Project Update #7: Presentation by Open Line
December 20, 2017
Part of the: World Bank & Sexual Violence Research Initiative Project: ‘Combatting Sexual Violence in Kyrgyzstan through Innovative Education and Information Technology (Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia)’
Dr Elena Kim, Dr Elena Molchanova, Aigerim Bakubatova, and Dr Frank G. Karioris
On December 12, 2017, it was our great pleasure to invite and have Munara Beknazarova, the Director & Project Manager at Open Line, come to our course ‘Gender, Ethics, and the Politics of Violence’. Open Line is an organization in Kyrgyzstan that works on issues of gender, violence, and media and social engagement.
Munara spoke about the importance not only of meeting with others on these topics, but spoke to the importance of the ways that we come to meet together. During her first time in New York she was amazed by the ways that international experts sat at the same table with local experts, encouraging and enacting the importance of collaboration
Open Line has been a specialist in media campaigns for more than a decade at this point. In 2013, Open Line’s campaign was presented at the Cannes Film Festival, and was also selected to be a part of the World Economic Forum. The campaign was related to issues around bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan and Central.
One of their first activities was in documenting the violation of women’s rights, beginning with bride kidnapping. More broadly, Open Line works on issues related to gender. They utilized the framework from the ‘Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women’ (CEDAW); which was the first document where the word ‘discrimination’ was addressed that Kyrgyzstan was a signatory to.
As her and the team began and started learning from their work, a particular question became clear: how are we to answer questions about discrimination and gender issues, when those in charge of the process themselves were not fully aware of these issues? It was this that prompted Open Line and Munara to work on these issues and to continue educating people on these matters.
In her presentation, Munara outlined the ways that they used CEDAW. She gave the example of Article 7 of this convention, which speaks to the importance of women having the ability to participate fully in the political running, organizing, and actions of the government. Even very recently, the law in Kyrgyzstan said that women could only be deputies, and not the Prime Minister themselves. Open Line has worked to lobby for change, and pushing the government forward in addressing these issues. In 2005, there were zero women in the Parliament. Learning from women in Africa, on the 6th of March the organization gave every male parliamentarian a card and a flower. Some of the parliamentarians said “I am not a women”, to which the organizers told them that “You were elected to represent the people. You represent women. We hope that you will represent the lives and rights of women.” Since this, they have lobbied to get 30% of parliament to be underrepresented gender. Following a proven measure, they have sought to put in place quotas to rectify the imbalance of representation. From Open Line’s perspective, CEDAW has been a positive component of the fight for women’s rights within Kyrgyzstan, giving NGOs a piece of leverage and a tool for pushing the government.
During her presentation, Munara presented a variety of cases and examples from the work that they have been doing. These stories were exceedingly sad, but provided us with important details regarding these issues and showcased the challenges that have been faced in trying to make changes in Kyrgyzstan.
You can find more information about Open Line’s national information campaign here and here. We would like to thank Munara for her amazing presentation and for sharing her wealth of knowledge with the entire group. It was truly a discussion to remember and which pushed us all forward.