Gender equality

Today, some of the most serious inequalities in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are gender-based. Women face huge obstacles as they try to achieve the same rights and opportunities as men. That’s endangering the region’s overall development.

Women’s lack of participation in labour markets is perpetuated by discriminatory laws and practices and persisting gender stereotypes. Even when their educational achievements and qualifications equal or surpass those of men, women are less likely to be promoted to top management positions and prestigious leadership roles. Many are employed in low-paying sectors of the economy, partially due to stereotypes about what women and men can do. In some countries, these are embedded in law. Women are also more likely to be found in insecure jobs, without contract or regular pay, or in part-time jobs due to the disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work that they provide at home.

In parliaments, women’s participation remains below 40 percent. Despite the introduction of quotas and other measures aimed at increasing the numbers of women in elected bodies, there hasn’t been a significant redistribution of power between women and men. Women still lack access to key decision-making bodies, core ministries and the top ranks of political parties.

A remote village in Kyrgyzstan was hooked up to satellite phone with UNDP's support.

Recent years have also exposed the region’s vulnerability to natural disasters caused or exacerbated by climate change. Due to reduced access to information, resources and decision-making, women and girls are at greater risk during disasters and face more difficulties in recovering from them.

Sexual and gender-based violence, harassment and discrimination affect women and girls everywhere, fuelled by harmful patriarchal structures and traditions. Efforts to curb violence through legislation are slowed or delayed where policies don’t translate into action.

Gender inequalities intersect with many other forms of discrimination – based on age, class, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, occupation and income – accumulating several layers of exclusion and vulnerability. In order to build inclusive communities and societies, these deprivations must be exposed and addressed.   

What we do

UNDP works with partners in Europe and Central Asia to:

  • Integrate gender equality concerns in all areas of work;
  • Promote accountability in national institutions to improve equality between women and men;
  • Advocate for national budgets that take into account the priorities and needs of both women and men;
  • Ensure gender-responsive data collection in national statistics;
  • Deliver opportunities for women’s economic empowerment;
  • Engage women in decision-making in the public and private sectors;
  • Ensure that climate change mitigation and adaptation policies take into account the specific experiences and needs of women and men;
  • Address and prevent violence and all forms of discrimination against women and girls;
  • Design interventions tailored to the specific needs of women and men from disadvantaged minority groups.

What we have accomplished

  • In North Macedonia, we helped businesswomen set up their own companies and provided customized entrepreneurship trainings for women living with disabilities;
  • In Turkey, we supported research proving that public investment in social care services provides more benefits than investment in more traditional sectors such as construction;
  • In Ukraine, we helped internally displaced women get jobs in recovery activities and infrastructure rehabilitation;
  • In Armenia, we mobilized women to get involved in local politics and offered support before and after they were elected;
  • In Moldova, we advocated for the adoption of a 40 percent gender quota in the cabinet and on political party lists;
  • In Kyrgyzstan, we supported parliament in passing a law that prohibits religious marriages for underage persons;
  • In Albania, we supported municipal authorities to better coordinate their response to sexual and gender-based violence;
  • In Tajikistan, we piloted an initiative for rural women to build their own solar water-heating installations;
  • In Bosnia and Herzegovina, we helped territories affected by floods recover in a way that takes women’s needs and priorities into account;
  • In Georgia, we supported local and central authorities in drafting gender-responsive budgets.  

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