Kyrgyzstan’s President, Roza Otunbayeva, who was presented an “International Women of Courage Award” at the State Department Tuesday, has told VOA that women in her country will have to fight for positions of power in ministries and industries, “like western women fight for each position.”
In an exclusive interview with Voice of America’s Russian Service, President Otunbayeva said, “women in Central Asia still have a lot of problems related to development.” But she said, “there is lots of room and opportunity where women in my country should be [re]presented properly.”
Otunbayeva, who recently became Central Asia’s first female head of state and head of government in a traditional, majority Muslim country, is credited with keeping Kyrgyzstan intact after bloody inter-ethnic clashes in June 2010, and forging ahead with competitive elections.
She told VOA’s Erica Marat that “since the April Revolution last year we’ve been able to build all three branches of power from scratch, conduct free and transparent elections,” and she said, “we are going to show in this part of the world [Central Asia] the example of peaceful transfer of the presidential power.”
On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama thanked the Kyrgyz leader for her support for the continued U.S. military presence in the country, which hosts the Manas transit center in Bishkek, a major hub for U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
Otunbayeva is one of 10 women presented the International Women of Courage Award during Tuesday’s International Women’s Day ceremony at the State Department. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, accompanied by special guest, First Lady Michelle Obama, presented the awards.
Otunbayeva says the award recognizes Kyrgyzstan’s contribution to democratic development in the region, and despite rising nationalism, she said, “Kyrgyzstan is an open country with free media and [a] blogger community that exchanges opinion, and there is a plurality of opinion.”