Voices from youth: NFFCK KyrgyzstanChanging attitudes
Talantbek is 15 and lives in rural Kyrgyzstan. She is part of a school-based education programme to empower girls and end bride kidnapping and early/forced marriage, a prevalent form of violence against women and girls in Kyrgyzstan.
Her grandmother, 62-year-old Kularisa, encourages her participation. “In the past women had no options. We just had to stay [in that marriage]. But it's good that now [the] youth is changing... The times are changing and we also have to change.”
The National Federation of Female Communities of Kyrgyzstan (NFFCK) is piloting the programme in three villages, supported by a small grant from the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund). A team of experts has developed an educational package – Empowering Girls through Education, Art and Media – the first of its kind in the Kyrgyz language. More than 600 young adults have alread taken part.
During a recent visit to Kyrgyzstan, the UN Trust Fund team engaged in intergenerational dialogue with daughters, mothers and grandmothers about bride kidnapping and girls’ rights in families. The conversations illustrated the shift in attitudes in rural communities in the wake of the school programme.
Transforming attitudes is key to sustainable change. The NFFCK is working at the grassroots level to build leadership skills and teach girls how to prevent and respond to threats of violence. The girls involved in the project represent the voice of the future.
One of these girls, 16-year-old Aiturgan, told the UN Trust Fund what the programme meant to her:
“I could see that girls and women were not equal to men in my everyday life, so I got interested in different laws. Men and women should be equal to one another. That's why I believe it's very important that we all know about our rights. I want us to be feminists, and we should be working together to fight against any violence.”
Aiturgan said she valued the support in her community and shares what she learns from the project with her mother Aigul so they “discover these issues together.”
Despite legislation in Kyrgyzstan to end domestic violence, many challenges remain in translating the law into real improvements for women. Social acceptance of violence against women remains widespread and recent studies indicate that around 12,000 women are kidnapped annually for forced and/or early marriage.  That’s why the NFFCK initiative is so important.
 Asian Development Bank (2013); Kyrgyz Republic: 16 Day Campaign to End Gender Based Violence (2013)