The online meeting of the annual Steering Committee of the project has been as well attended by Mr. Francois Begeot, Head of Cooperation Unit of the European Union Delegation in Uzbekistan, Ms. Maria Dotsenko, Country Representative of UN Women in Kazakhstan, representatives of UNDP Country Offices of Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. Embassies of Afghanistan and Uzbekistan also participated in the meeting.
The parties drew conclusions on achievements and challenges of the last year and outlined plans for 2021. Despite challenges caused by the pandemic, such as border closures and lockdowns imposed in participant countries, the project continued to progress smoothly and has overtaken major milestones: two new groups of Afghan women have arrived in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in November and December, 2020, to take up intensive language courses; the first cohort of women has successfully proceeded the course of their education after AlmaU Language School and are currently enrolled in three universities in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
In 2021 the first graduates of the programme will complete their education in the universities of Kazakhstan and will return home, to Afghanistan. Another significant upcoming milestone of the project in 2021 is completion of language preparation courses by 20 Afghan women from the new cohort. Ten students in Kazakhstan will transfer to study Mining, whereas 10 women in Uzbekistan will take up studies in Agriculture. Upon graduation both groups will receive TVET certificates.
It has been announced that the Ministry of Higher and Secondary Specialized Education, partner of the project in Uzbekistan, has approved the decision to relocate the place of training of Afghan women to Tashkent State Agrarian University. Initially, Afghan students were expected to study at the Education Center for Training of Afghan citizens in Termez.
The meeting proceeded with the presentation on Winter School Trainings organized recently in Almaty by UN Women. In addition to academic studies, the project also provides extra-curricular activities for students. Winter School workshops for Afghan women aim to enhance their leadership skills and increase awareness on gender equality, women’s rights, and the role of women in peace building and economic development.
It is worth mentioning that back at home Afghan women face disproportionate barriers to enter education and employment compared to their male counterparts. Empowering Afghan women through removing existing barriers and inequalities is the main goal of the initiative. Winter school included both theoretical and practical classes with interactive activities as well as guest lectures from private and public sectors of the country. Afghan women in Uzbekistan will participate in similar Winter School trainings in February 2021.
This cross-border initiative, funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by UNDP, allows Afghan women to study and graduate from universities in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The initiative aims to provide educational opportunities for Afghan women, who face disproportionate barriers to education and employment compared to their men counterparts back home. Overall, 50 young women from Afghanistan will receive education in Central Asian universities until 2025.