Meet Narmin Shаmilova from Azerbaijan
“My grandmother used to say: “Just go where you see the light and take it with you”. It seems like this has been Narmin Shamilova’s modus operandi for quite some time.
Shamilova is one of the most active South Caucasus politicians on the topics of feminism, equal rights, and the need for a resilient and healthy media landscape. Born in 1987 in Sumgait, the second-largest city in Azerbaijan, Narmin Shamilova graduated in Russian studies and literature from Baku Slavic University in 2011. Since then, she has been building her profile, first as a journalist and a TV presenter, then as an activist, leadership trainer, and politician. She first was aligned with the Democratic Reforms Party and, as of 2021, is in the Movement for Democracy and Prosperity of Azerbaijan.
She was one of the organizers of the “Azerbaijani Women in the 21st Century” conference in 2014 and, in the same year, she headed a women’s branch of the party and initiated an Intellectual Women’s Club in the capital. In 2018 she led a programme promoting women’s participation in her hometown. In 2019, she was an expert in the “Women Against Radicalization” project and also led a campaign on reproductive health and rights in Baku.
She is also the founder of the “Woman in Action” platform which started in 2020 and highlights women’s rights through art, educational events, and mentorship programs. Shamilova wants to emphasize how important it is for women in the countryside to be more interested in politics and positive self-development. The goal is for Azeri women to not only be more self-aware and outspoken, but also to be active in the decision-making process, interested in important political processes and global issues, and to increase their diplomatic, political, media, and cultural skills.
Narmin notes that although the participation of women in politics is not restricted by law, in practice it’s still easy for their voices to be pushed aside. And the increased presence of women in parliament is not enough, “We need elected women, not just appointed ones. We have to show that it’s not just men who decide who can be elected, we can also be elected”, Narmin says.
Is there a generational shift in the way Azeri women think? “Our government is still not doing enough to improve the media landscape”. Another important factor is that the local family culture is still marked by a strong patriarchal system and traditions that still have some controversial facets – some women are still marrying at a young age, especially in smaller towns. Shamilova would like for more girls to prioritize their education instead of creating a family while still in their teenage years.
“Young people want to be active but they don’t know how to fight for their rights, they have limited opportunities to express their voices. I think a person must first fight for his or her own rights and then for others’, in that way we can all be part of public life. I believe we can change society.”