Back to Peace through Rebuilding Trust: Women and Youth in Batken
Women and youth in the remote southern villages of Iskra and Andarak in Kyrgyzstan are organized into the initiative self-help groups since September 2012 as part of local community peace building efforts. The women’s self-help groups in two villages that included unemployed representatives of two ethnic groups, Kyrgyz and Tajik, jumped in the joint income generating activities. They organized garment sewing shops that helped build trust and peace among two major ethnic groups, as well as facilitated women’s role in this process in the villages. Local government provided facilities and UNDP project helped repair the building, purchased equipment and launched production process.
Forty people from local communities mastered skills for income generating activities such as production of cheese, curd and condensed milk, secrets of high-yielding potato, designing and sewing traditional Tajik and Kyrgyz garments, and fattening livestock in the specially organized trainings. Initially, the project’s four groups were supposed to include five people in each. But because of the popularity of the initiative, the number of trainees has been increased to ten in each group.
Andarak and Iskra villages of the Batken Province populated by 6,000 people include two thirds of Tajiks and one third of Kyrgyz. The major “industries” are animal husbandry, dry farming and growing fruits and vegetables on homesteads.
The break-up of the state farm called “The Soviet Tajikistan” resulted in massive unemployment, the problems of access to natural resources (land, pastures, irrigation water), unequal participation of some population groups in distribution such resources.
In December of 2011, a big conflict erupted between the Kyrgyz and Tajik population groups which led to traumas and arsons of residences. The conflict engaged around 1,500, mostly young, people.
In September 2012, the project “Andarak – a Route to Peace through Rebuilding Trust” launched activities to raise women and youth participation in peace building in two villages. The Tajik and Kyrgyz high school students went through focused trainings on the interethnic communication and tolerance. Twenty one women leaders developed skills and knowledge to prevent conflicts, adequately deal with conflict and post-conflict situations.
“The joint friendship events in Andarak Village that demonstrated creative endeavors the two ethnic groups moved one step forward to revival of good traditions, revival of accord and understanding, educating youth in the spirit of respect of different cultures,” says a village resident. The representatives of the councils of elders, village seniors, village councils suggested peace building initiatives for strategic development plans of the municipalities and revive the popular festival “Bairami-Hosil – Tushum Mairamy” (“The Harvest Festival”).