Leadership Skills as a Pathway to Employment in Kazakhstan

June 27, 2008

May 2008: WLP Kazakhstan/Shymkent Women’s Resource Center (SWRC) held two leadership workshops in April and May for twenty-nine women involved in SWRC’s vocational training programs. Workshop participants ranged in age from 19-57 years old.

Most of SWRC’s vocational students, enrolled in three-month courses in sewing, bookkeeping, or computers, are unemployed and seeking opportunities to reenter the workplace. Although Kazakhstan has begun to achieve gender equality in education at the primary and secondary levels, women’s unemployment rates remain higher than those of men. The workforce itself reveals ongoing divisions based on gender stereotypes, giving women fewer opportunities.*

Wishing to reach beyond the vulnerabilities of unemployment, workshop participants expressed their desire to develop leadership skills not only in their personal lives and communities, but also as a tool to build confidence and communication skills for interacting with employers. Participants also hoped to be able to share their experiences and become mentors to younger colleagues.

A 46 year-old participant who is currently enrolled in an SWRC accounting course reflected, "During the workshop sessions, I learned that I am capable of influencing others. By speaking out about my ideas, I am more likely to achieve them and solve problems more quickly. I saw how I could turn my thoughts into action."

During the workshops, the groups created a job placement program for single mothers. Many participants from these and previous leadership workshops coordinated by SWRC have also joined an ongoing "Leading to Choices" Discussion Club, where they continue to meet to share success stories and new ideas.

* Source: UNDP, Millennium Development Goals in Kazakhstan 2005

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