USAID Helps Prevent Domestic Violence During Quarantine in Uzbekistan

Speeches Shim

Thursday, April 16, 2020
When there was no coronavirus pandemic, Nihol conducted training sessions that promoted women's initiatives in the education of rights and freedoms.
Photo credit: Shirin Rashidova

To stop the spread of COVID-19, people across Central Asia are staying home and practicing social distancing to help flatten the curve. Yet quarantine and isolation can carry additional risks for families experiencing multiple stressors. Small shared spaces, limited mobility, uncertainty about the future, and loss of income are just a few of the factors that can build to domestic violence.

In Uzbekistan, USAID supports domestic violence prevention through its Partnership for Innovations Program, which awards grants for community initiatives. Grant recipient Center for Development and Support of Initiatives, Nihol, has partnered with local activists on a volunteer basis to launch a Telegram channel (@psixologikmaslaxat) and Telegram bot (@psixologikmaslahat_GT_bot) to provide free psychological counseling to citizens in crisis, especially people vulnerable to domestic abuse.

“In 2003, we built on the initiative of women leaders in Tashkent and the Tashkent region to create a CSO [civil society organization] that will help citizens learn about their rights and freedoms,” says Shirin Rashidova, director of Nihol. “We also train and educate them culturally. These are tough times, everyone needs to come together.”

In 2019, with support from USAID, the Civil Society Development Association and its key partner, the national public movement Yuksalish, launched the Partnership for Innovations Program in Uzbekistan.

“Last year we received a grant for organizational development so that we can continue our work and make a greater impact. Thanks to USAID, we have the organizational capacity to help people in need and their families,” says Shirin. “Now, during a pandemic, we have brought together professional psychologists, including those working in different CSOs, and united them on a volunteer basis to create a Telegram channel and Telegram bot. We provide people with psychological first aid and try to resolve family conflicts and prevent domestic violence.”

The UN has reported an explosion of domestic violence in the world under quarantine.

Shirin Rashidova adds that inquiries are addressed by school psychologists, psychoanalysts, certified psychologists with experience in psychological counseling, university professors, researchers, wellness specialists, and mental health specialists, including members of the Association of Psychologists of Uzbekistan. The Telegram channel and Telegram bot were launched on April 7, 2020. Since then, more than 200 questions have been answered through the channel, which has enabled the USAID-funded Partnership for Innovation Program to support the families and contribute to domestic violence prevention efforts.