Andijan region is the smallest in the area but the most densely populated territory in Uzbekistan. More than 3.2 million people live here, of which 1.7 million are children and young people under 30 years old.
This is both a huge opportunity and a big challenge. That’s why in the region, and in Uzbekistan as a whole, the issues of ensuring the legitimate rights and interests of young people in Uzbekistan have been raised to the level of state policy. Many programs and projects are being implemented to educate boys and girls, realize their economic and creative potential, and ensure their leisure and employment.
These processes involve not only government agencies but also non-governmental, non-profit organizations that offer new approaches and innovative solutions in working with youth.
The project “#YoshStan: Raising youth voices in local decision making” is a vivid example of this. It was implemented by the non-governmental, non-profit organization Hamroh of Andijan in conjunction with the international NGO Search for Common Ground with the financial support of the European Union. The Asaka district of the Andijan region was selected as the target location of the project.
“Seven makhallas of Asaka district were selected for the project. These are makhallas Fayziobod, Sayyidobod, Abu Ali Ibn Sino, Alisher Navoiy, Kadim, Kujgan, Ungut. Within the framework of the project, the interests, needs, and desires of the youth living in these makhallas were studied,” explains Gulnora Yuldosheva, head of the Andijan non-governmental non-profit organization Hamroh. “Based on this, the main attention was paid to increasing the activity of young men and women in creating conditions for themselves in the area where they live.”
Within the framework of the project, thematic meetings, training sessions, and master classes for youth were conducted for residents of the makhallas. For these purposes, the initiators of the project attracted various experts, representatives of government agencies, and makhallas. The next step was the allocation of mini-grants for youth projects.
«As part of the project «#YoshStan: Raising youth voices in local capacity building» we announced a competition for small projects to receive mini-grants,» says Gulnora Yuldosheva. «A total of more than 50 young people from Asaka district took part in this competition. As a result, 12 projects became winners.»
It is noteworthy that almost all applications received cover the interests of vulnerable families and aimed at solving specific social problems in the context of the youth’s makhalla, district.
For example, Diyora Azizova proposed organizing free classes for children from low-income families in the Faiziobod makhalla, teaching them foreign languages. Thanks to the Birdamlik (solidarity) social project, Diyora Azizova became one of the holders of the regional Khokim’s scholarship. Diyora was given a laptop and 5 million sums (about $450). Last June, she was able to participate in a meeting with the President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, in Andijan and express her proposals to the head of state on organizing children’s leisure activities, teaching them languages with the application of modern technologies.
To conduct classes, Diyora was given a room adjacent to the makhalla building for free. A group of 20 children aged 10 to 14 was formed. Most of them were from low-income families. Considering the requests of local residents, the project initiators started another group of 20 people. Qualified linguists have taught them Russian and English for three months.
“I felt myself as the happiest person when 40 children hugged me and said: “Thank you, teacher!”. Their aspirations and energy inspire and motivate me. So now I am also mastering foreign languages.” shares Diyora.
Gulirano Numonova, within the framework of the project, organized a family kindergarten in the Abu Ali Ibn Sino makhalla, welcoming more than 20 children. Thanks to this, young mothers got the opportunity to work.
“If you have good intentions in your soul, then everything will work out,” notes Gulirano Numonova. “I have already made sure of that. I am 21 years old. I am a happy wife, mother, entrepreneur, and, more recently, a student. Family support inspires me. We are currently working on the possibility of opening another family kindergarten in our makhalla. Our example also inspires other active people and neighbors. Several people have already come to us for advice on how to organize a family kindergarten.”
Government agencies responded to Gulirano’s initiative. A public-private partnership agreement was signed. From now on, the state has assumed obligations to provide children with food and employees with salaries in exchange for preschool education for children, including those from socially vulnerable families. In addition, the kindergarten is exempt from paying all types of taxes and mandatory contributions to state trust funds for 10 years.
Abdulaziz Karimov from the Kujgan makhalla initiated the Uzbekiston Yoshlari social project. In a short time, he was able to organize a free football section in his native makhalla. Now about 80 children regularly go in for sports there.
“About 11,000 residents live in the makhalla, more than 2,000 of them are young people,” explains the chairman of the Kujgan makhalla Ziyoyiddin Mamarasulov. “Abdulaziz and his friends do a lot of good with little money. They are passionate about the process and put their soul into working with young people. Their enthusiasm, activeness, and positive attitude are transmitted to others. Parents are glad that their children do not hang around idle but go in for sports. Abdulaziz took an important step toward the development of mass sports among rural boys. Such initiatives of young people show that they are not indifferent to the fate of their native makhalla. They are interested in promoting advanced ideas and approaches in working with the younger generation.”
Last year, two of our trainees were admitted to football academies: one to the Andijan regional children’s and youth football academy, the second to the Bekabad children’s academy of the Metallurg football club. Abdulaziz will continue to work with youth. He is sure that many future stars of national football will come out of Kujgan makhalla in the years to come.
Nurullo Mallabayev, 22, initiated a project aimed at supporting and providing counseling to the children of migrant workers from the Sayidobod makhalla. Over a period of three months, 20 boys and girls were able to establish relationships with their parents, who, by circumstance, are far away from them.
«Among the participants of the training session, there was a girl who went to a wrong track,» says Nurullo Mallabayev. «The makhalla is small, and rumors spread quickly. A psychologist also worked with her. Now the girl is taking pre-entry courses in Kokand. She dreams of entering a medical university. In other words, she was able to restore relations with her parents, who supported their daughter’s idea to become a doctor and pay for her accommodation and education in another city. The girl studies chemistry and biology in-depth. I think she will be able to achieve her goal.»
Ungut makhalla is considered to be one of the remotest in the Asaka region. Last year’s experience of working with youth on the project of Mukhlisa Akhliddinova Oy Nuri became an excellent case for local authorities. According to an already well-established approach, they train girls and women for professions.
“The example of Mukhlisa inspired our youth. She taught local girls and women how to sew free of charge. As a result, six months later, one of the makhalla entrepreneurs Nigorakhon Bozorova, seeing their interest, opened a sewing workshop. In the makhalla, there are many people who want to work, so now she is expanding her production. If 15 girls work for her at this time, then after the renovation of the new premises is completed, she will be able to employ at least 50 more people. It is noteworthy that among them, there are also graduates of sewing courses organized within the framework of the “Oy Nuri” project.” says the chairperson of the Ungut makhalla, Keldivoy Yuldashev.
Mirsalim Rakhmonov, the chairman of the Kadim makhalla, is proud that three representatives of his makhalla at once were able to become the owners of the mini-grants under the #YoshStan project. They united about 80 young men and women in various thematic circles and directed their energy in a positive direction.
“The implementation of these projects, firstly, contributes to the employment of young people. Secondly, girls and boys can learn some profession, gain important skills and start working, thereby elevating the status of our makhalla, the region, and Uzbekistan. That’s why we try to support them.” says the chairman of the Kadim makhalla, Mirsalim Rakhmonov.
The effect of supporting youth initiatives is obvious. If decisions are made taking into account youth’s interests and needs, this will give impetus to the development of territories and reduce the outflow of young personnel from rural areas. And most importantly, young men and women will feel involved in what is happening in the country.
“It is very important to increase the role of youth in the decision-making process at the local level to ensure their participation. The reason is that boys and girls know better the situation in local communities and the needs of their peers. If decisions are made taking into account the interests and needs of young people, they will have even more opportunities for the professional and personal growth, the comprehensive development of their abilities and potential.” states the initiator of the #YoshBusinessStan project Shukhrat Numonjonov.
These small projects are just a few examples of youth initiatives brought to life. The #YoshStan project brought together hundreds of young people around the idea of positive changes in society who are not indifferent to the future of their native makhalla, district, region, and the country as a whole.
Following the implementation of youth initiatives at the expense of mini-grants, more than 300 students from socially vulnerable groups of the population were involved in various courses and study clubs. Some mini-projects continue working thanks to subsidies from the regional administration. Thus, the young people have been able to truly put into practice the knowledge and competencies they received during the training sessions and master classes.
In a short time, young men and women gained confidence in themselves, developed as leaders, and established effective interactions with government agencies and public structures. Today they continue their work as heads of educational institutions, run their own businesses, implement new projects, and actively promote the rights and interests of their peers.
The contents of this post are the sole responsibility of Search for Common Ground and Hamroh and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.