Then and Now: a leading voice in driving forward the road safety agenda in Kyrgyzstan
It was the first, and remains the only, dedicated road safety NGO in the country. In only six years PA Road Safety has become a leading voice in driving forward the road safety agenda in Kyrgyzstan. At the end of 2018, we sat down with Director, Chinara Kasmambetova, to reflect on her organisation’s achievements and how she has seen road safety change in this short time.
What prompted you to set up PA Road Safety?
The partnership of EASST countries existed already. I wanted to do something about the issue. When I established our organisation and started work I realised more and more the seriousness of the issue for my country. When looking at the figures, mortality rate or crash rate, you want to do something to change the situation. You just imagine all of these people: the tragedy of it. So you start with some minor steps, and you see it brings some results and so you carry on.
In what ways has EASST helped you develop PA Road Safety and supported your work?
When we started, every aspect of this work was very new to me. I started to explore everything at the same time: how to address this issue with the government, which policies I should focus on, what sort of projects to develop. I got a lot of experience and of course, if there was anything I wanted to explore, I could contact EASST at anytime.
For the first four years it was only me working in the organisation. I was taking every opportunity to develop and build my knowledge and experience in the road safety area. I learned from the other EASST partner organisations and this gave me ideas and inspiration; from that point of view EASST support is great. Internationally, EASST has helped us to understand the global road safety issues, connect us with global organisations, and support us to participate in international meetings. This has helped my organisation grow on the international scene and develop and strengthen our international relations.
The continuous annual grant programme from EASST has supported me and based on this support I have been able to develop my own activities and develop my organisation. This is really needed for the sustainability of your activities and your NGO.
Since it’s establishment, how has the role of PA Road Safety developed in terms of promoting road safety in Kyrgyzstan?
From year to year we are writing project proposals, implementing projects, participating in global activities, and developing our own activities. In all this work we collaborate closely with state organisations like the Mayor’s Office, the Traffic Police or the Ministry of Internal Affairs: various stakeholders. They started to know us more and more and, as a result, we started to get invited to high profile conferences and seminars.
Every time we go somewhere we raise the road safety issue. We highlight the seriousness of it and what needs to be done. We point to the experiences of other countries and global trends. We show that we are the local professionals in this area.
Now we are involved in many working groups and commissions, all related to road safety. This helps to push our work forward. We always make sure we are not just critical, but bring practical suggestions for improvement.
The transport sector is historically seen as being male-dominated. How well represented are women in the sector in Kyrgyzstan?
It’s mostly men. Sometimes it is the case that I am the only woman on panels and working groups. In fact it is very unusual that I am from an NGO in the road safety area and a woman. Sometimes I am approached by people saying, “We are surprised that you are working in this area and you are a woman because it is a difficult area.” But you just need to push very strongly and work with everybody. It is actually a uniqueness of EASST that it gives real and strong opportunities to everybody, men and women, to develop themselves and their organisation.
What would you say have been your main achievements?
One of the main achievements was working as part of the group of organisations and state departments to develop a document called the “Complex of measures to be taken in the area of road safety in the Kyrgyz Republic”. This document was signed by the President in 2017 and many of the recommended actions have started being implemented. At this moment we are part of a working group of the Ministry of Internal Affairs which is drafting a National Strategy on Road Safety.
Road safety has been raised to the top of the political agenda and I can say with confidence that I have been a part of this process. I am constantly invited to talk on the radio and on TV. Now, everybody talks about road safety. There are many changes going on and it’s a good result of my work to have been a part of raising this issue to the top level.