Elections in Kyrgyzstan always give me a lot of food for thought. As I am looking through lists of candidates kindly put in the web by Kloop.kg. Every year I hope that the lists would surprise me but they don’t. It is mostly men of one ethnic group, they are either presidents or executive directors of different businesses. Some of the men who are running are unemployed [how can you run for a council post if you are unemployed?]. Some of them are advisors to Members of Parliament. The surprise of the day is that the most represented party at least in the list online is the Green party. The parties which name themselves ‘green’ are supposedly progressive. I wonder what their stand is on women’s and LGBT rights.
And all the women who are running are either teachers or school directors, doctors or assistants to MPs. Feel the difference. Only maybe one or two who are executive directors.
My personal favorites are candidates from Bishkek AIDS Center, Olympics Reserves coordinator and Ortosay Bazaar head of security. Just to give you an idea about who would like to make decisions on behalf of communities. Basically it is businesses who want to have more space for their businesses, only maybe less than a dozen of NGO representatives. I am happy to see a lot of young people and a handful of women (no, they are not following the quota system this time, every fourth candidate has to be a woman…). For example, in Asanbai disctrict there are 6 women out of 42 candidates.
Yesterday evening Euronews reported about the riots of Muslims who were protesting against women receiving the rights to inherit property equally to men in Bangladesh. It was the first time that I actually realized that globally women’s struggle for equal rights will take dozens if not hundreds of years. It was maybe a hundred of women marching, some of them had severe scars on their faces after men who proposed to them spilled acid on them. Men were throwing rocks and screaming. Rather a strange picture for a post-Soviet person, women against men walking on the streets.
I hope that Kyrgyzstan will never turn to Sharia law which is the justification that they use in Bangladesh.
Fresh news from the Parliament. Maternal leaves have been extended to three years and the male initiator of the bill also is hoping that if the husbands will earn a lot of money than the wives would be able to stay at home with the child for life.
From the point of view of child’s interest this is a nice gesture. From the woman’s point of view, it can turn into an employment issue. The employers are not generally happy about hiring young women because of the pregnancy risk. It is also unusual that the employers pay the women on maternity leaves as they are required by law. Therefore, it is unlikely that women’s situation is going to improve with the longer maternal leaves. The usual story is that the mother either stays at home until the family is able to afford taking their child to kindergarten or her extended family (usually a younger sister or distant female relative) takes care of the child while she is at work.
The statement of the MP Rahatbek Irsaliev who initiated the bill about staying at home ‘for life’ is particularly scary to hear because it implies that the Soviet idea of women being an important part of the work force is vanishing and the more traditional view is taking over.
This is the question in my mind today. I have two and a half university diplomas (the other half will be added when I finish my thesis), eight years of NGO experience, good language skills, research and journalism experience, publications, travel, living abroad . Yet I do not see purchasing a Jeep as ever something realistic unless I start a successful business in Kyrgyzstan.
This thought crossed my mind after a quarrel with my apartment owner over water and electricity bills which he promised to pay but then declined. He owns a Jeep and a car plus works for Kumtor which means that he has a high salary. He is about 35-40 years old. The apartment rent was 200 dollars per month which is reasonable these days for Bishkek (with an average income of 180-200$ per month). I pay about half of my income for renting an apartment. Labrys shelter is full of migrants coming from Naryn and Talas looking for safer places for LGBT. They cannot afford to rent an apartment for 200$, they cannot afford renting it for 50$. There are migrants in Bishkek who earn 100$ for 12-hour working days. The cheapest lunch costs about 1,5 dollars even if you cook yourself especially in meat-eating culture. Speaking about poverty.
So when will I be able to purchase a Jeep? An average woman in Bishkek earns about 100-200$ at a regular job. An average man earns more and usually has an ‘irregular’ [read: illegal] job. Men somehow manage to buy cars which cost 4000$ and up. Men manage to rent 200-400$ apartments. The more I live in Bishkek, the more I question the system of how society is organized. Apartment owners would not rent for anything less than 180$. Who rents these apartments?
Sometimes I think its cheaper to live in Europe. When I lived in Sweden, my friend and I rented one room apartment in suburbs for 400$ and this was considered to be expensive. You need at least 200$ to rent a one-room apartment in Bishkek. Isn’t this scary?
Where do migrants live? What’s waiting for an average migrant in the future? One option is to rent with four-five friends, then you only pay some 40-50$ and hardly have breathing space. This is a reality for many young women and men who came to Bishkek looking for better fortunes. Will the state ever consider people who live in horrible conditions and sometimes do not eat meat or butter or even a warm meal for weeks?
I earn more than an average woman in Bishkek but I am very worried about apartment rent prices in this city and I will not have a man with a Jeep to support me. I doubt that I will have a legal job that would help me invest in purchasing an apartment (at least 30000$) or a Jeep (sometimes costs the same).
Somehow today is a the men’s day because it’s only men who are supposed to be con
victedscripted. The celebration originates from Soviet times and the day commemorates the initiating of Soviet Army. Somehow it’s always been a holiday to value men for their protection and defense powers. Men get ‘manly’ stuff for the holiday – socks and handkerchiefs, lighters and beer, and cards saying that they are ‘real men’ or ‘defenders’ with swords, naked women and axes. Would be really strange to see a card with ‘real woman’ sign for International Women’s Day. Somehow we know what ‘real’ men have to do – be tough, strong, aggressive, protect and kill the enemy. Yet we still have to remind the men that they have to be ‘real’ and link celebration of their ‘masculine’ characteristics to war and protection.
Misogyny is a term used to define the strong hatred attitudes towards women that exist in most societies. Women are said to be guilty of everything you can think of and the root of the world’s problems. Misogyny is the source of subordination.
One friend shares a personal story:
“Just a couple days ago I was sitting in a computer lab of my school’s library and heard two friends discussing one’s essay. I know that the eavesdropping is impolite, but i couldn’t help myself, the essay was discussing girlfriend in heterosexual relationship and was a great piece representing cultural devaluation of women.
The essay was for the English composition class. A really good friend appreciated and admired the courage of the author who felt even more encouraged by reading out loud the “names” he called his girlfriend. It was supposed to reflect the ploblems of university students and he saw it in the girls as all the money and health should be spent on them. One does not have any cash left to have nutritious meals and has no time for school work.
Laboratory was not quiet place anymore, but full of laughing and proud talking on how women are worthless.
No one complained. No one felt that it was wrong or full of insults. Or those people are discouraged to do so… maybe because those societal norms would let them speak out. Whether it was the implicit gender perfoming by those two suffering from expectations to be “masculine” and misogynist.
One of them stood up to walk towards the girl sitting right across me. She met him with a smile as it was supposed to be this way while I was leaving the room with the big label stuck to my back – Fword- feminist, which is a major source of allergies in our society.”
”Мужчина, пеленающий младенца. Мужчина, играющий с ребенком. Мужчина, читающий сыну книгу. Мужчина, заплетающий девочке косы… Это не фантазии феминистки, а реальность…” (MSN)
В Бишкеке сейчас проходит выставка фотографий мужчин-отцов с детьми. Я как-то специально фотографировала отцов с детьми 31 августа на главной площади, их было немало. Наверное, все-таки это не “фантазии феминистки”. Существует мнение, что мужчины не могут ухаживать за детьми. Иногда говорят, что у них нет “материнского инстинкта”. Разве навыки по пеленанию, кормлению из бутылочки, готовке еды, стирке, чтению книг, разнообразным развивающим играм нам даются от рождения?
Today I found a news piece about men’s health in Kyrgyzstan with some interesting facts worth sharing. As gender is also about men and sometimes it is not clear that it is, I want to share some of my thoughts and available research about it.
The news piece covers a action on men’s health which is organized every year by Kyrgyz Republican Center of Urology. This year the action takes place in the south of Kyrgyzstan. The action basically encourages men to come to the hospital for free check-ups with a team of specialists working on men’s reproductive health issues. About 1500 men every year are recommended to receive treatment for their identified diseases during the action.
Men’s health has been the concern of the Ministry of Health and international organizations in the past years. Women Support Center conducted a research project on men’s attitudes to health care (available at their office or via email email@example.com). The main findings were that men in Kyrgyzstan generally disregard their health and consider turning to medical specialists for treatment as unmanly and weak. These attitudes result in poor health among men and leads to higher mortality rates and lower life expectancy. While women are expected to be future mothers and encourage to attend medical clinics or go for regular check-ups during pregnancies, men are rare clients in the doctors’ offices.
Kyrgyz Ministry of Health reports that suicides among men are three times more common than among women and 80% of people with HIV in Kyrgyzstan are men.
Rigid gender expectations about what is masculine (drinking alcohol, being too tough to see a doctor) seem to be affecting men in Kyrgyzstan at a large scale, yet the media and the parliament continue to perceive men as the ‘stronger sex’ which does not need gender equality. The issue is hardly talked about.