Community development is about each individual’s contribution to the positive change in our environments. However, community progress is not only a collective work; it is also the individual development of each member of the society. Understanding the importance of personal development, as well as current issues that the Turkmen community faces around the world, the Arzuw Foundation hosted an innovative student-led conference on women empowerment in Central Asia.
The project was held for young women from across Central Asia involving students not only from Turkmenistan, but also from Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. During this experience with the community of Turkmen abroad, it was discovered that the best way to hold the conference was to select topics for discussion that will bring maximum benefit to the participants of Arzuw events and empower them as young leaders and critical thinkers. Thus, the Arzuw Foundation connected with local NGOs in Kyrgyzstan and brought together 15 young women to discuss their career development opportunities in Central Asia, and provide them with skills necessary for finding those opportunities.
The three-day conference included two days of seminars and training, and a job shadow day in Bishkek that represented the integration of innovative business ideas with the local context. During the seminars, participants addressed issues such as how women are portrayed in the media, the role of women in political and economic development of Central Asia, ways to balance between family and career, goal setting and career preference. Participants also met successful women from business and non-governmental sectors, who generously shared their knowledge about women empowerment and talked about their personal career experience.
The conference helped the participants to better understand opinions of young women from Central Asia about their career perspectives and goals, as well as concerns over the status of women in Central Asia. One of the major issues raised by a majority of participants was the status of women after marriage. A highlight of the conference took place during on of the group exercises. In this exercise participants first assumed that certain positions should not be held by women as they involve much stress. However, the example of guest speakers of the conference proved opposite and many of the young women noted that they reconsidered their previous opinion.
The Women and Globalization Conference inspired participants to take leadership positions in their local communities and helped the Arzuw Foundation expand the network of young people in Central Asia who strive for development of the region and promote individual responsibility. The conference also attracted interest of local NGOs and with the help of participants of 2013 conference can turn into an annual event held in Central Asia.