UN Women’s work in Europe and Central Asia focuses on advancing the economic rights of women with particular emphasis on land rights and women's participation in governance structures and decision-making processes. Emphasis is also placed on women's involvement in peace building, ending violence against women and making government budgets and policies more responsive to women's needs.
UN Women’s extensive work on women’s land rights in the Central Asia region includes successful projects in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. UNIFEM (now UN Women) spearheaded a process of legal analysis, advocacy and partnership-building that led to the adoption of gender amendments in the Land Code in Tajikistan and in the Law on Land Management in Kyrgysztan. Working with local partners, current efforts are focused on overcoming two common barriers to women’s ownership rights: the precedence given to tradition over modern laws, and women’s own lack of awareness about their entitlements.
In Kyrgyzstan, where 66 percent of the population live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for a living, societal norms and customs often limit women’s opportunities and rights to land. Media campaigns and local seminars have spread awareness about women’s land rights. Since 2003, legal advisory centres have also been changing this landscape in all Kyrgyz districts. With UNIFEM (now UN Women) support, local organizations have provided legal aid and assistance on land issues to thousands of women, including direct legal representation.
In a two-pronged approach, the programme has also supported the courts of elders that are authorized by the government to resolve disputes at the local level and serve as informal justice systems in rural areas. Following training sessions on women’s rights, the courts of elders have proven to be critical allies in the effort to secure women’s right to land.
The programme in Kyrgyzstan also introduced a small grants fund to support women’s cooperatives and small local government projects to address practical gender needs at the village level. The scheme positively affected nearly 15,000 women, who were able to improve their livelihoods through a variety of agricultural extension services such as increasing women’s access to irrigation and improved terms for grinding wheat.
In a pilot initiative with the UN Food and Agricultural Organization in Tajikistan, UNIFEM (now UN Women) supported the establishment of 16 District Task Forces (DTFs) on land-related issues in three provinces. The task forces provide legal advice on land rights, and rural women can also attend classes on leadership skills, cooperative formation, farm management and community activism.
From 2003 to 2008, the staff of the DTFs provided legal advice and practical assistance to approximately 14,000 rural women and men and conducted around 500 meetings and consultations in villages. As a result, the proportion of farms registered to women rose from 2 percent in 2002 to 14 percent in 2008. District-level governments are now funding the work of the DTFs through their own budgets — testimony to the success of this approach.
UNIFEM (now UN Women) supported efforts in Slovakia to conduct a study on the prevalence and perception of violence against women, including an assessment of institutional responses. The findings of the research have been used to update the national strategy on preventing violence against women and serve as a baseline for gender equality advocates to monitor progress.
In Kazakhstan, efforts have been focused on supporting civil society members and parliamentarians in drafting a domestic violence law.
In Tajikistan, UNIFEM (now UN Women) supported gender equality advocates who were successful in incorporating a gender perspective in the national response to AIDS. As a result of an extensive advocacy campaign, the National Coordination Council on the Prevention of HIV integrated specific gender actions into Tajikistan’s proposal to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which was approved for funding in 2008.
UNIFEM’s (now UN Women) catalytic work on HIV and AIDS in Kyrgyzstan helped improve national legislation, as well as strengthen the capacity and change the behaviour and attitudes of civil servants, social workers, health care workers, women’s organizations and the media. This work was replicated by partners to cover the entire Central Asia region, with technical support from UNIFEM (now UN Women), to institutionalize a regional system of training and retraining of specialists in HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment.
In Albania, UNIFEM (now UN Women) advocated for the inclusion of special measures for women in the Electoral Code, practically allocating at least 30 percent of appointed positions to the under-represented gender, and subsequently supported advocacy efforts by women’s organizations to ensure political parties adhered to the code in their campaigns ahead of the June 2009 national elections.
In Southeastern Europe, support was provided for the capacity development of a Regional Women’s Lobby, based in Croatia, to advocate for implementation of women’s human rights at national and regional level.
In Moldova, following employment research, analysis and public consultations, the national Labour Code is being reviewed through a participatory process. The review is expected to address persistent discrimination faced by women and increase their employment, feeding into the country’s efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
Varying levels of internal strife and cross-border conflict have afflicted Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, with more than one million people displaced from their homes. UNIFEM (now UN Women) has supported the efforts of women’s groups in each country to organize national women’s peace networks — in Azerbaijan, for example, one group assists displaced women, while another advocates for the national implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325. These networks have come together in a regional coalition called Women for Peace, supporting each other in fostering peace within their communities.
In response to the crisis in Georgia in 2008, UNIFEM (now UN Women) contributed to the Joint Needs Assessment for Georgia, ensuring that the specific needs of conflict-affected women were taken into account. In Kosovo (under UNSCR 1244), UNIFEM (now UN Women) has supported the formulation of a National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325 as well as efforts to reform the security sector, including the adoption of gender guidelines by the police and the institutionalization of gender training into the curricula of police officers.
UNIFEM (now UN Women) has worked with partners towards gender-sensitizing national policies in the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, resulting in the inclusion of women’s rights priorities in national development strategy papers in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova. Extensive work is also being done in the region to secure women’s right to land.