Forward to dream
In Uzbekistan UNICEF Skills4Girls programme equips women and girls with much-needed digital skills
Equipping women and girls with the competencies needed in emerging and established business areas is critical to closing the existing skills, pay gap and employment gaps. In Uzbekistan, the digital skills gap between men and women is 24%, and unemployment impacts women (17.2%) more than men (12.1%). Digital skills present new opportunities for women and girls - especially those with disabilities - to find meaningful employment. Only around 4.4% of women and girls with disabilities are employed in Uzbekistan. to close these gaps as much as possible, UNICEF has partnered with IT PARK to launch the Skills4Girls programme to equip young women and girls, including those with disabilities, with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the evolving labour market.
“I decided to take part in the Skills4Girls training programme to learn how to draw on a computer, which is useful for my studies,” 12-year-old Durdona Shamuratova says. “I also made a lot of friends during the training.”
The Skills4Girls programme aims to increase leadership skills and empower girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Participants in the programme learn digital literacy and graphic design, and take part in discussions on gender equality and the inclusion of people with disabilities. As they share their personal experiences and engage in these dialogues, participants learn about how gender stereotypes adversely affect girls' choices in life.
“Now I am in fifth grade. I am home-schooled. Teachers come several times a week. I really want to go to school but there is no infrastructure at school to support me in my studies.”
The Skills4Girls programme helped Durdona master more than just the skills of graphic design: “I really like drawing. By this exercise I can express my emotions and feelings, and share them with the world,” Durdona says.
While she is eager to study in a mainstream school, she feels that there are few opportunities for girls with disabilities. “Now I am in fifth grade. I am home-schooled. Teachers come several times a week. I really want to go to school but there is no infrastructure at school to support me in my studies.”
Durdona's family plays an important role in her education. Her mother, a nurse, is both an educator and a role model for Durdona. “I am proud of my mother. She is very patient and always tries to cheer me up. She does everything to make my dreams come true. My biggest dream is to become the best doctor, and I have the role model of my doctor,” Durdona says.
Durdona’s sister also played a big role in supporting Durdona’s choice to join the Skills4Girls programme. “My sister always tells me that I am good at drawing, and she encourages and motivates me to keep doing what I love. She also really wants me to play chess professionally. The only problem on the way to becoming a chess champion is that we can't find a professional coach to take me to the competition. But I'm ready to win!"
“To all girls like me, and indeed to all girls, I advise going on like I did. Don’t stay at home, find new hobbies, develop your skills and always try to achieve new goals!”
Durdona encourages other girls to keep pursing their dreams. “To all girls like me, and indeed to all girls, I advise going on like I did. Don’t stay at home, find new hobbies, develop your skills and always try to achieve new goals!”
Osiyo Khoshimova also joined the Skills4Girls programme. The 14-year-old girl studies at the Tashkent State University of Uzbek Language and Literature. Osiyo emphasizes the importance of having the support of her family to achieve her goals. “I received huge support and motivation from my parents. They rejoice so much and praise me for my achievements, even the smallest one. It fills me with a sense of pride in my accomplishments," Osiyo says.
Osiyo’s determination shows that supportive inclusion empowers people with disabilities to reach their full potential. “Among the people with visual and other types of disabilities, there are a lot of individuals who are constantly learning and developing. I would very much like our society to notice and use their abilities and talents more, and give them more opportunities to show their abilities in the professional sphere. After all, we, too, are capable of this and deserve recognition and respect,” Osiyo adds.
After graduating from the master's program next year, Osiyo plans to enroll in doctoral studies and obtain her PhD. “I want girls never to be afraid of barriers in the way of achieving goals. I know girls, especially girls with disabilities, hesitate on their potential and tend not to believe themselves. However, there are many opportunities, the only thing we should do is to try.”
Another boundary-breaking girl is 24 year old Shakhodat Sagdieva, a senior student of the Faculty of Foreign Philology of the National University of Uzbekistan. Shakhodat is blind, but this does not stop her from achieving her goals: “If I decide to do something, I will do it!”
“My mother always supports me. She says that she believes in me and with a good education I will be able to become independent. Mom’s support gives me confidence and I really want to keep going!”
Shakhodat taught herself to read using Braille in English, so that she could study at university. “There were many difficulties along the way, but everyone has challenges. It is impossible to achieve results without making effort and overcoming obstacles.”
Shakhodat successfully completed the Skills4Girls programme. “I always wanted to learn how to work on a computer, but there was no way. My mother always supports me. She says that she believes in me and with a good education I will be able to become independent. Mom’s support gives me confidence and I really want to keep going!”
Durdona, Osiyo, and Shakhodat’s stories show that inclusive support and opportunities for girls of all ages and abilities is key to empower them to achieve their goals and dreams. The Skill4Girls programme aims to continue equipping these future leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, and change-makers with the skills, support networks, and knowledge they will need to thrive and reach their full potential.