Second WLP Central Asia Regional Institute Brings Activists to Leadership and Advocacy Training

For civil society, Central Asia has become one of the most difficult places to work. Freedom of assembly, an open press, and internet usage have eroded throughout the region.

As we planned WLP's second Central Asia Regional Institute for August 28-30 in Shymkent, Kazakhstan, these developments raised concerns about possible border closures and impediments to travel for grassroots and NGO activists invited from throughout the region.

These obstacles, however, bolstered our certainty that it is more important than ever to bring women's rights activists together to forge connections, enhance institutional capacity, and explore new, democratic approaches to leadership and advocacy.

WLP's partner in Kazakhstan, SWRC, therefore convened 23 women for those purposes in Shymkent. They came from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, and succeeded in practicing and sharing experiences and strategies in leadership, enhancing communication skills and building institutional capacity.

While some participants were new to WLP's leadership training and curriculum, others were veterans of previous WLP workshops. This allowed training sessions and breakout conversations to benefit from the women's various layers of experience.

Marfua Tokhtakhodjaeva, a co-founder of TWRC who remains actively involved in WLP's Central Asia programs and curriculum development, said everyone in the group shared the “unique experience and challenges of grassroots organizing and advocacy in post-Soviet states.”

The Shymkent Institute marked another success for WLP in the region. SWRC and WLP's partner in Kyrgyzstan, Human Rights Center's “Citizens Against Corruption,” (CAC) both grew to become vibrant users of the Leading to Choices program, which they adopted during the 2005 Institute attended by Gulnara Karakulova of SWRC and Tolekan Ismailova of CAC. Representatives of Citizens Against Corruption at the 2010 Institute included one of its newer grassroots trainers, Gulbarchin Djumabaeba, who recently coordinated innovative leadership training programs using mass media and communications tools, demonstrating the cross-generational reach of the Institutes and their broadened impact over only a few years' time.

As participants closed this gathering, they solidified plans to maintain an electronic newsletter to keep each other informed of their work. We now look ahead with enthusiasm to the new connections and opportunities that may emerge from this much-needed convening of activists.

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