Women building their lives together - Six months after the June 2010 emergency
By Venera Urbaeva and Galina Solodunova
January 2011 - The tragic events of last June in southern Kyrgyzstan had a lasting impact on Ibragimova Madina. She was left with a sense of fear, depression and a feeling of irremediable loss.
She lived with that anguish until she learnt about a newly created Women’s Club supported by UNICEF. It gave her a unique opportunity to return to peaceful routines, make new friends, and take charge of her life once again.
In a letter of thanks to UNICEF, she wrote that the Women’s Club helped her to overcome psychological distress. She said that by attending the club she learnt of her rights, how to combat violence and what support was available to survivors. During and just after a conflict, when the situation is unstable, an important concern for the local community is violence against women which can include rape, beatings at home, or other humiliations. Often these women feel isolated and find it impossible to see a way out of their situation. Members of Madina’s club found that they can improve their lives by taking part in psycho-social counselling and supporting each other.
Madina is a good seamstress, but her tailor’s shop was looted during the conflict. She offered to teach women in the Club to sew. UNICEF provided a sewing machine and materials and soon local school provided their own machines and room for Madina’s classes.
“At the club I teach women sewing techniques and at the same time I feel happy because by doing this I help them cope with their stress and return to normal life” Madina said. On December 23 2010, their club organised a fair and sold items that they had made. This income will be used to sustain the Club’s activities.
The support of Women’s Clubs is part of UNICEF’s response to the emergency in affected communities of Osh and Jalalabad Provinces. It is implemented by the Development Cooperation Central Asia, a local NGO. This support includes the distribution of female hygiene kits, raising awareness about gender based violence among local communities through a communication campaign and engaging the community in promoting non-violent behavior through arts and theatre.
The UNICEF Representative for Kyrgyzstan, Jonathan Veitch feels this work will have a far reaching impact: “Addressing underlying causes of gender based violence and the immediate need for psychosocial support is important in building peace and growth environment for children and their families”.