10 March 2007

Women of the Mountains- Day 2

I was only able to go up for the morning today and since they had four panels going on at once, I really didn't many of the papers that were presented today. But most of what I did hear today was about education, particularly in Kyrgyzstan. Since the main organizers of this conference either are Kyrgyz or have significant ties with Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyzstan has been well represented. The Kyrgyz presenters generally got their visas unlike most of the rest of the Central Asian participants, which was nice, but I still wish the US government wasn't quite so picky about visas.

The first speaker was from American Councils talking about the test (I can't remember the official name) that Kyrgyz universities now use to determine which students will receive state grants to cover their expenses while they are studying at the university. I was aware of the test since the students referred to it several time (some had gotten scholarships) and

The second presenter talked about cultural exchange with Kyrgyzstan. I felt the focus was a little too much on exporting American ideas to Kyrgyzstan and only exporting handicrafts instead of ideas from Kyrgyzstan, but it was still an interesting discussion.

Then a few people from Mountain Forum spoke. It was nice to get a better sense of Mountain Forum's goals and what their focus is. The trouble was the first presenter did this nicely, and then the next two repeated a lot of it. The first speaker was from the North America section, the second from the African, and the third from Latin America. It would have been more effective if the last two speakers had addressed what their specific nodes were working on instead of discussing the general goals of Mountain Forum.

Then I went to the panel on education, but I was only able to stay for half of it. Most of the presentations were about education in Kyrgyzstan, one about establishing internet access in Tajikistan, and one was on microcredit (Why that wasn't in the economic section, I don't know. There were several papers in the cultural section I went to yesterday that focused on education. ) A friend of ours from Kyrgyzstan talked about the need for technology and teaching reform in Kyrgyzstan.

Overall I enjoyed the conference. It had a rather limited focus which meant that many of the presenters weren't really talking about mountain women, but it was a good start. I did feel that corruption was glossed over by nearly all of the presenters, which is a shame since corruption plays a huge role in the problems mountain women have. Mountain women are generally very underrepresented in government, and the farther you are from the top, the more you're going to be hurt by corruption.

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