[Photo 1: Class learning about Kyrgyz Indigo, a local organization addressing LGBT+ issues]
#16DaysofActivism 2018 Blog Series
Written by Dr Elena Kim 1 and Dr Frank G. Karioris 2
American University of Central Asia 1; University of Pittsburgh 2
Levels of violence against women in European and Central Asian countries rank among the highest in the world. This is true of domestic violence, sexual assault and rape, and child marriage and bride kidnapping – all of which are prevalent in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia. Education is a key tool for addressing gender inequality and gender based violence (GBV).
Delivering the first ever academic program in Gender Studies in Central Asia
Through the SVRI World Bank Group Development Marketplace Award, our team at the American University of Central Asia (AUCA), founded and implemented the first – and currently only – academic program in Gender Studies in Central Asia. As part of this Award, we taught the course ‘Gender, Ethics, and the Politics of Violence’. The course, run over two semesters, provides students with knowledge on GBV, as well as information on gender and sexuality, the politics of GBV and doing ethical research on GBV. In our first year, not only did the program offer a wide set of classes to a large group of students, but our first student graduated from the program.
Network Building and Influencing Change
Beyond the course, we also engaged top scholars from around the globe in our Lecture Series to share their ground-breaking research and writing with AUCA and Bishkek. These include: Dr Maryna Shevtsova; Dr Steve Roberts (see the published review of his lecture here); and Juliet Jacques, Dr Mohira Suyarkulova, and Georgy Mamedov. With Dr Roberts’ presentation on his just published monograph, and Dr Shevtsova’s talk about research from the frontlines addressing homophobia, our students gained new perspectives on the type of work being done globally on these issues.
At a local level, each of the students who took these classes are encouraged to go out into their community, their workplace, and their friend groups and, even subtly, begin influencing perceptions on these topics. One of our students said of the course:
“This class changed the way I thought about gender, especially gender, and how it related to violence. And the way the media or stereotypes of society… This class showed me a different perspective and opened my mind to struggles and the reality that exists.”
[Photo 2: Neobis team teaching students about the mobile application]
GBV and Mobile Technology
Outside of the classroom, with Neobis we created a mobile phone application to assist GBV survivors to reach out to emergency contacts via an SOS function. Further, the application provides assistive information to educate individuals on their legal rights in these matters.
In the next 12 months we will further strengthen GBV-focused educational opportunities and expand them to a wider audience, including both traditional students and the broader community. We will do this through evaluating both the course and the mobile app, conducting further research on GBV higher education programs, as well as expanding the application and its reach.
Another iteration of the course will be taught in Spring 2019 as a collaborative project between AUCA and the University of Pittsburgh. The course will build on many of this project’s major accomplishments, including: curricular programming, creation and distribution of mobile application, and network-building with local GBV-focused organizations.
Education is critical for changing perspectives on issues of GBV and discrimination. Our project is a small step in this direction, and we hope that others in Kyrgyzstan and beyond will continue working to find the best ways to create change.
Follow our progress and learn more about our work @CCGS_AUCA
Visit our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CenterCriticalGenderStudies/
About the authors:
Dr Frank G. Karioris is Visiting Lecturer at the University of Pittsburgh, and Director of the Center for Critical Gender Studies at the American University of Central Asia.
Dr Elena Kim is Associate Professor of Psychology and Head of the Division of Social Sciences at the American University of Central Asia. She is Co-Director of the Center for Critical Gender Studies.
 UNFPA EECARO, (2015) Issue Brief: Combatting Violence Against Women and Girls in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, UNFPA EECARO. https://eeca.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/pub-pdf/21770%20Brief_web.pdf