Empowering women is powerful:

In Azerbaijan, advanced women drive rural and urban development

Jun 6, 2018

Infographic by UNDP Azerbaijan

Baku, 6 June 2018 –  The past decade has seen a steady and upward growth in Azerbaijan, as both the economic, financial and social wellbeing of the country has significantly improved, extreme poverty was eradicated and the level of absolute poverty decreased from 49% to 5%. Moreover, school enrolment rates reached 99.8-100% and progress was made on gender equality and women’s empowerment. Gender gaps in primary and secondary education have dropped considerably in comparison with previous years. During this time, employment opportunities have also seen a significant rise, as numerous new business openings were introduced both in the capital Baku and in the regions.

However, despite all the progressive developments, the unemployment rate among women in Azerbaijan continues to be remarkably higher than among men. Oftentimes faced with segregation in a number of industries and occupations, women tend to be primarily employed in low-wage sectors traditionally regarded as ‘female’ jobs, such as in education, health and social services. Disparities are also observed in the level of men’s and women’s participation in entrepreneurial activity, with women comprising only 26.38 % of the country’s total number of entrepreneurs.

Tapping into this unmet demand, in 2016 the European Union and UNDP launched a joint project on ‘Enabling civil society to play a greater role in advancing gender equality and women rights’. Bringing the total of EUR 444,000 into this new partnership, the EU and UNDP teamed up with the State Committee on Family, Women and Children Affairs (SCFWCA) and Women’s Association for Rational Development. This joint action aimed to boost the role of civil society in advancing women’s rights and to promote participatory involvement of women in civic activism. Collectively, we enhanced local capacities of women and organisations in urban and rural parts of the country and advanced the economic liberalisation and gender equality agenda. Emphasising a human rights-based approach, thousands of women and girls have expanded their horizons with hands-on training and learning experiences. Women who never imagined themselves in business before are now financially independent and successfully lead businesses of their own.

Marking the closure of the two-year project, around 100 participants came together today in Bilasuvar to highlight key project milestones and accomplishments achieved during the project implementation period. The event also featured an exhibition as a platform for women entrepreneurs, who benefited from this project and were able to become financially stable, to showcase goods and services they currently offer in the Bilasuvar market and beyond. The exhibits demonstrated specific segments of economy where women in rural Azerbaijan have managed to build businesses of their own, with support from the EU, UNDP and the Government of Azerbaijan.

Looking back, the project became the road to financial independence for women across the capital Baku and suburban Sabirabad, Neftchala and Bilasuvar. The result of this very impactful two-year project was that a total of three Women’s Resource Centres based in Neftchala, Sabirabad and Bilasuvar have received substantial support from the European Union, and a brand new centre was established in Bilasuvar. All of them are now independently registered non-profit entities with great potential for self-financing. These Centres equip women’s community groups with tools and resources to exercise their rights to social participation and ensure greater access to employment opportunities and vacancies in local labour markets.

Overall, during the project implementation period 355 women received comprehensive training on business development, organisational skills, project management and soft skills. Over 340 women were able to expand their business and social networks. Moreover, 56 women have successfully passed the training in the series of the ‘Start and Improve your Business’ courses, out of which 28 women further received in-kind contribution that helped them establish businesses of their own. Collectively, these women now employ an additional 42 people—through their newly established businesses. Last year, the project mobilised and brought together over 1600 women and school children in a nationwide campaign to combat gender-based violence. During these past two years, the project team organised awareness raising campaigns on the role of women with participation of municipalities, executive authorities and the private sector. To ensure a smooth transition of assets to women entrepreneurs and to monitor the status of the new business establishments, business monitoring visits have been conducted. In the course of the project execution cycle, over 40 women and children have received pro-bono psychological support.

Recently the project was nominated to be showcased at this year’s edition of the European Development Days and was the only project representing Azerbaijan at this high-level event taking place on 5-6 June 2018 in Brussels, Belgium. Often referred to as the ‘Davos of Development’, this prominent international forum is organised by the European Commission in the quest to bring the development community together and offer a hands-on platform for knowledge sharing and exploring partnership opportunities and innovative solutions to global development challenges.

Earlier in June, the project on ‘Enabling civil society to play a greater role in advancing gender equality and women rights’ was also featured at the EuroVillage 2018 festival organised each year by the EU Delegation to Azerbaijan and the embassies of the EU member states in the country. Launched in the National Seaside Park in Baku, this year’s chapter of the festival was devoted to the centennial anniversary of the founding of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, the first secular democracy in the Muslim world, which also coincided with the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Azerbaijan.

Contact information

For questions, please contact Arzu Jafarli, Communications and External Relations Analyst for UNDP in Azerbaijan at arzu.jafarli@undp.org

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