What can be done?

Gender Equality in Azerbaijan

  1. Gender context in Azerbaijan

Gender Expert Sevinj Samadzada says, Azerbaijan, despite of having quite gender-equal legislation, policies and laws, still have problems in terms of women and girls’ full participation and equal access to social, economic and political life. Girls and women still face gender based discrimination and violence in different settings: at home, at school, in the street, at workplace. Violence against women and girls is culturally accepted and justified by patriarchal society. The value of girl-child has become so low that, sex-selective abortions have been largely practices, in purpose of ignoring girl-child. Soviet legacy of educating girls and women is still popular, which gives an opportunity for girls to graduate high school, obtain a university degree. However, when choosing what to study or where to study, not all the girls are free to make their own choices. Additionally, girls living in low income families or rural settings do not get access to quality education and end up dropping out of school majority of times. This also highly encourages the early marriage cases. In rural settings where unemployment is high, both women and men do not work. However, women spend majority of their time at home taking care of their child and household. Women also agree to work in low-skilled and low-paid jobs, in order to be able to help the family growth. Although compare with the past, women entrepreneurship and economic participation have increased, a lot of the times women still work as a teacher or nurse or doctor, which are low-paid jobs in Azerbaijan. Political participation of women have also been increased compare to last 10 years, however this participation is quite limited and participation of women politicians in decision-making processes or fostering women rights is quite low.

2. Causes of gender based discrimination

There are several causes for gender based discrimination and violence against girls/women. Firstly, cultural violence is commonly practiced, which means that Azerbaijani culture justifies the male dominance with its long lasting history and culture, while undermining the role of women in public, economic or social life. Early marriage, bride-kidnapping, domestic violence are causes of cultural justification of violence. Second cause is structural reasons, which are institutions, decision-makers, authorities that cause or support the gender based discrimination. Among them are police, court, education system and media. They perpetrate or justify violence and contribute to the victim blaming narratives. For instance, if a women is beaten by her husband, firstly because of cultural reason she will not get any help from neighbors or relatives and secondly, if asked will not get any support from police either. In this regard, media, education system should aim to fight against this discrimination by encouraging gender equality and justice. Finally, I believe individuals are causing this discriminative behaviors, by either normalizing the violence or ignoring the problem. There is huge need to educate girls and boys on equality, empower girls and women to rich their maximum potential and enjoy their rights.

3. Which authorities/organisations work on it?

Officially, State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan is working on women/girls related issues in Azerbaijan. They work on development and implementation of gender policies, aim to increase equality as well as assist/support women and children on the ground. There are around 11 Support Centers for Children and Women in the regions. They mostly work with vulnerable groups, and provided services for children and women. Additionally, there are several local and International NGOs working on gender equality, women empowerment and participation in Azerbaijan. Among them are UNFPA, which puts focus on maternal health, sexual and reproductive health in Azerbaijan. Kvinna till Kvinna is among international organizations which closely work with local women organizations in Azerbaijan to implement agenda on women, peace and security. NGOs work on women issues more actively and comprehensively than state institutions.

4. What can be done?

All the stakeholders: individuals, family, local authorities, police, court, civil society organizations should work together to solve the problems regarding gender inequality. The first direction should be awareness –raising in the society, where the value and benefits of the equality, and negative outcomes of discrimination and violence should be clear to everyone. This process can start at schools, workplaces, in media. Secondly, more girls, especially girls living in the rural settings should be given more opportunities to express their freedom, and given capacity to realize their dreams. Thirdly, girls and women should unite and become organized groups in order to share their messages with other girls and women, encourage them to actively participate in the issues related with their life.