Delegation of the European Union to Uzbekistan

Female start-ups offer route to economic independence

04/12/2019 - 12:01
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Although Uzbekistan lacks official statistics on domestic violence, studies indicate that there is a high prevalence of different forms of violence inside families, including psychological and physical violence and the deprivation of economic rights. While the Government of Uzbekistan has shown strong political will and commitment to resolve the issue, the lack of understanding of root causes of violence among the general public keep the family violence levels high.

Since its launch in 2018, the ‘hotline’ set up by the Women’s Committee of Uzbekistan has received over 15,000 calls from violence-affected women, and during the first three months of 2019, over 4,120 women and girls were referred to support centres due to ‘family conflicts’ 1. Yet these numbers only show the tip of the ice berg, as according to global trends the majority of domestic violence cases go unreported.

Lack of access to economic resources is one of the main factors leading to the vulnerability of women and girls to violence. In Uzbekistan, women’s share in formal employment is only at 45.7%2, and women run only 29%3 of the country’s businesses, while they are more often employed in the informal sector that provides lower wages. The low status of women within families is reinforced by their economic dependency, further increasing their vulnerability to domestic violence.

To address the issue, ACTED together with its local partners ‘the Oydin Nur Center for Social Protection of the Family” in Bukhara and ‘the Rahmdillik Shelter’ in Samarkand piloted a reintegration programme for the economic empowerment of women at-risk and survivors of family violence. The programme includes psychological and legal counselling, provision of medical examinations, and a safe shelter for women in difficult situations and their children, combined with Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and business grants for women to start their own income-generating activities.

“The success of the reintegration programme is as a result of its comprehensiveness. Women are guided step by step to a stronger awareness of themselves and their rights, culminating with the possibility to develop their own business plans and open bakeries, hair salons and other types of economic activities. All beneficiaries have received constant follow-up and mentoring to be fully empowered to open their start-ups”, Ms. Farzona Khashimova, ACTED Uzbekistan National Gender Equality Coordinator.

To support the launch of their start-up businesses, on 6th and 7th December two business fairs in Samarkand and Bukhara have been organized. During the fairs, the women involved will get an opportunity to showcase and promote their products. The fairs will also be used to inspire and inform other women about their economic opportunities. This will also serve as an opportunity to raise awareness of the general public on the importance of women’s economic empowerment as a tool to prevent violence inside families.

The women’s reintegration programme is implemented as part of the “Advancing women’s rights through enhanced protection and self-employment” -project by ACTED, the Oydin Nur Center for Social Protection of the Family in Bukhara, and the Rahmdillik Shelter in Samarkand. The project is implemented in close partnership with the Uzbekistan’s Gender Commission and with the financial support of the European Union. The aim of the project is to build the capacity of local civil society organizations (Mehr Kozda, Oydin Nur, Rahimdillik) to provide comprehensive support services, including safe shelter, medical examinations, psychological support, legal counseling and economic empowerment, to at-risk women and women survivors of domestic violence.

ACTED is an international non-governmental organization founded in 1993 and headquartered in Paris, France – with country offices in 37 countries worldwide. ACTED is committed to immediate humanitarian relief to support those in urgent need and protect people’s dignity, while co-creating longer term opportunities for sustainable growth and fulfilling people’s potential. ACTED has been present in Uzbekistan since 1999 and to date remains one of the most active international NGOs in the country. ACTED has been active in the fields of food security, livelihoods, economic development, conflict mitigation, local governance, capacity building of civil society organisations, shelter and infrastructure, microfinance, health education, reproductive health care and water and sanitation. ACTED's programmes in Uzbekistan are particularly focused on marginalized groups in rural areas and the local civil society.

The Mehr Kozda Center is a non-governmental organization established in 2003 in Tashkent. Its main purpose is to assist women, children and youth coming from poor families interested in sports, music, drawing, studying foreign languages, computer science and the internet, and to provide youth and women with trainings according to the needs of the labour market. The center provides also information, free consultations and a series of educational activities and actively cooperates with governmental and civil partners. Mehr Kozda is constantly in touch with the local community to adapt its activities the needs for social, legal and psychological assistance.

The Oydin Nur Center for Family social protection is a local civil society organization that provides legal and psychological support and safe shelter to women victims of domestic violence. Opened in Bukhara in 2000, Oydin Nur has gradually increased the services it offers and has to date provided: temporary shelter to over 500 women and their children, over 5000 psychological consultations, over 2100 legal consultations, and 9000 bills of support through the center’s hotline. Many assisted women could finalize their divorce cases, learn a profession and find employment thanks to the center’s support.

The Rahmdillik Shelter is a local civil society organization established in 2000 and operating in the Samarkand region. Rahmdillik provides comprehensive social protection services, including temporary shelter for women in difficult situations and their children, psychological and medical support, and legal assistance. It also offers educational activities to women and their children and promotes the rights of disadvantaged groups such as children with disabilities and low-income families. During the past two years, Rahmdillik has provided consultations and support to more than 1100 women and provided 250 women with a temporary shelter space.

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