Communities and families: Addressing poverty in Andijan through Family Resource Centres
Poverty and unemployment in Andijan and other areas have resulted in a worrying trend for low-income families having to place their children in state institutions. Family Resource Centres were established to improve the capacity of families to care for their children.
The Uzbek Children’s Fund, with UNICEF assistance and the support of local communities and authorities, initiated a community-based approach to de-institutionalization. This approach focused on capacity building for local families, providing them with appropriate skills and a regular income that helps to keep their families together.
Andijan Family Centre
The Andijan Family Centre is an income-generating venture, providing employment opportunities for destitute and disabled women. With funding from UNICEF and the help of a local businessman, who donated the building, the centre opened its doors to 73 women in 2000. Since 2002, the Andijan centre has become sustainable, as a result of income generation and support from the local government, Uzbek Children’s Fund and UNICEF.
The number of women benefiting from the centre has now increased to almost 200. UNICEF provided sewing machines, an oven for a small bakery, a macaroni-making machine and furniture for a daycare centre. Women also receive training in work skills, child rearing skills, business management and basic law.
In the sewing machine area, items of clothing are produced, such as jackets. 42 women, mostly divorced or widowed, work here currently, whilst another group of women pack the finished jackets into plastic bags for shipment. The packers are all disabled and were denied a chance to be productive members of society until they came to the centre.
One of the packers, Mingoy Maksudova, has been working at the centre since it opened. She is widowed with two children. After losing her husband, Mingoy had no place to turn to for help. “I was suffering, because I couldn’t take care of my children”. Crippling arthritis in her hands made it impossible for her to find work and her situation became desperate. Working at the Centre has not only given Mingoy the means to support her children, but has also helped her arthritis. “Before, I couldn’t move my fingers” she says, folding up a jacket and deftly placing it inside a plastic bag, “But now, because I use my hands every day, I am able to move my fingers again.” “I have found strength and power in myself since I started working at the centre and I now have many friends to talk to.”Dilfuza Yuldasheva, who works in the sewing department, has also found strength and companionship since she started at the centre. A divorced mother of two, Dilfuza found herself cut off from her friends and neighbours because of the stigma attached to divorce. “I couldn’t go out into the street, I didn’t socialize and I became very depressed,” she says. Working at the centre, however, has changed all of that. “Now I am not afraid to say that I don’t have a husband. I can decide what to do with my life and can be a great support for my children.”
Dilfuza also spends a lot of time with young mothers who work at the centre, giving them advice and guidance on how to care for and raise their children. “The centre is unique in the community because it creates a support network where the women can help each other” comments Dilfuza. There are also daycare facilities where women can bring their young children whilst they work. The centre has made a great difference to Dilfuza’s life, providing her with an income and making her feel more self-confident. She particularly appreciates the daycare facilities, “It is a great idea, because I can keep my son with me. Before he began attending the daycare centre he was a shy, withdrawn child, but after attending he became more social and communicative and is no longer afraid to speak to others.”
Hskarova Mokhigul has been working in the daycare section for four years. Women working at the centre repaired and renovated the daycare room in their spare time, fixing the floors, bringing chairs, tables and bookcases and painting the walls with bright murals. 14 children currently use the facilities and a nurse works alongside Hskarova in the day. She has witnessed the benefits. “The women have an opportunity to bring their children here, which is wonderful. Both women and children are really starting to flourish and grow, both socially and mentally.”
After the success of the pilot project in Andijan, UNICEF has supported the opening of additional centres in Fergana, Namangan, Bukhara, Tashkent, Kashkadarya, Khorezm and Karakalpakstan regions.
The centre in Namangan opened in January 2004. It is located in a large, brightly lit, two-storey building, complete with daycare facilities and an infirmary. Already there are 42 women and 3 men working at the Centre, all from destitute families. The men work in the bakery and pasta section, using equipment provided by UNICEF to produce fragrant loaves of bread and bags of macaroni, for sale to the local community. The women work as seamstresses, making clothes for local women, sewing sheets and mattress covers for local hospitals, making stuffed animals for local NGOs and producing hand-made carpets.
The hand-made toys have been a great success. They are made out of leftover fabric from the sewing and carpet sections and in a short period of time, 350 brightly coloured bears, monkeys, squirrels, elephants and other animals have been sold to the local community.
Barno Abdurakhmanova, 22, has been working in the toymaking section since the centre opened. Although she had no idea how to make toys before she started work, she now makes five to six per day. “I had heard about the centre from my mother, who said I should come here and learn some skills”Barno plans to further develop her skills by learning to make innovative toys and by taking correspondence courses at a university, allowing her to continue to work and to help support her family. “Working here has helped my family a lot. Things are stable now” commented Barno.
31 year old Omirova Rakhima works on the second floor in one of the carpet-making rooms. She is a married mother of three sons, one of whom is disabled. Omirova is the primary breadwinner in her family, as her husband, a casual laborer, has only been able to find sporadic work. The 15-18,000 soums per month income (approximately $15-18 US) have changed Omirova’s life. “I feel that every day is important now and I feel ready to live because I can take my salary to feed and clothe my family, maintain my house and provide my disabled son with school books.”
The Centres in Andijan and Namangan and other project areas have so far benefited over 400 women and 128 children aged between 3-5 years. The estimated number of children between the ages of 0-18 benefitting through their mothers, is over 1500.
These centres are particularly important for strengthening families’ capacity to care for their children. In the future these centres will aim to become community centres, providing social services to vulnerable population groups, particularly women and children. The centres will also develop future programs that focus on: