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Political and academic discourse on Central Asia frames the issue of gender equality in the region as being far out of balance. This interpretation reflects the ideology of orientalism permeating academic literature and represents the dominant view of the international community on gender equality in this part of the world. This framing, however, fails to distinguish historical and path-dependent differences between states building upon diverse legacies and cultural norms. Gender projects by various UN and other international agencies generally fallaciously assume the West is on a crusade to raise awareness among the local population on issues of gender equality. In reality, the pedagogy might do well to flow in the opposite direction. We argue that, among certain groups and states, several key markers of gender equality in Central Asia are in fact comparable – and often exceed – practices in the West. Using Kyrgyzstan as an example, we present an alternative narrative about this young nation of kyz Saikal, an epic woman warrior who fought Manas, and the first woman president in Central Asia, Rosa Otunbayeva. By framing the story in a richer and more nuanced fashion, we demonstrate that mainstream discourse addresses only a sliver of a deeper reality, thereby calling into question the paintbrush approach to gender equality across the region.
Jayarethnam Pillai is the Division Head and Dean of the School Entrepreneurship and Business Administration and an associate professor of economics at the American University of Central Asia (AUCA) in Kyrgyzstan. He received his Ph.D. in economics and public policy from the Australian National University. Initially serving as an adjunct professor, he also gained experience in the private sector in Singapore, Australia, and the US. Now, Dr. Pillai dedicates his time to teaching economics courses at AUCA and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Academy in Bishkek and supervising graduate students of the Economic Governance and Development program at the Academy. He designed a new curriculum for B.A. and M.B.A. programs and spearheaded the project to obtain the AACSB and AMBA accreditation for the business administration program. Dr. Pillai has published extensively on political economy of Southeast and South Asian countries. In his research, he analyzes the role of state involvement in fostering economic development. His other research interests explore the importance of technology development and the emergence of cluster-led economic progress in emerging economies. His work in Central Asia investigates several niche markets, including social entrepreneurship and design thinking. He recently launched a new entrepreneurship major at AUCA, approved for a joint degree by Bard College, NY.
Kamila Kolpashnikova is currently an assistant professor of business administration at the American University of Central Asia (AUCA). She holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of British Columbia and an M.A. in socio-information and communication studies from Tokyo University. Her research deals with gender performances as they reflect in how people allocate their time to paid and unpaid work and leisure in Kyrgyzstan, Japan, Canada, and the US. She teaches quantitative research methods, econometrics, and psychology courses at AUCA and supervises graduate students at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Academy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Dr Kolpashnikova worked as a lawyer for a subsidiary of the Yukos oil company in Russia before starting her academic career as a graduate student at Tokyo University. She is a former recipient of the Japanese Government Monbukagakusho Scholarship (2006-2011), the Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship to Japan (2004-2005), and a visiting scholar at the Centre for Time Use Research and St. Antony’s College, Oxford University (2015).
Kamila Kolpashnikova, Assistant Professor, School of Entrepreneurship and Business Administration, American University of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan
Jayarethanam Pillai, Dean of School of Entrepreneurship and Business Administration, American University of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan
Sponsored by the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.
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