To be a woman and to be interested in politics are two contradictory things.

This is a quote from Alima, a woman in my ‘Social and Political Theory’ class. She lives with us international students in the hotel but she’s actually a native Kazakh. She said she’s studying political theory because it’ll help her get a job as a secretary.

So, okay, Alima wants to be a secretary and she’s studying politics because it’s a requirement, not because she wants to. That’s normal, everyone has to study things they don’t care about in order to learn things they’re interested in. What makes me uneasy is the general context of it, Alima said:

Men have opinions, women aren’t supposed to have opinions.

This is an ingrained mentality which sidelines women from public life, the best they can hope for is a job as a secretary to a (male) politician. It’s kind of understandable, at least they’re honest about the situation.

There’s another school in the social sciences department, the school of ‘public administration’. It masquerades as political science but in reality it has little to do with politics. It’s more of a training school for bureaucrats, functionaries, local officials and other civil servants.

The state needs a supply of well-trained bureaucrats to keep everything running smoothly and that’s basically what KIMEP provides. It has a historical precedent too, the campus used to be an old training school for Communist Party officials. Only today, rather than promoting women within the state apparatus, the system now hides them away in their offices.