Zholdas Orisbayev
6 min readMar 20, 2020


The professor starts her classes with an anthem of the course “Kazakh Arui” / Photo informburo.kz

Gender (in)equality. What Have Kazakh Girls Been Learning at the university?

Some students of Girls Only University in Almaty are against to the special course “Kazakh Arui” (Kazakh Lady), where they were pushed to learn how to serve their future husbands. A correspondent of informburo.kz visited the educational Institution to figure out what’s going on?

What happened?

According to Dariga (the name is changed in order avoid the pressure from the university authority), a student of Kazakh State Women’s Teacher Training University, it would be effective to teach 15–16-year old teenagers with this course, but not the university students. Because undergraduate students are full-aged to discuss what girls have to do, whatnot.

“It is no need to re-educate our behavior as we have already grown-up”, she said.

The student named Altynai (the name is changed): “Traditional family principles that we learn at the university is the same what our mothers say at home. It is the way enough what my mother teaches me in this manner. And I do not want to repeat it at the university”.

Altynai says that she was obligated to take this special course and lost a chance to attend subject courses, for what she is at the university. This is the reason for girls to persist to erase the moral course from an academic program.

What do we know about “Kazakh Arui”

Around 11 years ago, Sarash Konyrbayeva, who is an associate professor of Girls Only University, was responsible for creating a new course, which would be unique for the university.

She has been teaching at the university for over 15 years / Photo informburo.kz

According to Sarash Konyrbayeva, 15 senior teachers were involved to prepare a curriculum of “Kazakh Arui”. The program was rejected by a scientific committee of the university in the first year. But the second year they allowed adding this course to academic study. Since then, there was no problem regarding the course for a decade.

“Kazakh Arui” is a one-semester course, which has two modules. The first is to learn about brave girls who lived in Kazakh Steppe and the second one is about a traditional family of Kazakh society.

Informburo.kz made a request to the curriculum of the course and university officials gave permission to look at it.

What to learn there?

Students were more against the second module of the course as they learn how to serve their husbands in the future. For example, in the 9th seminar, girls learn to prepare for marriage, traditions of having a family. Moreover, there are seminars about things to do and taboos when girls become a bride, how to serve her husband, bringing up the children, the role of the father in a family, criticism for the girls, etc.

During the seminars, students discuss the value of virginity and obligations to keep their virginity until the marriage. Sarash Konyrbayeva says that it is vital to all Kazakh girls not to have sex until the marriage

To make clear this case, correspondent of informburo.kz questioned Leyla Makhmudova, an independent counsel on educational issues and feminist. She assures that virginity should be the main value of individuals.

“If we think about the concept of virginity in Kazakh Society, unfortunately, it’s the main value of unmarried girls in our community. But to keep the virginity or not should be the personal choice of a girl and it should be up to her whatever assortment she wants to do. But our conservative education system pursues to have a stereotyped opinion while making such courses, which violates the human rights against women,” Leyla told.

Are students having psychological pressure?

The author of the course Sarash Konyrbayeva told that all the students have chosen the course on their own. There is no psychological pressure on them.

“Every girl’s destiny is important to me. I try to avoid to press on issues that girls might have. Some titles are being cut by the choice of students,” she told.

Informburo.kz hired a psychology expert to make an analysis to students' responses and other aspects of the course.

“For example, the virginity of girls is being discussed during the seminar. Maybe, one or two of attending students have already lost their virginity and they are not married. Professor with knowledge of these girls starts criticizing not virgin girls. So, the not virgin category was created and not virgin girls began to feel horrible just because they had sex before marriage. It may lead to depression”, Zubayda Kenebayeva told to a correspondent of informburo.kz while analyzing the case.

According to an expert, if a depressed girl could not get psychological support, she would definitely lose self-confidence and optimism. Later she might have a psychological disorder and commit suicide.

What do the other students think about the course?

It took several weeks for us to receive permission to make a survey among the students who attend this special course. The number of respondents was 123. 80 students from Kazakh groups and 33 from Russian groups.

Half of the Kazakh group students and 22 from Russian groups decided not to give their names while replying to the survey. Kazakh groups made clear that they have chosen the course on their own, but 10 students from Russian groups said they haven’t made a choice and obligated to attend.

Some Students left the survey paper without filling it out / Photo informburo.kz

25 students from Kazakh groups replied that they do not support having equal rights of men and women in the family, only 4 students of Russian group told that men should be mainly in a family.

After analyzing carefully, it became clear that students mostly from Russian groups are confronting to erase the course. An associate professor of the university named Bayan Sagyndikkyzy, who teaches Russian groups, denied giving an interview to informburo.kz regarding this case.

Two plus two equals five

Again, Sarash Konyrbayev assures that “Kazakh Arui” is an elective course and students attend it by their choice. But, she hopes that this course will be a must for everyone at this university.

Zubayda Kenedbayeva, hired a psychology expert, after looking through all the survey papers, said that the Kazakh group students’ response looks like the same.

“The majority of students of this university are from village-like regions of Kazakhstan. And almost all of them are studying with the state grant. Their parents cannot afford to pay for their Bachelor’s degree. That’s why students worry more about not losing the grant and they do not go against anyone at the university even it concerns the violation of their rights,” Zubayda Kenenbayeva told.

The course of “Kazakh Arui” supports gender equality?

According to Leyla Makhmudova, the majority of youth in Kazakhstan have no idea what is gender equality as there is no subject or classes on it at schools and universities.

“The authorities of university say that “Kazakh Arui” was built to support gender equality in Kazakhstan, but they are doing it in the opposite way”, she assures.

In turn, the professor says that feminists in Kazakhstan want to rule over men. “Going against men is not a democracy”, Sarash Konyrbayev said.

Girls should be married as early as possible, cause their destiny is to give a birth

Sarash Konyrbayeva recognizes the course as the only way to help girls to get married at the right time, which is as early as possible. She says she is worrying that the number of unmarried and divorced women is increasing dramatically.

Professor Sarash Konyrbayeva is an author of the verses of the anthem of “Kazakh Arui” / Photo informburo.kz

“Girls should be married as early as possible. Because we, women, have the destiny to give birth and raise the nation’s population”, professor told.

Besides, Leyla prolongs that predicates that she is not against getting married early.

“The only thing concerns me is to discuss personal issues in a varied way and it should be student’s choice whether to discuss particular issues or not,” Ms. Makhmudova told.

The creative and economic potential of the country

“Education system is limiting the opportunities of girls by teaching them stereotypes such as the right thing for Kazakh girl is to marry and stay at home to raise children. Girls who have a passion to change something in our society might stay at home without knowing what she actually can do,” Layla said.

Ms. Makhmudova insists that Kazakhstan is losing its 52 percent of human capital, as a new generation of girls is being taught to be a home attendant or servicewoman. Otherwise, Kazakhstan might be much more developed than it is now.