KYRGYZSTAN’S NATIONAL SPORT, Kok Boru, is a male-dominated affair. Even the equipment, used by players on horseback to fight over possession of a goat carcass, is made by men. But one woman refuses to accept these traditional gender roles. Not only is Gülnara Asiz Kyzy the only female horsewhip maker in the capital Bishkek – maybe even in the whole country – but she is also considered one of the best.
Gülnara Asiz Kyzy says her defiance stems from her own experience of Kyrgyzstan’s deeply patriarchal society. The 51-year-old has escaped two abusive marriages and has vowed to live the rest of her life without men. She hopes to inspire others to do the same in a country where nearly a third of women aged 15-49 are victims of domestic violence, and few manage to escape.