UARU
Cosmic Feminism: Meet the Women Designing Kyrgyzstan’s First Satellite
30 March, 2018

Constructing a satellite is one badass way to disprove sexist stereotypes in your country. And that’s exactly what an all-female team is doing in a bid to fight rampant discrimination in Kyrgyzstan.

For this project, a special engineering school was set up inside the Bishkek office of Kloop, a local independent media organization. Bektour Iskender, сo-founder of Kloop and co-founder of the project, came up with the idea after a meeting with a colleague at NASA.

Photo credit: Tatyana Zelenskaya for Kloop.kg

The satellite will be small and light (to the extent that one will be able to lift it with one hand). Its specific tasks are yet to be established, but organizers say they won’t be complex.

While the satellite is a small object, the idea behind it is big. Organizers believe it’s an important step towards tackling stereotypes and providing opportunities for women.

“We’re tired of discrimination against young girls, single women and older women in Kyrgyzstan,” reads a statement on the project’s website. “We’re sick of the fact that in a lot of families young girls are raised to be personal servants. We’re fed up with the fact that so many young women in Kyrgyzstan are being kidnapped, raped, and then forced to live with their rapist and call him their ‘husband’.’

Photo credit: Bektour Iskender/Kloop.kg

Apart from making history and changing mindsets, the project could also help women launch careers in robotics, engineering, space exploration or artificial intelligence.

“I’m studying programming at university, so the project is really interesting for me,” says Ayana, a participant in the program. “Especially because its goal is to raise the status of women in society. I want to play a part in the making of the first satellite Kyrgyzstan launches.”

Photo credit: Tatyana Zelenskaya for Kloop.kg

Organizers say that in Kyrgyz society men are afforded far more opportunities than women for professional development. Furthermore, in mixed groups “men usually hog the limelight and prevent women from taking initiative,” they said.

The group plans to assemble the satellite by mid-2018 and complete the project within two years. The spacecraft will then be sent to the International Space Station, and be launched into orbit from there.

Photo credit: Tatyana Zelenskaya for Kloop.kg

The project will require $100-150 thousand in funding. Part of the project has already been funded while the rest is to be collected via a special crowdfunding campaign.

During the summer organizers are expecting specialists from NASA to come to Bishkek to share their knowledge and help implement the project.

/By Ostap Yarysh

/Translated & Adapted by Eilish Hart