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The e-Newsletter of the Gender Network

November 2015 | Vol. 9, No. 3

Kazakh Women Forging New Frontiers in the Small and Medium Enterprise
By Imrana Jalal*

Kristina Ganatauskayte borrowed from the Asian Development Bank (ADB)-supported Tsesna
Bank to develop a shoe and bag business. She has also used the business and advisory services
of the JSC Damu Entrepreneurship Development Fund (DAMU), the small and medium
enterprises (SME) development government entity supported by ADB, to obtain valuable
business advice. She employs 11 women and says that, due to the large number of female
clients and staff I have established a rest room and kitchen to specifically cater for their needs.

SME owners, are diversifying the economy, creating new jobs and opening new frontiers for
Kazakh women. Sexual stereotypes traditionally linked to women-led SMEs, are being
dismantled through expanding medical centers, providing legal notary services, importing shoes
and apparel, running a stationery and a printing shop with state-of-the-art digital equipment,
and managing a network of preschools to meet market demand. Womens domestic and care
burdens are also being addressed through the establishment of a modern school bus company
to take children to school and home while preserving childrens safety through the use of
mobile phones.

When we talk with our partner banks in the program, many mention that womens SMEs are
amongst their best clients, says Inmaculada Martinez, ADB private sector development
specialist and team leader of the program, after a recent visit to SMEs in Almaty and Astana.

These interventions are putting money into the hands of women and addressing the persistent
gender gaps in the labor market in Kazakhstan. The gender gap in the labor force participation
rate is a wide 28.5 %; in the employment rate it is 11.6%; and in decent work (measured by the
gender wage gap) it is a high 32%.1 Women in Kazakhstan also work at least 2.7 hours a day
more than men doing mainly unpaid care work, limiting their economic and other

Senior Social Development Specialist (Gender and Development), ADB with inputs from Shanny Campbell, Senior Social
Development Specialist (Gender and Development) and Inmaculada Martinez, Private Sector Development Specialist, ADB.

The ADB-supported Kazakhstan: Small and Medium Enterprises Investment Program (Tranche
2) is the second in a multi-tranche financing facility to support SME lending. This program was
designed to help DAMU continue with the implementation of the government's action plan to
increase access to medium term finance for SMEs. Tranche 2 has two outputs - medium-term
financing to SMEs, and improved financial sector outreach with a focus on women
entrepreneurs, and was thus strongly gender-targeted. The funds are disbursed by qualified
financial intermediaries, and used for market-based investment and working capital loans,
leases and other financing products to SMEs.

Designing for Gender Equality in the SME sector

Like earlier tranches, this program was
designed Effective Gender Mainstreaming
(EGM) under ADBs project category
system. Under the programs Gender
Action Plan (GAP), DAMU was to continue
to collect sex-disaggregated data on the
number of borrowers, loan accounts
opened, new jobs created, amount of loan
in US$, purpose of loan, business sector of
borrowers, and to analyze the data semi-
annually to produce monitoring data on the
loan type, and amount, by sex, as well as
loan performance in its database. DAMU
and other participating financial institutions
(PFIs) were to target at least 24% of This stationery shop now has state-of-the-art digital printing
borrowers to be women entrepreneurs, equipment so in addition to the receipt books and accounting
ledgers they now produce menus, books, glossy magazines and
against a baseline of 10%.

DAMUs outreach activities were supposed to target women entrepreneurs to create more
effective demand for finance and raise awareness on the availability and terms of financing,
business development and other services; to analyze, use and disseminate the results of the
survey on gender issues in the SME sector to PFIs, and to discuss with each PFI the possibility of
improving products (e.g., Working Capital Loans, Term Loans, Equipment Financing, Letters of
Credit) and services (mobile or internet banking) for women entrepreneurs.

The targets included ensuring that at least 30% of all applications received are from women
entrepreneurs (baseline: 10% in 2013), and at least one feasible action agreed by each PFI to
engage women clients by the end of December 2014.

Gender Results in Care Burdens and Womens Economic Empowerment

The most significant indicator in the GAP, that at least 30% of applications are from female
entrepreneurs has been achieved, with over 33% of actual borrowers being women
entrepreneurs (target 24%).

In a recent visit to eight SMEs in Almaty and Astana, Shanny Campbell, gender specialist, found
that womens SME owners tended to employ mostly women, and that Even in men-owned
SMEs, at least half the employees are women, even though they are not strongly represented in
the technical sectors. 3 She also found that the womens SME businesses encompassed a wide
and varied range of sectors and professional occupations, including medical centers, a chain of
preschools, a legal notary service and a footwear and clothing importer and retailer.

Where women are in management, Campbell and Martinez were
informed that women managers preferred to hire other women,
for example in human resources, as lawyers, line managers and
accountant, because women are more organized and can multi-

Lyazzat Ibragimova, head of the DAMU fund says that owing to
the success of borrowing by female SME owners, lending to
women will be increased, Now the percentage of women
entrepreneurs involved in the programs for financial support of
the Fund (DAMU) is 33%. The company plans to increase the
Lyazzat Ibragimova, Head of the
percentage of women entrepreneurs, who receive state support,
up to at least 50%.
Development Fund

In the post-Soviet era, Kazakh women were hit particularly hard by the dismantling of a
sophisticated heavily subsidized state-supported child care system of nurseries, which saw
droves of women abandon the paid work force to care for small children at home. Womens
labor force participation rate fell from over 89% during Soviet times, to around 65% currently.4
For example, 700,000 women left the paid work force in a five-year period (19891994) and
preschool nursery enrollment fell from 52% to 28%. SMEs which directly support womens care
burdens have a significant impact on the potential for improving womens labor force
participation and economic empowerment, as the employability of women is strongly
influenced by the existence of child care options.5 Safe transport which carries children to and
from school, and kindergartens are two such categories of SMEs.

Box 2: Expanding Kindergartens for Better Child Care: SME Baldauren

Sholpon Utebayeva started her

first kindergarten in late 2010. At
the time she had noticed that
there was a major shortage of
government was also encouraging
the involvement of private
businesses in preschools. She had
been a teacher specializing in
preschool education. In a new
Utebayeva, the woman in black in the center is in the process of town outside Astana (to the west),
establishing her fourth preschool/kindergarten using ADB finance. Each
educates and cares for up to fifty 36 year olds while their parents work, she rented a house and converted
from 7am to 8pm. She now employs 25 female teachers, nurses, cooks it into a kindergarten.
and assistants.

At first she leased the premises, but has now bought the building. It has a number of
classrooms, a play room and two bedrooms filled with small bunk beds. They have up to 55
children per kindergarten. Utebayeva has a license to run kindergartens and the buildings
were retrofitted to meet the standards. The main classroom has a web cam allowing parents
and managers to see activities on the internet. The kindergarten runs three educational
programs: the First Step, Smart Baby, and Smart Kid (school preparation). The pre-school also
teaches dance and gym, verbal skills, English language, and music. The children are 3-6 years
old. Their hours are 7am to 8pm to allow their parents to go to work as far afield as Astana.
Staff members include cooks, nurses, helpers and teachers. The language of teaching is
Kazak. Utebayeva now has three operational kindergartens and is setting up a fourth with
ADB SME finance. She employs 25 people in the three kindergartens. Some are part time. All
are women except for the 2 maintenance workers. She is a new client of Tsesna Bank with
this loan. She approached Tsesna Bank directly. DAMU has provided her with business
consultancy services. Utebayevas child care facilities help free women from the unpaid time
burden of caring for children at home, and allows them to participate in the paid labor

Box 3: Sisters Standing toe-to-toe in the SME Shoe Sector

Co-owners Kristina Ganatauskayte and her

sister borrowed through Tsesna Bank to
establish a 10th shop. Her mother started a
shoe shop with her eldest sister in 2001.
Everything grew from there. The business
started working with Tsesna Bank in 2005.
First they took loans for cars, then a house,
then for their business. They are a good
client with no delinquent payments.

They have repaid three previous loans. Their
flagship storethree floors plus the
basement and elevator, which they now
More women entrepreneurs. These women (pictured with own, sells shoes for men, women and
loan manager from the bank in the middle) have a series of children, as well as bags and clothes for
children and women. Stock is imported
directly from shoe factories in Poland, Russia and elsewhere, to maintain good quality at a
reasonable price. Ganatauskayte has used the business advisory services of DAMU in the past.
Eleven (11) people work in the main shop. All are women except for the outside cleaner. Due to
the large number of female clients and staff, they have a rest room on the premises, and a
kitchen for staff.


Other activities in the GAP are being slowly implemented and appear to be capable of being
finished by the project end. Under ADBs tracking system which measures completed projects
at the project completion stage for successful gender equality results, the project appears be
generally on track to ensure implementation of 70% of the GAP activities and the achievement
of 75% of GAP targets.

The employment of women in Kazakhstan is critical as it is elsewhere in developing Asia. Their
involvement is essential to inclusive economic growth. Womens employment improves
efficiency and increases the possibility of better spending on childcare, health and education.
Simply put, money in the hands of women is often better spent, as women tend to place more
emphasis on the well-being of their families, more so than men.6 Increasing womens
participation in the SME sector in Kazakhstan is important not only for the countrys broader
economic development but also for womens confidence and economic empowerment, as well
as overall gender equality.


ADB. 2013. Gender Equality and the Labor Market: Cambodia, Kazakhstan, and the Philippines. Manila.



OECD. 2011. Society at a Glance: Asia/Pacific 2011. OECD Publishing.

September 2015.
ADB. 2013. Gender Equality and the Labor Market: Cambodia, Kazakhstan, and the Philippines. Manila.
Clark, Gracia. 2003. Gender at Work in Economic Life.
ADB. 2015. Enabling women, energizing Asia in Asian Development Outlook 2015 Update. Manila.