Kazakhstan has made significant progress in the area of gender equality, thanks to joint efforts by the state and civil society, including the media. This was emphasized by Aida Balayeva, Deputy Head of the Kazakh President’s Administration, during a session at the Central Asian Media Forum held in Astana. The event was dedicated to the role of women in media and civil society. Balayeva highlighted Kazakhstan’s current gender strategy, which has helped the country improve its standing in international evaluations and indices. She also pointed out that women in Kazakhstan are increasingly occupying key media and government positions.

Gender equality strategy until 2030

Balayeva added that Kazakhstan’s current concept of family and gender policy until 2030 aims to improve the indicators even further. Over the next eight years, Kazakhstan plans to significantly reduce the gender gap. Moderator of the session, Moldiyar Yergebekov, also noted that Kazakh women are highly strong and purposeful, occupying important positions in the country’s economic and political life.

However, there is still room for growth. Balayeva highlighted the lack of bright female roles in films in Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries. She noted that the media, particularly cinema, is a critical tool for influencing the improvement of the situation in the field of gender equality – both nationally and regionally.

Need for accurate portrayal of women in media

Laetitia Bazzi-Veil, acting Representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Kazakhstan, emphasized the need to portray women in the media accurately. She pointed out that the media continues to contribute to gender stereotypes, whether through traditional news, magazines, TV content, or advertising. New York Times bestselling author Liz Welch echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the importance of women sharing their stories, including the most frightening and uncomfortable ones, to inspire others.

The Central Asian Media Forum

The First Central Asian Media Forum took place on December 20-21, 2022, in Astana, Kazakhstan. The Forum aimed to become a unique platform for collaboration and created a single media environment for the countries of Central Asia. Over 100 invited speakers, including world-famous Pulitzer Prize winners, global policymakers, international and local journalists, influencers, heads of international organizations, and media experts attended the event.

Forum themes and headliners

The Forum discussed media development, regional identity, the development of new media, artificial intelligence technologies in the industry, the future of creative industries in Central Asia, regional and global cooperation to ensure information security, “fake news” in the post-truth era, media literacy issues, sustainability, and the role of women in media. Headliners of the Forum included Hollywood actor and legendary boxer Roy Jones, four-time New York Times best-selling author Liz Welch, and the most popular YouTube project in the world with over 18 billion views.