Inspiring book on Kazakh women entrepreneurs, challenging gender sterotypes, presented in Astana

Book photos from the atrium of NU. Photo credit: Arman Aisultan/ Kazinform
Book photos from the atrium of NU. Photo credit: Arman Aisultan/ Kazinform

Nazarbayev University in Astana hosted the presentation of a much-anticipated book “Trailblazers of the Steppe: Inspiring Narratives of Women Entrepreneurs in Kazakhstan” on April 18. The occasion marked the achievements of women entrepreneurs in the country and shed light on their remarkable stories of resilience and success, reports Kazinform News Agency correspondent.

Authored by Shumaila Yousafzai, an Associate Professor at Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Business and director of the Nazarbayev University's Entrepreneurship Research Center (NURCE), the book encapsulates the narratives of 50 remarkable women entrepreneurs from various corners of Kazakhstan.

Shumaila Yousafzai, the author the book from Pakistan. Photo credit: Arman Aisultan/ Kazinform
Shumaila Yousafzai, the author the book from Pakistan. Photo credit: Arman Aisultan/ Kazinform


"Storytelling is important. Academic research does not reach everybody so we need to tell the stories of these women because in the media the main narrative is about male entrepreneurs. We don't hear about female entrepreneurs especially the ones who are at the grassroots level. We're doing amazing things but we don't hear about them and our one goal is to amplify those stories and voices so that we can create awareness about the impact that these women are creating in society in the lives of their families and their own lives for Kazakhstan. That's the aim of this book," said the professor in the interview with the correspondent.

Aizhan Bizhanova, First Deputy Minister of Trade and Integration Kazakhstan, attended the event as the guest of honor. Bizhanova, who authored the foreword to the book, acknowledged the pivotal role these women play in driving economic growth and fostering innovation in the country.

Aizhan Bizhanova, the First Deputy Minister of Trade and Integration of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Photo credit: Arman Aisultan/ Kazinform
Aizhan Bizhanova, the First Deputy Minister of Trade and Integration. Photo credit: Arman Aisultan/ Kazinform

The presentation featured firsthand accounts from the heroines themselves, offering insights into their entrepreneurial journey, the challenges faced, and the lessons learned along the way.

The first speaker, Venera Tailakbayeva, hailing from the Kazaly region in Kyzylorda told the audience about her initiatives in the circular economy, drawing inspiration from reed products in the Netherlands. Her vision transformed her village, attracting foreign investments and creating job opportunities while stimulating economic growth through reed procurement and export.

Bulbul Kapkyzy, originally from Mongolia, stands as a guardian of Kazakh traditions and cultural heritage through her passion for needlework and yurt crafting. Beyond her entrepreneurial endeavors, Kapkyzy dedicates herself to teaching art classes, ensuring that Kazakh traditions endure through the hands of future generations.

Kyzzhibek Ryszhanova, hailing from Shymkent, defied stereotypes in the construction industry to establish Smart ReEnergy in 2020. Her venture focuses on renewable energy consulting, driven by her determination to promote sustainability and gender equality in traditionally male-dominated fields.

The entrepreneurial journey of Lobar Abdugapparova began with her mother's shoemaking legacy, instilling in her a passion for craftsmanship and innovation. Drawing from her family's expertise, Abdugapparova ventured into entrepreneurship, blending technical skills with empathetic leadership.

Saniya Arinova established EcoSan in 2022, promoting sustainability in Kazakhstan through reusable pads and nappies. Her initiative empowers marginalized communities while encouraging eco-consciousness and supporting local production.

Aigerim Karibayeva shared that her entrepreneurial journey blossomed from her childhood passion for art, nurtured by her mother's encouragement. Transitioning into entrepreneurship, Karibayeva merged contemporary aesthetics with Kazakh motifs in her creations, celebrating the nation's heritage with each stroke.

Awards ceremony. Photo credit: NU press service
Awards ceremony. Photo credit: NU press service

Shumaila Yousafzai expressed gratitude and support to all participants involved in the project, citing the book of Mahabbat Sadvakasova “Women in Business: 40 Inspiring Stories of Women Entrepreneurs" as her motivation. She then outlined plans for her next project, which will center on women navigating male-dominated sectors.

“We're impressed by the women working in traditionally male-dominated fields such as mining, construction, safety and machine operation. It is remarkable to see how women in Kazakhstan are challenging stereotypes by entering these male-dominated sectors while maintaining their feminine presence. In addition, Kazakh women are leading a movement to reconnect with their Kazakh heritage and nomadic traditions. They are leaders in various industries, including fashion, art, food and clothing, which is in line with the government’s vision of reviving the Kazakh identity," the author of the book said.

The professor also answered the question about what future she sees for women entrepreneurs in Kazakhstan.

“I have done data collection in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan and I think Kazakh women have got so many more opportunities than other women in Central Asia. Your country is much more economically developed. Women are more empowered as well and the government is doing a lot of things so I think the future of women entrepreneurship is very bright here. Women are doing amazing things in here and they're very powerful,” said Yousafzai.

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