The last decade of the 20th Century brought about enormous changes in the lives of the people in the Central Asian Republics. Within a short time-span the familiar elements of the economic and social make-up of these newly independent states were overhauled with the introduction of market principles into the economy and the revision of the extensive social protection system.
The new structures created exciting opportunities for the people in the Central Asian Republics. At the same time, it left many people ill-prepared for the fresh challenges in their lives to generate a livelihood with limited help from the state in terms of employment provision and social support. Rural women proved to be particularly vulnerable as few alternative income-generating opportunities were available and as they needed to cope with the triple burden of generating an income outside the house, looking after the family agricultural plots and carrying out household responsibilities. Many rural families were faced with poverty below subsistence levels. The formulation of policies and activities to create new opportunities for and support to rural women was hampered by a lack of up-to-date primary and secondary data on their socio-economic status.
The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), dedicated to translate the global mandates on poverty eradication and globalization as contained in the goals of the first United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997-2006) and in the recently adopted Millennium Declaration, into actions that will make a positive difference in the lives of the people in itís region, has aimed to document and analyze the socio-economic situation of rural women in five Central Asia Republics - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan - following their independence from the former Soviet Union. To achieve this, country studies were prepared by experts from the countries concerned using both primary and secondary data on the socio-economic situation of rural women. An expert group meeting was organized in Almaty, Kazakhstan to disseminate the study results and formulate recommendations for action at the local, national and international levels.
It is hoped that the country studies and the report of the expert group meeting contained in this publication will contribute to the formulation of strategies, policies and activities to improve the income-generating opportunities for rural women in the Central Asian Republics.
The ESCAP secretariat expresses itís deep appreciation to the Government of the Netherlands for itís generous financial support in making this publication possible.