Jenishbek met us with three children. The eldest son Alinur is in 4th grade, Baisal is in 2nd grade, and the youngest Adil is only 3 years old. Photo: Chyntemir Kalbaev / UNDP Kyrgyzstan

In this article we share the experience of our colleague, Zhenishbek Arzymatov, Senior Programme Adviser to UNDP in Kyrgyzstan. Zhenishbek treats Gulbarchyn's wife with respect and tries to perform domestic work as well as maintain equality between women and men. However, during the quarantine, his assistance with domestic work became not a "gesture of goodwill" but an obligation.

Zhenishbek met us with three children. The eldest son Alinur studies in the 4th grade, Baysal in the 2nd grade, and the youngest Adil is only 3 years old. His wife is a pediatric cardiologist and was involved in the preparation and implementation of training programs for medical professionals in connection with COVID-19. Zhenishbek recalls that his wife was practically out of the house for about a month and told about the difficulties he experienced during the quarantine.

"Children are difficult to handle"

"Raising children age of 3-10 is very difficult. I have been involved in their life before, but not to the fullest extent. This was my wife's job. I understood the burden of establishing communication with children and education during her absence" - said Zhenishbek.

His work schedule is eight hours a day, five days a week. The children study from morning to lunch and do their homework in the afternoon. During the quarantine, Zhenishbek had to make breakfast, lunch, dinner and work in parallel, as well as help the children with their homework. He also has a small garden, where he grows vegetables, and of course, it also takes time and effort. 

Zhenishbek's desktop. Photo: Chyntemir Kalbaev / UNDP Kyrgyzstan

Difficulties with online education

The transition to online school mode has created additional difficulties for Zhenishbek. "It's so hard to cope with the upbringing and discipline of children, and you also need to establish the process of online education. It becomes even more difficult when several children learn online at the same time - connection problems, or they get in games or cartoons. Kids are kids, you put them in front of the computer and go to work, and they will be watching cartoons in five minutes," he recalls. In addition, the three-year-old son stopped going to kindergarten and his favorite activity was to bother his father and brothers.

Zhenishbek scores nine points out of ten on the complexity of his experience. When asked why not ten, he specified that nine points is also quite a high level. In addition, he was relatively ready for such a burden on the household, as he already had such an experience.

"I admire people who have time to study somewhere during quarantine. I don't have time for that at all. I prepare breakfast for the kids in the morning, work until 6 pm, then make dinner and help my spouse with household. In the evening I have no energy left to do anything," Zhenishbek added. 

By our arrival, our hero and his father prepared a delicious Uzgen pilaf. Photo: Chyntemir Kalbaev / UNDP Kyrgyzstan

"I want other men to help their wives too"

"During this time, my values somewhat have changed due to frequent communication with children. I think I've become more aware of them. However, I would love to take a course to better educate them.  I think this is relevant for many parents," Zhenishbek said. According to him, he better understood the role of his wife in the family and the burden of domestic work and raising children. He has realized that these conditions create difficulties for women's professional growth and capacity. 

"I admire people who have time to study somewhere during the quarantine. I don't have time for that at all. I prepare breakfast for the kids in the morning, work until 6 pm, then make dinner, and help my spouse with household. In the evening I have no energy left to do anything," Zhenishbek. Photo: Chyntemir Kalbaev / UNDP Kyrgyzstan

Zhenishbek also cares for elderly parents. As the youngest son in the family, he feels responsible for looking after and caring for them. For our arrival, he and his father have prepared a delicious Uzgen pilaf. Alinur - the eldest son also helps him around the house.

Recently his wife, Gulbarchyn, has returned from work. However, for Zhenishbek, this period was important: "I used to help my wife voluntarily and was abstracted from raising children. Now I recommend the active participation and involvement of men in the upbringing of children, as well as with help to the spouses and thus allow them to develop and grow professionally" - he concluded the conversation.

According to the International Labour Organization, domestic work in Kyrgyzstan is conducted predominantly by women. According to the survey, Kyrgyz women spend 18% of their time on domestic work, while men spend no more than 5%. In total, women spend 3.6 times more time on domestic work and twice on raising children compared to men. 

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