Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams

Young inventor from Uzbekistan inspires girls to pursue careers in STEM

Zulaykho Ermatova
Zulyakho Ermatova, 22 at her university in Fergana Region in Uzbekistan
Women’s Committee of Uzbekistan 2018

15 July 2019
About the author:

Zulaykho Ermatova, is a 22-year-old girl from Dangara district, Fergana region, Uzbekistan. She is a fourth-year architecture student at Fergana Polytechnic Institute and is passionate about helping people innovative and accessible solutions to challenges faced by agricultural workers. Her dream is to one day receive the Nobel Prize for one such invention.

 

Aim for the moon and you may reach the sun. That’s my life motto.

I could never have dreamed of receiving the Zulfia State Prize, which is awarded to girls in Uzbekistan for outstanding academic achievement. So, I was overwhelmed when the honor was bestowed on me, for inventing a machine that cleans the weeds from farmers’ fields. I am only an ordinary girl from a village, and I just wanted to help people who are working on the land.

In Dangara, we have a lot of fields and many people make their living by farming. I often noticed how farmers worked for hours picking weeds from the cotton fields in the burning heat. I was very concerned about how to find a way to help these people, so I made a drawing of a machine that would remove the weeds and increase their yields by 20 to 30 per cent.

The design includes a completely new feature that allows the machine to go up to 15 to 20 centimeters deep into the soil and pull the weeds out root and stem.

Zulyakho presents the design of her weeding machine – ‘The Helper’.
UNICEF/Uzbekistan/2018
Zulyakho presents the design of her weeding machine – ‘The Helper’.

At a local contest for innovative ideas, it wasn’t easy to present my model, because many people didn’t expect that a girl like me could present something so practical and useful for farming. It was thanks to the support of my father, that I was able to participate in the contest. He encouraged me to work on my project and covered all my travel expenses, despite only having the small salary as a teacher at a rural school.

News travels fast, and my invention caught the attention of Shavkat Mirziyoev, the President of Uzbekistan, who met me, along with a group of other youth activists from our region.  He named my prototype ‘Madadkor’- ‘The Helper’. Now I am working on putting it into production.

The difficulties I encountered in bringing my machine to production highlighted to me that girls face many obstacles in Uzbekistan. If I were a boy, my life would be easier. It would be much easier to travel, since, as a girl, I am not allowed to travel by myself, and I must always ask my mother to accompany me if I want to take part in a conference in another town or country. It would be so much easier to just take off and go wherever you need by yourself, like boys can do in our community.

However, I want to say that I am proud to be a girl. I think the reason that I care about people in the fields is because I realize how much women do in their households alongside their field work.

Whatever life you choose, it’s up to you and it depends on your interests. Share your ideas. Get support from your peers, teachers and families. Get things done. Nobody can stop you if you believe in what you do and follow your dream.

Many parents in our community believe that the study of science and professional growth aren’t important for girls, and they should just get married and raise a family. But I think, that when parents believe and encourage their children to grow personally and professionally, they make their children’s life richer.

My parents were always very supportive of me. It was my father, a physics teacher, who encouraged my interest in science from a young age and who chose to invest in higher education for both my brother and me, equally. It was my mother, a housewife, who accompanied me during all my travels. This year, I am in the fourth year of university and I’m continuing my scientific research. I dream of inventing an agricultural machine that will be awarded the Nobel Prize.

In our country, the government provides lots of opportunities for girls and women to participate. They are encouraged to be more active in society and not limit themselves to just running their households. They can realize their potential in any field. I do wish girls in rural areas had more opportunities for growth, such as modern libraries, information centers, gyms, mini-stadiums, swimming pools and cultural workshops.

I would like to serve as a role model to my peers or younger girls. In 2018, when the President personally awarded the Zulfia State Prize to me, he said "My daughter Zulaykho, this is just the beginning. We will achieve a lot of success with you.”

Whatever life you choose, it’s up to you and it depends on your interests. Share your ideas. Get support from your peers, teachers and families. Get things done. Nobody can stop you if you believe in what you do and follow your dream.