USAID Supports the Successful Integration of an Ethnic Kazakh Family

Speeches Shim

Thursday, December 19, 2019
Ethnic Kazakh products
IOM

“I want to thank the project for the opportunity to start my own business. It has changed my life. I was given the sewing equipment that I had long dreamed of,” says Bakhytgul. “Now the products that I make are of excellent quality. I share photos of my products on social networks and find my customers. Thanks to this, our family has improved its wellbeing and gained financial stability.”

Several years ago Bakhytgul (name changed) and her family arrived from Mongolia to northern Kazakhstan.  She was participating in the “Oralman” initiative by the Government of Kazakhstan, which encourages ethnic Kazakhs living abroad to return to their historic homeland.  Despite receiving assistance from the government, the family struggled to make ends meet. For instance, Bakhytgul and her family could not afford the monthly rental fee to live in the subsidized housing provided through the Oralman program. Bakhytgul started sewing Kazakhstani apparel and household items to make a living, but without her own sewing machine, she was unable to earn enough to support her family.

Upon learning of  her situation, the USAID-funded “Women’s Support Center in Petropavlovsk,” a partner organization of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), arranged for Bakhytgul to improve her skills through master sewing classes and provided her with her own sewing equipment. As a result of this needs-based support, Bakhytgul learned how to create and sell new products, including rugs, decorative pillowcases, and bedspreads with national styles and designs. She began advertising her new products on social media networks and found new customers online. Now, income from sewing has become the main source of income for Bakhytgul and her family.

Ethnic Kazakh migrants returning to Kazakhstan face distinct challenges integrating into their communities. In addition to finding a job, housing, and medical services, they must also adapt to a new language, society, and culture. The USAID Dignity and Rights Project was able to support Bakhytgul and her family’s successful integration because it provided support targeted to their needs. The project also provided Bakhytgul a platform to voice the needs and concerns of all ethnic Kazakh migrants in Kazakhstan. In September 2019, Bakhytgul participated in a National Dialogue event that included participants from the Government of Kazakhstan and civil society groups. Based on her own experiences, she provided recommendations on amendments to the national migration law that would improve migrants’ rights. She is now in the process of registering a non-governmental organization to represent the interests of ethnic Kazakh migrants and protect their rights in Kazakhstan. The NGO “Women Support Center in Petropavlovsk” is providing her with support and guidance.

“I want to thank the project for the opportunity to start my own business. It has changed my life. I was given the sewing equipment that I had long dreamed of,” says Bakhytgul. “Now the products that I make are of excellent quality. I share photos of my products on social networks and find my customers. Thanks to this, our family has improved its wellbeing and gained financial stability.”

The life-changing assistance provided for migrants like Bakhytgul is made possible thanks to the financial support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the work of IOM and partner organizations. 

The USAID Dignity and Rights program, implemented by IOM, is designed to advance human rights and dignity in Central Asia, both as an issue of public policy, as well as civic culture. The project focuses on raising awareness of migrants’ labor rights and strengthening civil society’s ability to safeguard them. The Dignity and Rights program addresses challenges related to violations of migrants’ rights and helps counter trafficking in persons in Central Asia, presenting a regional response to these challenges grounded in human rights principles.