Central Asia: Fostering a Culture of Human Rights



The Fostering a Culture of Human Rights in Central Asia project, funded by European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) funds, aims at advancing the rights of women in Central Asia by equipping journalists with the skills necessary to raise awareness of their situation and hold policy-makers to account. Concurrently, the project, which focuses on Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, builds the capacity of civil society organizations to develop and disseminate key messages to vulnerable groups. IREX Europe is implementing the project as part of a consortium led by the BBC World Service Trust.


The Central Asian republics have witnessed a major decline in living standards over the past decade. On a range of indicators, the status of women has declined during the recent economic and political transitions. A 2002 World Bank report commented, “The relative feminisation of poverty, gender-based job discrimination, loss of state support for child care, deteriorating maternal health care, poor political representation, gender-based violence, and the dramatic increase in trafficking of women have emerged as serious issues that impact gender relations and warrant immediate attention.”

Despite these pressing concerns, media coverage of women’s and children’s issues is often insensitive and judgmental, with commentators resorting to stereotypes and clichés. Basic journalistic principles, for example of privacy and dignity for victims of child abuse and trafficking, are too often ignored. Furthermore, local media run increasingly explicit advertisements for the sex industry and agencies promising lucrative work overseas. The media’s ability to play an effective role in raising awareness of key issues affecting women and children in Central Asia is undermined further by the poor quality of information provided by the civil society sector.

Project Activities

  • Training workshops for journalists, focused on the challenges of presenting women’s and children’s issues to a broad audience.
  • Onsite consultancy visits to media outlets to institutionalise improved coverage of key issues, with particular emphasis on programme formats.
  • Media outreach training to enhance the ability of human rights defenders to get key messages to target groups, both through mainstream media and through informal networks.
  • Co-production of media outputs focusing on women’s and children’s issues.
  • Development of dissemination network to tap into a network of informal “media” outlets such as PA systems in public places and street theatre groups.
  • Development of online resources to support the wider training programme.