Uzbekistan, under the leadership of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, has embarked on a path of reform. Almost daily, the media there report on new initiatives and projects. It is no coincidence that in December 2019 The Economist awarded Uzbekistan the country of the year title.
More and more foreign companies are entering the local market, including those from the European Union. In the past few years alone, around 50 new companies with German capital have appeared in Uzbekistan. The changes being implemented by the authorities in Tashkent are multi-dimensional. They are manifesting themselves in various areas of socio-economic life. They also affect women.
In 2019, for the first time in the country’s history, the Speaker of the Upper House of the Parliament of Uzbekistan became a woman – Tanzila Narbaeva, who, in addition to holding such a high post, holds a number of other functions. She is:
- Chair of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality
- National Rapporteur on combating trafficking in human beings and forced labour
- Chair of the Republican Council on International Rank and File
- Chair of the National Anti-Corruption Council
- Chairperson of the Parliamentary Commission for Monitoring the Implementation of National Goals and Objectives for Sustainable Development of the Republic of Uzbekistan
In early 2020. The National News Agency of Uzbekistan recognized Tanzila Narbaeva as the most active state activist in the “Choice of the Year-2019” contest. In December 2021, at the first meeting on the establishment of the Dialogue of Women Leaders of Central Asia, Tanzila Narbaeva was elected President of this informal association for 2021.
In February this year, while preparing the Boym Quarterly, we came to the conclusion that if we want to improve the position of women, including in the labour market, we must work towards cooperation between them. Uzbekistan opening up is an opportunity for Polish women entrepreneurs. They know what reforms are. They themselves experienced them during the systemic transformation in the 1990s. We are convinced that Polish women can achieve a lot together with Uzbek women. Effective cooperation, however, requires that we first get to know each other. For these reasons, we have asked Chairwoman Tanzila Narbaeva to speak to our dear readers about the changing role of women in Uzbekistan and the measures that are being taken in this regard. To our great pleasure, we received the following comment from the Senate of Uzbekistan, which we heartily recommend you read. Central Asia boasts many famous women who have gone down in history forever: they worked hard and inspired many achievements of which we are proud today. We will consider the situation of women through the example of modern, renewing Uzbekistan. Tanzila Narbaeva, Chairwoman of the Senate Oliy Majlis (Upper House of Parliament) of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Chairwoman of the National Commission for Gender Equality, spoke about the new fundamental laws protecting women’s rights, their role in politics and the economy, and the changes taking place in the country. On the main directions of work to ensure the rights and freedoms of women in Uzbekistan. In Uzbekistan, the observance, promotion and protection of the rights of women and girls is systematically and consistently ensured, taking into account the generally recognized principles and norms of international law, as well as the national interests, mentality and traditions of our people.
The priority tasks of the Government of the Republic include increasing women’s social and political activity, expanding their presence in government and social structures, ensuring their economic independence by creating new jobs.
Important decisions made with the participation of women ensure the success of reforms undertaken to democratise society. Speaking about the main vector of work in this direction at the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev stressed that in gender policy issues it is planned to radically increase the role of women in the social, political and economic life of the country.The establishment of the National Commission for Gender Equality is an important historical moment in our country, aimed at raising the system of work with women to a new level. The creation of the National Commission for Gender Equality is an important historical moment in our country, aimed at raising the system of work with women to a new level, creating the necessary conditions for the full realization of their rights, legal interests and opportunities.The Olij Majlis Senate Committee on Women and Gender Equality is functioning effectively, the Republican Social Council of Women was created. About 20 normative legal acts have been adopted to implement the provisions of these laws. Compulsory gender-related legal expertise on legal acts was introduced into practice. In September 2019, two fundamental laws were adopted guaranteeing, for women and men, equal rights and opportunities, as well as protecting women from violence.A measurable effect on achieving gender equality is provided by the interaction of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis and the Government of the Republic of Uzbekistan with the UN and its specialized institutions. The “Strategy for achieving gender equality in the Republic of Uzbekistan for 2020-2030” and relevant indicators have been developed. The document aims to ensure equal rights and opportunities for women and men in social, economic and political spheres.
Overcoming barriers to gender equality and decent work
Of course, equality between women and men plays an important role in ensuring people’s well-being and economic stability. From this point of view, attention is drawn to the issue of ensuring women’s employment, extending opportunities to make full use of their potential.
Today, educated, multi-faceted, creatively-minded women and girls with strong citizenship are becoming drivers of change. They are becoming the most important element of the future.
New perspectives are opening up before them. In the Republic, solving social problems to improve the welfare of women is a priority, one of the main directions of state policy. In Uzbekistan, women account for 48% of the working population. That is about 17 million people. Today women are visible in all spheres of life: economic, social and public. The level of representation of women in positions of responsibility and leadership was 26.6%. It is women, on an equal footing with men, who can solve problems and make rational decisions thanks to their hard work and professional potential.
In order to increase the representation of women in state governance, a cadre reserve has been created from a pool of active women capable of holding leading positions in politics, economy and social affairs. Comprehensive work is being done to enhance their capacity and develop their leadership qualities. The number of women in the new Parliament has doubled and now stands at 25% women senators and 32% women MPs. In local Kengashas (councils), the proportion of women MPs is 25%. We are glad that according to this indicator the Parliament of Uzbekistan is ranked 37th among 190 higher legislative bodies of the world countries.
“It is our duty to change the situation of women generally. We face the task of achieving not the privileged position of women in society, but their equal rights and opportunities”.
At the same time, further strengthening the role of women in the labour market, especially in those sectors and professions traditionally dominated by men, opens up broad prospects from a business perspective.
Increasing women’s involvement in the economy is one of the drivers of accelerated economic growth. In order to support women’s business activity, “Women’s Entrepreneurship Centres” in the form of business incubators have been set up. In these centres, it is possible to get help and advice on finding reliable partners, purchasing mini-technologies and equipment, selling manufactured products and obtaining soft loans. In 2020, more than 61,500 women completed short-term vocational courses. As a result, despite the pandemic, the number of women entrepreneurs increased by 2744 and now stands at 172.7 thousand.
Uzbekistan has accumulated positive experience in developing entrepreneurship among young people. It is an important mechanism, able to ensure the expansion of self-employment opportunities, especially for young girls, through the creation of new small processing and handicraft enterprises. Last year, 585,000 women were provided with employment and more than 36,000 women and girls were trained in occupations.
It should be noted that the Women’s Support Fund will additionally allocate more than US$95 million to support business projects and address women’s issues locally.
A Vocational Training Centre for the Unemployed was established in Tashkent, where the proportion of women among the students reached 67%. The centre has trained about 2,000 women who are already employed.
In addition, from 2020, on the initiative of the President of our country, opportunities for girls in need of social protection to obtain higher education have been extended. State grants for higher education have been allocated for the aforementioned purposes.
In 2020, about 1,000 girls received education grants, and in 2021 it is planned to double the number and bring it to 2,000.
From each region, 150 indigent girls who do not have parents or one of them, single women who have lost their breadwinner, the contract will be paid from the state budget. Undoubtedly, the steps taken contribute to the creation of necessary opportunities for the professional development and career of women and girls.
Strengthening family institutions, protecting women from oppression and violence
The future of any country and the welfare of the state depend not only on the economic situation, but also on the general state of society, the conditions in which children grow up and are brought up. In this regard, active efforts are being made to strengthen the institution of the family, to implement a uniform state policy in this regard.
There is a Centre for the preparation of young people for family life. Newlyweds are trained there in family-legal relations, the psychology of family life, domestic affairs, the basics of reproductive health, child-rearing skills and spiritual and moral values.
In order to prevent early marriages, the Family Code was amended and the minimum age of marriage was set equal for men and women – 18 years.
In particular, it is worth noting that extensive work is being carried out in Uzbekistan to protect motherhood and childhood. In particular, from 1 June this year, pregnant women, nursing mothers and children under 15 years of age will be provided with vitamins and micronutrients free of charge.
In addition, in 2021, in-depth medical examinations will be conducted for nearly 9 million women in Uzbekistan, including oncological screening. In order to prevent oncological diseases, 323,000 girls will be vaccinated against the human papilloma virus. The state budget will allocate 30-50 billion sums (US$2.8-4.7 million) annually to the Women’s Relief Fund for the treatment of indigent women.
Uzbekistan has begun to actively work towards eliminating violence against women, but we still have a long way to go. All our efforts are directed towards ending all forms of violence against women and girls. The Law “On Preventing and Combating Violence against Women” provides a legal basis for the protection of victims by the internal affairs authorities, and also makes it possible to systematize the process of providing various types of assistance to them by the state.
In order to solve the problems arising in some families in a difficult situation and to prevent harassment and violence against women, about 200 shelters for women have been established and a hotline for support and emergency assistance has been launched. At the same time, the social network channel “No to violence” was established. In order to protect victims of domestic violence, protection orders are issued by internal affairs authorities. Problems that arise locally are dealt with locally. Interviews and preventive work with families are carried out. Now the woman knows where she can turn for advice and, in extreme cases, for help.
“Women’s Notebook” – the basis for new opportunities
Women and young people represent a significant part of the population, and addressing issues related to these groups is an important part of social work. In order to target work with unemployed women in need of social support and vocational education, the introduction of the “Women’s Notebook” was implemented. Women in particular need of employment assistance and social protection were included in the programme.
Special attention is now being paid to improving the living conditions of women by involving them in entrepreneurial activities and employment. Recently, material assistance was provided to about 13,500 women, and 1,200 women received soft loans, 41,000 were employed. In addition, thanks to the financial support of the Women and Family Support Fund, women (mothers of disabled children, low-income families, women raising children in single-parent families, women in need of improved housing conditions) from the most affected social groups are provided with preferential housing.
In order to interest women in entrepreneurial activities, it is envisaged to channel 2 trillion sums (over USD 190 million) of credit through the National Bank of Uzbekistan, which will specifically address women’s entrepreneurship issues. Therefore, it is women who have been appointed as deputies of this bank from national to district level.
Sustainable development and women leaders: the Uzbek experience
In recent years, under the leadership of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Uzbekistan has successfully pursued a renewed domestic and foreign policy. The country’s state policy of protecting women’s rights and interests, ensuring their broad participation in socio-political life, gender equality and reproductive health has been highly appreciated by the international community, in particular by authoritative international structures such as the UN, the International Labour Organization, UNICEF, the World Health Organization.
Underlying these positive developments is, above all, consistent hard work to ensure that women have a dignified place in society and to further improve their social status.
The logical continuation of strengthening international cooperation was the first ever project of an informal association in the region – the ‘Dialogue of Women Leaders of Central Asian Countries. The chairmanship of the Dialogue in 2021 was entrusted to the President of the Senate of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Oliy Majlis.
Our country has developed an Action Plan for the Presidency in 2021. The document envisages joint undertakings related to ensuring broad participation of women in social life and decision-making processes on general principles, equality, taking into account women’s rights, freedoms and interests.
In the context of international cooperation, attention should be paid to the dynamics of interstate relations between Uzbekistan and Poland. Currently, the role of inter-parliamentary cooperation, which is a factor of sustainable development of inter-state relations, is growing. Helping to strengthen international relations through inter-parliamentary interaction is one of the priorities of the activities of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
I am sure that we can find points of contact and in promoting gender equality issues, including the development of women’s entrepreneurship, which will become an important platform for interaction and cooperation. Uzbekistan follows positive global trends, and this is increasingly conducive to improving the country’s image in the international arena.
Our main task is to support the creation of conditions for maximum use of women’s potential. In this way, we show the world community that the achievements of Uzbekistan also include successful women in the country, who contribute to the development of the world.
Tanzila Kamalovna Narbaeva was born in 1956. She graduated from the Tashkent State University. She is a philologist by profession. She started her career in 1974 as a secondary school teacher. From 1975 to 1995 she held various positions in institutions, educational organizations of the People’s Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, and from 1995 to 2010 – in the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan. From 2010 to 2016 T. Narbaeva was the President of the Federation of Trade Unions of Uzbekistan, from 2016 to 2019 she headed the Women’s Commission of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Tanzila Narbaeva has been the President of the Senate Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan since 2019.
Translation: Karolina Piotrowska
Magdalena Sobańska-Cwalina Central Asia analyst, member of the Board of Directors of the Michal Boym Institute for Asian and Global Studies Foundation, PhD in economics (topic of doctoral dissertation: "Institutional determinants of the activity of Polish companies of the building materials industry in eastern markets"). Privately, she is passionate about classical music.
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