Creating Employment Opportunities for Women in Rural Uzbekistan

Speeches Shim

Sunday, December 20, 2020
Women at the sewing class by the Ayol va Shodlik Center
Partnership for Innovation Activity

Dilbar Ruziyeva lives in Markaz Mahalla in Angor district, located in the southernmost part of Uzbekistan’s Surkhandarya region with her husband and their daughter who has a physical disability. Dilbar married at the young age of 19 after which she didn’t pursue her studies. Without a university degree and with a special needs child, Dilbar has struggled to find employment. Her husband used to provide for their family. But once the pandemic hit, he, like millions of low-wage earners, got laid-off. For the first six months of the pandemic, the family lived off what they could grow in their garden. In July, Dilbar successfully completed sewing classes offered free of charge by Ayol va Shodlik Center, a non-governmental organization in Angor district. She now has the skills to earn a steady income and financially support her family.

There are currently more than 70,000 girls and women in Angor district, comprising 52 percent of the population. Nearly 30 percent are unemployed. Unable to find a job, many girls and women migrate abroad to find work. Unemployment leads to labor migration. Without easy access to universities, rural residents lack professional skills and have limited opportunities to pursue vocational training or higher education.

One solution to this challenge is to learn a trade or craft. It not only contributes to economic stability and family well-being, but also increases the level of social engagement among girls and women. Fee-based private training courses are not affordable for many, so the Ayol va Shodlik Center offers free training courses for women in need.

Ayol va Shodlik Center through its social enterprise, Helping is Easy, has extensive experience with vocational training, including sewing outerwear and other goods. The enterprise has sewing machines, cutting tables, and all the equipment needed for a full production cycle. Through the USAID-funded Partnership for Innovations program implemented by ARGO and Yuksalish Nationwide Movement in Uzbekistan, Ayol va Shodlik Center developed a business plan and marketing strategy for a sewing workshop for 2020-2022.

Sewing instructors Malika Begejanova and Nargiza Narboyeva also live in Angor district. They are intimately aware of the rate of unemployment among women in the region. Several years ago, they attended sewing courses offered by the Ayol va Shodlik Center and subsequently found employment with the assistance of Helping is Easy. With the support of the USAID-funded Partnership for Innovations program, Malika and Nargiza pursued and completed advanced professional courses. Today, both women train girls and women from their community at no charge.

When selecting potential participants for sewing courses, the Ayol va Shodlik Center considers recommendations from local self-governing authorities (mahalla). “This year has been especially tough for many in our community,” says Khosiyat Adinayeva, Deputy Head of Markaz Mahalla for family, women, and social support issues. “A total of 789 families live in our mahalla; six of them are considered low-income, and 44 are vulnerable. During the summer, the Center contacted us and twelve of our girls and women attended their sewing course. Some of them received jobs in a sewing workshop operating in our community, and the others take orders at home.”

“I didn’t work for many years,” says Dilbar. “In July, the mahalla officials told me about free sewing courses and I gladly attended them. The instructors visited our community to teach us. At first, I sewed for my family members, and then I started taking orders from my neighbors. Thanks to this, our family has a source of income.”

During the past few months, 30 women from rural communities have completed courses offered by the Ayol va Shodlik Center. Half of these women have since been working from home. In addition to sewing, instructors have also taught 23 women business skills. The Helping is Easy social enterprise which employs women from vulnerable groups is already receiving orders. Income from the social enterprise allows the organization to continue providing women with professional training and supports their ability to start and grow their businesses.

Dilbar’s story demonstrates how important it is for women to be able to have access to income generating activities. It has helped build her confidence both in herself, and her family’s future. “Thanks to the skills I have gained, I can now take care of my daughter. My husband and I saved money, received a low-interest loan with the support of the mahalla, and built a small greenhouse. I believe everything is getting better for us,” says a grateful Dilbar.