The project was initiated by a Kazakh singer Akmarzhan Kusherbayeva - Kaliya. In the summer of 2017, Akmarzhan released a song about social issues: stigmas relating to girls in Kazakhstan, early pregnancy and abortion. Shomyshbay Sariev wrote the lyrics about a fragile girl's fate and Nurlan Karazhigitov composed the music.

“Қыз тағдыры” translates as “the fate of a girl”, which is quite consonant with the campaign of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) - #HerFuture. Akmarzhan applied to the Fund with a request to provide up-to-date statistics on teenage pregnancy in Kazakhstan, and in September 2017 she received an offer to become the official UNFPA voice for adolescent reproductive health in Kazakhstan.

This year STEPPE, UNFPA and KALIYA decided to restart the project, since all the issues raised earlier still remain relevant for the Kazakhstan society and the fate of every girl in modern realities is no less important today than it was yesterday.

«Kazakh traditions do not imply abusive treatment of girls»

Kaliya told The Steppe what inspired her for this project.

— Akmarzhan, why did you decide to write a song and make a video on this subject?

Every day I see news that a girl, after an unwanted pregnancy, which she hid from her family out of fear, threw her child away. A living person. She didn’t see any other way out - she didn’t know how to protect herself, didn’t know how to manage her pregnancy, didn’t know where to go before or after the childbirth. Even if there were people who could help her, and there are, she didn’t know about their existence.

The society does what it does best – puts a stigma and condemns. I couldn’t remain indifferent. I decided to bring this issue to the surface.

Although, everyone has a choice: to give up judgment and lend a helping hand, or start taking action in order to prevent such cases.

— Do you think artists should have an active position on this issue?

We have a responsibility - to be guides and deliver information to people, because we have that opportunity. If, after hearing my song, teenagers, parents, and people around pause to think for a second and understand the existence of a global social issue, then my goal will be achieved. I will raise this issue in music, someone will do it in movies and someone else in writing. This way we will launch positive processes in our society.

There is a taboo in our society: everything that happens in the family, stays in the family. Nobody should bring it up for public discussion and nobody has the right to fight it. But we have to change it somehow.

Everyone takes part in this through action or inaction, through words or silence - we are all responsible. This is the message I want to convey. Everyone has in their circle girls or women who have gone through this experience or it’s about to happen to them.

— How will our society, which is largely traditional, react to such a statement?

I deeply believe that Kazakh traditions never imply abusive treatment of girls. "Thin is the path of a girl (Қыздың жолы — жіңішке)" says the folk wisdom. From time immemorial a girl has been considered fragile and tender, requiring a reverent attitude. The girl has been seated "төрге" (tor - the most honorable place in the house, - ed.), as she is a guest in the house who should receive all the love and affection. Such an attitude allowed an educated and beloved daughter to become a confident woman, to form a happy family.

I understand that people are different. Someone will deny these situations, someone will cry, someone will recognize themselves in them, and someone will get offended. But it’s worse if nobody cares.

— How did the song "Kyz tagdyry" come about?

It was a team effort. I went to the songwriter Shomyshbay Sariev and explained what exactly I wanted to tell the listener, that we need to make an appeal to think rather than throw accusations. He listened to me.

It took one night to write the lyrics - the very next morning I looked at the first version and realized that the author hit home - I did not want to change a single word.

Then we needed to put the lyrics on the music. The lyrics of this song are anything but simple, so it was quite a challenge to express them musically. I also didn’t want the music to crush and break the heart - drama and tears would be excessive. I wanted dynamics, development and simplicity. Nurlan Karazhigitov perfectly delivered on the task.

— Tells us how you created the video for these lyrics and music?

I immediately saw the story of delicate beautiful girls with dreams and hope in their eyes, who carry purity and light energy. It was important to show the smallest details, sometimes invisible to people - how that shine in their eyes can go out, how tears can flow, how friends and family can turn away. But as soon as you lend a helping hand, the girl will flourish, and even «the mountains will bend their knees» before her beauty, as the song itself says.

I brought this idea to a talented director Katerina Suvorova, confident that she would understand it. And so it happened. I was glad to see that many men participated in the development of the project: authors of the lyrics and music, cameraman, actors. Everyone was very focused and understood, like Katya and I, that they were taking part in something important. The atmosphere was incredible and inspiring.

— During the creation of the video, you were invited to be the voice for UNFPA. Why did you accept the offer?

UNFPA is the United Nations Population Fund. Their mission is to protect the young generation from the problems that they can bring on themselves out of ignorance. Introducing sexuality education into the school curriculum, establishing a dialogue between teenagers and their parents, putting the reproductive health of the nation on the agenda are their main objectives. I am glad to be their speaker and to be able to disseminate correct information.

Someone will say that talking is pointless, but in fact, words spoken at the right moment can save lives.

I have some experience with this subject. The girl got pregnant, her parents abandoned her, the guy didn’t admit his involvement, her friends kicked her out of the apartment, which they rented together to study. Her own aunt wanted her to marry a complete stranger and a widower until this girl, by chance, met me.

I told her about "Mother's House", which I just stumbled upon on social networks. Having turned there for help, she found support. She was given shelter, specialized care in a polyclinic, and most importantly she was provided with moral support. She gave birth to a healthy boy and soon after giving birth, her parents came to their senses. They themselves were shocked that they had almost abandoned their loved one. They have taken him home and now they cannot imagine their life without their grandson. The situation was safely resolved simply because the girl found out that such an option exists. There is nothing supernatural, no financial investments or connections - only words spoken at the right time. And this work on educating people has to continue. We need to talk about opportunities to avoid issues and educate. How can anyone stand aside? I cannot.

Kaliya talks about how to combat gender-based violence in the #WeKazakhstan project.