The United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) was launched in 1998 to strengthen subregional cooperation in Central Asia and its integration into the world economy. The countries of SPECA are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
At the heart of women’s empowerment is the need to address gender inequalities in the context of decent work and full and productive employment. The creation of an enabling environment in the SPECA countries for women’s economic empowerment to flourish is not without its challenges. Against the backdrop of an uneven distribution of wealth, these economies are transitioning from agriculture to manufacturing and service-based work, increasingly in an urban environment. Despite relatively high human development indicators and economic growth in the SPECA countries, unpaid labour continues to characterise women’s work. Furthermore, discriminatory social institutions and norms obstruct realisation of women’s economic rights and opportunities.
Therefore, innovative solutions are required to empower women economically to be agents of change in their families and communities. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development have created a visionary blueprint for Governments to address these barriers. Building on this momentum, this report seeks to present a comprehensive analysis of key challenges and opportunities for women’s economic empowerment in the SPECA region, with a view to identify strategic policy recommendations towards the realisation of an inclusive, prosperous and sustainable future for all.