, Deputy Director of Institute “Turkmensuvylymtaslama”

Water resources in Turkmenistan (50% flow probability)

River, gauging station

Flow, Mm3


Amudarya, Kerki


ÄAccording to interstate agreement, for Turkmenistan

Murgap, Tagtabazar


Tejen, Pulikhatun


Atrek, Chat


Small rivers




Return water


Report data, 2002

Some features of Turkmenistan’s water resources:

  • 82% of water resources flow from transboundary basins
  • Forecasted groundwater reserve is about 3.0 billion m3/year
  • Major aquifers are located in undeveloped and poor populated areas
  • Return flow contains remains of mineral fertilizers, pesticides and other pollutants and, at present, is not suitable for domestic and industrial water supply
  • Return flow can be used for irrigation of salt-tolerant crops in light soils and in flooded desert pastures.

Development of water-consuming production sectors in associated with:

  • Higher water use efficiency
  • Improved water management
  • Wider use of return water and unconventional sources

The administrative-territorial system of water management is characterized by the following:

  • it does not provide effective management and equal water supply along a hydrographic network
  • the established water delivery schedules are sometimes broken at tail parts in low-water years
  • local water management communities has not been established yet at on-farm level
  • water management at the on-farm level is undertaken by staff of etrap organization on the basis of contracts concluded with farmers
  • it is associated with uncoordinated management actions within the boundaries of single water basin
  • such centralized management of allocation, control and accounting of irrigation water against the background of numerous water users, poor and lack of water meters makes management difficult and reduces water use efficiency
  • water productivity and discharge are estimated as a whole for each etrap and daikhan associations and by average values.
  • poor capacities of water management organizations and lack of a system of measures to guarantee stable, reliable and uniform water supply

The existing water legislation makes provision for:

  • first-priority meeting of drinking and domestic needs of population
  • embargo on usage of potable groundwater for needs other than drinking and household water-supply
  • procedure and forms for involvement of communities and citizens in actions aimed at rational water use and protection
  • set of measures to conserve river water availability and keep river unpolluted

The main reasons for the implementation of IWRM are as follows:

  • Current lack of coordination in water use and protection among different economic sectors
  • Fragmentation of management by differed interlinked types of water resources (surface, ground, return)
  • Gap and lack of coordination between water-management chains and levels
  • Lack of mutual interests among water management agencies and water users in higher water productivity
  • Poor public participation at all hierarchical levels

In order to raise public awareness:

  • A booklet on Integrated Water Resources Management was published in national language
  • An information package of the conference “Implementation of Integrated Water Resources Management in Achieving the UN’s Millennium Development Goals” was published as well.

Women’s role in water management and use in Turkmenistan
Roza Berkeliyeva, Institute «Turkmensuvylymtaslama»

The development of equality between man and woman, the creation of favorable conditions for personal development, the achievement of equal treatment of girls, women, the enhancement of their status in family and the society, as a whole, and the wider involvement in decision-making processes take difference paces in different countries but are irreversible. Gender issues have been addressed already in the Central Asian countries as well. However in agriculture, where traditions and prejudices become more apparent than in any other area, such problems have not yet been disclosed adequately. Meanwhile, there exists a direct link between the agro-socio-economic indicators and poverty in CAR countries and the status of women. (Stulina G.V. “Gender, water, and poverty”, Almaty, 2004).

According to official returns, the share of women in administration and management is 17% in Turkmenistan. The percentage of women involved as permanent or seasonal workers, mainly, in common labor and hard physical activity is substantial. At present, there are no women referring to category “professional”. (Share of farmer-women is minor and refers to category “other” in statistical reports).

The analysis of gender balance survey in water and land resources management and use, as conducted using FAO methodology, in representative farms of two velayats (provinces) shower that situation in Turkmenistan is closely approximated to that in other region’s countries:

  • Women in agriculture form the basis of food production and family nutrition, as well as of family’s income
  • Women are extremely concerned with health, education, and employment.
  • In low-income families, woman contributes a lot of her time (up to 70%) to reproductive area (child delivery and upbringing, child and household care, etc.).
  • Women’s labor is neglected and low-paid in many cases.

These data show that to unlock the potential of women, the latter should be empowered so that they could be involved in decision-making at national level as engineering specialists.

However, as study of gender structure of technical institutes’ students shows, male students dominate there: for example, a share of female students in hydrological and land reclamation department of the Turkmenistan State Agricultural University is about 3%. This is quite low so that one could speak about change of this situation in the near 10 years. Besides, the quality of professional training of water and agricultural specialists is very low now as a result of transition to single-language teaching in training centers. Present generation in the higher education institutes has very low interest in learning Russian, which is the only change to get access to technical information. Many decision-makers at the national level start to understand this gap. Some of key specialists at the Agrarian University have already stated publication training materials in Turkmen. In this context, publication of a book “Integrated Water Resources Management” (U.Saparov, O.Djumadurdiev, 2005) within the framework of GWP CACENA was very timely. This book, in Turkmen language, states basic principles and conditions for implementation of IWRM, gives short history of water management in Turkmenistan, describes creation of favorable conditions for the implementation of national IWRM programs and preliminary measures for IWRM in Turkmenistan.

Women could be involved in soil and water resources management at farm level only after they became familiarized with the key positions of IWRM conception and their future benefits. Therefore, the development and implementation of a program that could be aimed at both raising public awareness about water management as a whole and would provide for information and training workshops for rural people would also promote movement in this direction. This can be implemented, perhaps, by establishing field schools or a special information/training center1 under umbrella of the Ministry for Water Resources or under a project with community organization. 1 Such center could coordinate training of waterers and water professionals at various levels, monitor experiments initiated under difference projects and disseminate information about best practices (both international and national).

Capacities of Turkmenistan’s community-based organizations in gender mainstreaming
Zalina Rossoshanskaya, Community-based organization BOSFOR

Ratification (in 1999) by Turkmenistan of the Aarhus Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental measures enables women to participate in decision-making in environmental measures and in formation of environmental policy.

The Constitution of Turkmenistan and all nature conservation laws guarantee access of women to environmental information. The national state standard “Environmental impact assessment of planned economic or other activities in Turkmenistan (EIA)” includes special article for public participation in EIA and access to environmental information on EIA that complies with the requirements of the Aarhus Convention.

The transition period in Eastern Europe and CIS countries gave them a unique opportunity to create a basis for sustainable development while avoiding mistakes made by western countries in nature conservation and natural resources management. Community-based organizations (CBO) (including women’s ones) may be very important in this context. By using information, which can be extracted from similar foreign organizations, as well as experience of the latter, local CBOs can contribute to sustainable use of all environment’s components, based on national features. CBOs may mobilize women and recall them to a sense of their responsibilities for environmental situation, including water management, thus, contributing substantially to social structure enhancement.

Within the framework of Turkmenistan’s National Action Plan for Environmental Conservation, a range of measures have been undertaken with active involvement of women and various non-governmental organizations. As a result, the country’s public was provided with information about national and local issues and relevant measures and actions undertaken to solve them.

The efforts of Turkmenistan’s environmental CBOs - Turkmen Society for Nature Conservation (TSNC), Turkmenistan’s Union of Hunter and Fisher Communities, Turkmen Geographical Society, community-based organizations “Ecofund”, “Ecoforest”, women’s organizations and others - are aimed at disseminating environmental information and searching ways for raising performance efficiency, developing and implementing specific measures for nature conservation. The leading organization is TSNC, which became a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature for its activity in nature protection and environmental information dissemination. This organization represents mainly opinions of women and children in the country. Based on those opinions, a lot of scientific papers were published on ecology and nature conservation, including the Red Book of Turkmenistan (1st and 2nd editions).

Many ecological initiative groups without a status of non-governmental organization operation in all the regions of Turkmenistan, mainly at national reserves, institutes of higher education and secondary schools. Women and children take an active part in those groups. The groups contribute substantially to solving of environmental issues typical for the country.

To support ecological community-based and women’s organizations, the National Program for Environment Conservation makes provision for a system of small grants to be allocated to public non-profit organizations for implementation of projects aimed at achieving concrete results in environmental conservation and promoting public ecological movement .

In 1999-2001, small grants were awarded to 28 projects submitted by different community-based ecological organizations.

The community-based organizations in Turkmenistan have already gained substantial experience from project implementation with donor support. Besides, thanks to previous sponsored programs, they developed considerable material and technical capacities for new projects in order to meet present needs of the society.


Participants of the workshop have agreed that

  • At present, gender mainstreaming in developing, implementing, and analyzing projects is still led by donor agencies mainly.
  • While medium and higher level professionals have general idea about gender mainly through their participation in international workshops, the lower level and the general public are far from understanding of the role of gender approaches as a whole and, in particular, in water management.
  • Despite awareness on gender approaches, few specialists (including decision-makers) share opinion on their importance.
  • Lack of general access to Internet services and professional/technical literature on gender issues reduces opportunities for gender mainstreaming.

In order to overcome this situation, the following needs to be done:

  • Establishing a technical resource center/Center of technical information/ for water professionals and the public. The Center would imply a research library (both in paper and in e-form), a network of 10 PCs with access to Internet, a multimedia projector, and screen. Such center could be established either under umbrella of the Turkmenistan’s Ministry for Water Resources or on the basis of existing resource centers (The Bosfor organization expressed their will to provide available resources as equipment for such center) provided that donors’ support would be available for office renting, communication/Internet services, and salaries of Center’s manager/librarian.
  • providing free access for Turkmenistan’s research community to scientific-technical information both in paper and in e-form;
  • enabling environment for exchange of opinions on tendencies of research and advanced methods/approaches development;
  • creating conditions for e-learning and training of scientific and technical staff from state institutes and departments, including in gender issues
  • raising public awareness (mainly youth).
  • reviving cooperation with leading research institutes, international and donor organizations.

Center’s prospects:

Depending on size and mechanism of financing and/or co-financing and on Center’s status, the following work could be undertaken additionally by the Center:

  • Organization of courses for training in gender issues, in partnership with invited/international leading specialists.
  • Thematic lectures for the public in partnership with international lecturers.
  • Preparation and implementation of exchange programs.