penal-reform-international-works-to-strengthen-uzbekistans-judicial-system
A weak justice system often keeps incarcerated inmates from rejoining the labor force. It silences the general population and neglects the humanitarian elements necessary for domestic development and free enterprise. The Republic of Uzbekistan is an underdeveloped country that has long felt these symptoms, due to its misaligned judicial system. However, in December 2020, President Mirziyoyev stated his openness in establishing “a system of quarterly monitoring visits to pre-trial detention centers and penitentiary institutions with the participation of representatives of the public.” The President desires to improve the efficiency and humanitarian aspects of Uzbekistan’s judicial system, in hopes of enhancing “the image of our country in the international arena.” Penal Reform International helps Uzbekistan achieve this vision. It has paired up with the United Nations Democracy Fund to help improve Uzbekistan’s judicial system so that the country might prosper in the future.

Penal Reform International’s Action Strategy in Uzbekistan

Penal Reform International is a non-governmental organization that works to augment judicial systems in underdeveloped countries. As such, it strategizes the reforms necessary to render just sentences, access to government institutions and the overall fulfillment of the tenets of international law.

The organization helps Uzbekistan through its vision to, “consolidate the creative potential of society for the implementation of a course of large-scale reforms for the accelerated development of the state, its democratic institutions and economy, the formation of conditions for a dignified and prosperous life of citizens, the effective implementation of their personal, political, social and economic rights, freedoms and legitimate interests,” as stated in the report.

To work towards this vision the organization has teamed up with the Commissioner of the Ombudsman of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Together, Penal Reform International and the Ombudsman work on implementing judicial accountability, monitoring prisons, working to strengthen the appeals court and lessening harsh sentences.

Supporting the Ombudsman

Uzbekistan’s Human Rights Commissioner, known as the Ombudsman, is integral to prison and judicial reform. The Commissioner identifies, for the President and Parliament, governmental and judicial “deficiencies” to pave the way for the establishment of key reforms. Penal Reform International helps Uzbekistan by supporting the Ombudsman, which has led to the formation of “an expert group” meant to assist the Commissioner of the Ombudsman with torture prevention measures, “and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

The expert group monitors “the conditions of detention of the detainees, the procedure for treating them, the quality of the provision of medical services and the organization of meals,” the Penal Reform International reported. The group also organizes work and educational activities within penitentiaries so that inmates can both remain productive and refine their trades.

As a result of Penal Reform International’s support for the Ombudsman, the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan restructured the Pardon Commission, a program involved in reducing sentences or releasing inmates on reasonable grounds. Implemented by the President, this restructuring allows the Ombudsman to take on a permanent role in pardoning inmates. Another result of its support is the reform of Uzbekistan’s Criminal Procedure Code, which “Article 951 ‘Inadmissibility of evidence” supplemented.

The newly ratified Article establishes strict legal proceedings for the judicial system during court trials, and states that “factual data is recognized as inadmissible evidence if it is obtained by illegal methods or by depriving or limiting the rights of participants in criminal proceedings.” Because of Penal Reform International’s work with the Office of the Ombudsman, Uzbekistan passed numerous reforms necessary for future equity and the consequent alleviation of poverty and human rights abuses.

Penal Reform International’s Success

As Penal Reform International reported, 6,467 convicts were released on parole, due to thorough judicial examinations. Further, 32,032 inmates received more mild punishments, upholding an important facet of democratic governance.

As a product of their work with the Ombudsman, 28,929 inmates received a transfer from prisons to colonies-settlements (more humane living spaces). Lastly, Penal Reform International has helped evolve the institutional law system within Uzbekistan by increasing the qualifications needed to take the bar examination and practice law. As a result, Penal Reform International has augmented the quality of Uzbekistan’s judicial system. Because of Penal Reform International’s work, Uzbekistan might better prosper in the future and become a key ally within the international community.

– Jacob Crosley
Photo: Flickr

Uzbekistan’s Economy
Uzbekistan, a landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the few countries in the world to avoid a severe economic downturn in the fiscal year 2020, received a financial projection from the World Bank indicating that Uzbekistan’s economy should improve about 6% in total in the fiscal year 2021. Here is some information about the country’s economy including what contributes to its growth.

Uzbekistan’s Economic Foundation

Uzbekistan’s economy is heavily reliant on agriculture. About 27% of the population works in agriculture, a sector that accounts for 28% of the nation’s gross domestic product. The most exported crop is cotton, which is a water-intensive crop. Most of Uzbekistan’s farming land requires heavy irrigation through the country’s “system of pumps and canals.” Uzbekistan, on average, produces more than 700,000 tons of cotton per year. In 2020, this brought in $78.87 million to Uzbekistan’s economy. Other agricultural products include livestock or seedlings. Altogether, Uzbekistan earned $15 billion from the exportation of goods alone.

What Changed in 2020?

Despite the difficulties involved in trade due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Uzbekistan’s agricultural sector remained steady and robust. The impact of the pandemic on unemployment was minimal and poverty has already begun reverting to its pre-pandemic levels. At the beginning of 2020, the unemployment rate was about 9% increasing to 11% by the end of the year. Since then, the poverty rate has re-stabilized at about 9.8% for the first three quarters of 2021. Experts expect this upward trend to continue during 2021.

In 2020, one of the reasons the agricultural sector was not as harshly affected as it was in other nations is because Uzbekistan began efforts to update farming technologies and develop a primarily agricultural export-oriented market to further the agricultural sector’s contributions to the nation’s GDP. In August 2021, a plan was approved to transform the agricultural sector in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The developmental plans will expand resources available for those working in agriculture and expand job accessibility in Uzbekistan. In turn, with the expanded job accessibility and resource expansion, the poverty rate in Uzbekistan has a significant chance of decreasing further. As agriculture remained a stable sector for business in 2019 and 2020, Uzbekistan’s government saw the opportunity for expansion and reorganization. This plays a significant role in the expected increase in Uzbekistan’s GDP.

Uzbekistan and the World Bank

The World Bank has partnered with Uzbekistan for decades. It tracks Uzbekistan’s overall poverty rate, economic growth and more. Uzbekistan’s partnership with the World Bank involves “providing technical advice on how to improve the country’s economic and financial management” with a focus on “private sector growth, agricultural competitiveness and modernization and improved public service delivery.” One of the aims also includes transitioning to “a market-based agriculture system.” This goal is also the primary aim of the Uzbekistan-USAID agricultural transformation strategy outlined for 2020-2030.

Throughout this partnership, the World Bank and Uzbekistan have developed policies to do away with child labor but expand job opportunities. Positively, Uzbekistan noted significant increases in the nation’s GDP since the partnership began.

In October 2021, the World Bank Vice President Anna Bjerde met with Uzbekistan’s president to discuss the partnership between the organization and the country and see how the World Bank can help Uzbekistan fulfill its goal of expanding into the market-based agriculture system. The system can help farmers operate more business ventures and expand their markets without many restrictions, leading to more job opportunities.

The Potential of a New Market

Much of the projected economic growth stems from the change in agriculture marketing in Uzbekistan. The country’s income from cotton exports and trade decreased to about $3 million in 2020, even though, in 2019, this amount was about five times higher. Despite this staggering drop, Uzbekistan’s economy remained fairly untouched.

Uzbekistan’s economy hardly shrank, which means a better chance for significant improvement this fiscal year. Furthermore, the increasing rate of vaccinations globally and the opening of markets for trade increase the potential for Uzbekistan’s economy to re-expand fully and continue expanding.

Positive projections for Uzbekistan’s economy provide confidence to Uzbekistan and will attract foreign investors. The positive projection increasing four points from the previous projection, as well as the expansion of the free agriculture-market system, potential job opportunities and the chance for more foreign investments, all point toward a positive 2021 for Uzbekistan and its economy.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition in UzbekistanOn July 1, 2021, USAID successfully delivered 131 tons of food to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, to combat malnutrition in Uzbekistan. The almost $400,000 humanitarian aid package provides a “nutritious vegetable and legume mix” to health and social care facilities as well as disadvantaged Uzbek households. The aid is yet another act showing the U.S. commitment to long-term investment in health and nutrition in Uzbekistan.

Food Security and Uzbekistan’s Agri-Food Sector

Since it gained independence in 1991, Uzbekistan has wisely prioritized self-sufficiency in its approach to food security. Although the country has produced sufficient food to cover its population in the past, “food security also encompasses affordable food and a diverse diet that includes essential nutrients.” According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), malnutrition in Uzbekistan lingers because the country lacks adequate standards of balanced and nutritious diets and affordable food options are rare.

The World Bank states that the development of Uzbekistan’s agri-food sector is critical to strengthening food security and reducing poverty in the country. Economically, the agriculture division alone contributes 28% of Uzbekistan’s GDP and is responsible for employing more workers than any other sector. About 27% of the entire workforce, or more than 3.65 million people, work in the agricultural field.

In 2019, almost 10% of the country lived below the poverty line, surviving on less than $3.2 per day. This equates to about 3.2 million people, 80% of which lived in rural regions “with livelihoods that depend largely on agriculture.” For these reasons, USAID seeks to develop and diversify the agri-food sector by introducing new technologies and techniques to local farmers. In the past, Uzbek farmers could not access contemporary data on markets, weather, technologies and farming practices. By supplying almost 100,000 hours of agricultural training “and working with 64 new consulting service providers,” USAID has played a role in a 523% “cumulative increase in farm yields,” raising the income of Uzbek farmers by 107%.

USAID’s Impact on Uzbek Food Security

In the last decade, USAID’s International Food Relief Partnership program has supplied 1,300 tons of food assistance to Uzbekistan, amounting to more than $3.5 million in aid. The recent delivery will target more than “30,000 of the most vulnerable citizens” who are most at risk of food insecurity and malnutrition. The aid will cover 130 health and social centers, including mental institutions and orphanages.

USAID Uzbekistan’s mission director, Mikaela Meredith, states, “This program demonstrates the ongoing strong partnership between Uzbekistan and the United States of America to improve nutrition and ensure that the most vulnerable have adequate, safe and nutritious food to support a healthy and productive life.”

The Future of Uzbekistan’s Food Security

Uzbekistan is currently on course to meet the global nutrition targets of reducing child stunting by 40% by 2025. In terms of stunting in children younger than 5, the rate has reduced from 25% in 2002 to 10.8% in 2017. However, not enough data is available to determine how close Uzbekistan is to achieving its 2025 target for stunting. Nonetheless, the country has made progress over the years. The continued assistance from USAID and other international organizations will help develop the agricultural sector, increase food security and combat malnutrition in Uzbekistan.

Gene Kang
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid in Central Asia
Central Asia comprises Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. The combined population of these countries is about 72 million. Promising foreign aid efforts in Central Asia are working to combat a variety of issues in these countries.

Food Distribution

One critical area for foreign aid in Central Asia has been food security. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Food Programme (WFP) has been leading a program to provide food to impoverished children in Tajikistan. This program has given vegetable oil and flour to more than 22,000 households in Tajikistan.

This has been part of a more significant effort by the WFP School Feeding Programme to ensure student food security in Tajikistan. The School Feeding Programme has helped more than 600,000 students across the country.

Russia is a critical contributor to these aid programs. Since 2012, Russia has given more than $28 million to the School Feeding Programme to facilitate food distribution and the modernization of food infrastructure for schools.

The World Food Programme and Russia are not the only sources of food aid in Central Asia. The United Arab Emirate’s 100 Million Meals campaign has distributed more than 600,000 meals to Central Asia as of June 2021.

The organization gave out food baskets with enough food to feed an entire family for a month. It assists families in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The campaign coordinated with other charity organizations within these three countries, and the campaign target has already increased from 100 million meals to more than 200 million meals.

Electrical and Water Supply

Another critical area for foreign aid in Central Asia is the development of electrical infrastructure and water management. The U.S. recently started an effort via USAID to develop a sustainable and reliable electricity market in the region. An October 2020 agreement between USAID, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan planned to create an electrical market with “expected economic benefits from regional trade and… reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”

USAID also recently started the Water and Vulnerable Environment project, which will help all five Central Asian countries. The project aims to “promote regional cooperation to improve natural resources (water) management that sustains both growths, promote[s] healthy ecosystems, and prevent[s] conflict.” This is the second water management project USAID has supported in the region in recent years, as it recently completed the Smart Waters project.

The Smart Waters project successfully ensured that dozens of citizens received degrees in water management or received additional training in the field. The project also trained almost 3,000 people in “water resources management, water diplomacy, water-saving technologies, and international water law through 100 capacity building events.”

Medical Assistance

USAID partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2021 to help Uzbekistan address the management of drug-resistant tuberculosis. The project’s goal is to better manage the disease by providing assistance to Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Health. The program conducted 35 training sessions throughout Uzbekistan, which resulted in more than 600 specialists receiving certification to prevent, identify and treat drug-resistant tuberculosis.

In recent years, foreign aid in Central Asia has resulted in food distribution, medical assistance, efforts to develop an electrical grid and assistance in water management. The U.S., Russia and the United Arab Emirates have contributed to these efforts alongside various international and local organizations.

– Coulter Layden
Photo: Flickr

women’s rights in UzbekistanA former Soviet Union territory, Uzbekistan has a population of 30 million. In recent years, there have been governmental and societal changes along with a new president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Women, who play a pivotal role in the Uzbek family structure, have experienced different issues related to their rights in the country. There are several key facts to know about women’s rights in Uzbekistan.

Societal Views Oppress Women

Women faced new setbacks after Uzbekistan obtained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The Soviets, who colonized the region in the latter half of the 19th century, promised women that they would be emancipated from the patriarchal customs of society, viewing them as oppressive against women. This movement encouraged female education, and in the 1980s, an estimated 41% of university students were women. However, after the independence of Uzbekistan in 1991, in a push to reestablish the Uzbek tradition, the progress of women’s rights in Uzbekistan took a hit when conservative social customs were reintroduced. Only six years later, in 1997, the number of women in higher education institutions dropped to 37% and it is estimated to have fallen even more drastically in recent years.

The Prevalence of Child Marriage

Child marriage is still prevalent. Most Uzbek families believe that the role of women is to marry and run the household. This social concept encourages child marriage throughout the country, particularly in rural regions. With girls marrying at younger ages than boys, female education is directly impacted by child marriage, as women are generally confined to the home after marriage. Furthermore, it is expected that women are to give birth within their first year of marriage, despite a lack of education about reproduction and childbearing. With young brides, female bodies are often not prepared or mature enough to give birth healthily. This has led to health complications such as infertility and chronic conditions. Women’s rights in Uzbekistan are hindered by child marriage, as it limits female educational opportunities and leaves women with little chance to escape a life of housework and childrearing.

Domestic Violence is Not a Crime

Domestic violence is deemed a family issue and not an actual crime. Since independence from the Soviet Union, the push to reaffirm traditional values has meant that women have a subservient role within the household, and to a further extent, within society. Outside of their homes, women face restrictions on how to live their lives, with limits on educational and work opportunities in favor of marriages and children. With women in rural areas at particular risk for domestic violence, Uzbekistan has largely ignored women’s rights within the home. Violence against women has reportedly increased in recent years.

Women’s Rights Reform at Governmental Level

President Mirziyoyev has taken promising action to address the lack of women’s rights in Uzbekistan. Elected in 2016, Mirziyoyev spoke about the importance of women within Uzbek society, noting their problem-solving skills and administrative capabilities. He urged for their involvement in government and industrial factions and even appointed Uzbekistan’s first female Head of Senate, Tanyila Narbaeva. With men dominating government positions for years, a female in an authoritative government position was a progressive shift and a promising result of political changes.

Legislation to Protect Women

The fight for women’s rights in Uzbekistan is becoming more of a priority. In 2019, two new laws were introduced to protect women’s rights. The first is to ensure equal opportunities and freedoms for men and women and the second is to safeguard women from domestic violence and assault. Also, almost 200 shelters have been set up across the country to provide for women escaping violence. Unfortunately, there is very little funding for the subsistence of these shelters. While this is undoubtedly progress from the country’s more traditional views on the role of women in society, more significant action needs to be taken to defend these newfound rights and sustain protective services.

The Future of Women’s Rights in Uzbekistan

The push for women’s rights in Uzbekistan has been made more difficult by the country’s history as a Soviet Union colony and their subsequent counterreaction to reestablish their traditional cultural values. In recent years, women have been restricted by societal pressures to marry young and spend their lives taking care of the household. With limited opportunity to decide their own futures, women in Uzbekistan have not truly attained their human rights. Fortunately, however, President Mirziyoyev has expressed his desire to transform women’s rights in Uzbekistan. Hopefully, with a new female government official and progressive laws, women’s rights in Uzbekistan will continue to improve.

– Eliza Cochran
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Uzbekistan
On February 26, 2020, Uzbek Assembly Officials and Chonburi Provincial Police rescued four Uzbek women in Pattaya, Thailand. The women were victims of a human trafficking scam, traveling under assumptions of better pay and work. Traffickers held them captive in a condominium in south Pattaya doing undisclosed labor. Sadly, human trafficking in Uzbekistan is not new. In fact, 600,000 new migrant workers enter the Uzbek labor force each year, looking to take advantage of the opportunities within central Asia. Many workers are vulnerable to anonymous traffickers who have access to making high profits from construction, agriculture and entertainment industries, and can easily exploit environments where governments do not act upon human rights violations. In many aspects, workers’ rights and human trafficking indefinitely interlink, and looking at places like Uzbekistan can shed light on how to go about changing the playing field.

Uzbekistan’s Progress at Eliminating Human Trafficking

Shavkat Mirziyoyev is the current Uzbek president-elect since September 8, 2016.  Mirziyoyev has made considerable progress on advocating for human rights following the death of former president Islam Karimov, but still has a lot of work to do. Since 2017, Uzbekistan is currently on the U.S. Department of State’s Tier 2 watch list, failing to decrease cases of severe trafficking and lacking evidence of government efforts to implement prosecutions, investigations and convictions on trafficking crimes; this is mostly because the country itself is guilty of violating human rights.

Both government officials and privately owned businesses have forced Uzbek employees from the public sector to work on cotton fields, threatening them with job-related consequences while making a profit from their free labor. Around half of the respondents from an online survey that the Uzbek Forum conducted claimed they could not refuse the demands of employers or government officials. The survey consisted of employees from banks, government administrations, police and medical/educational personnel.

Forced Labor in Cotton

Cotton has historically been a viable cash crop for the Uzbek government, providing close to $1 billion per harvest season, historically demanding Uzbek farmers meet high quotas for company distribution. Mirziyoyev has refuted these circumstances, claiming his plan to reduce forced labor is by mainly exporting fiber and focusing more on mechanized harvesting. The U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan reported that in 2017, president Mirziyoyev incorporated international NGOs to track potential traffickers and laborers, and through wide-reaching campaigns and production monitoring, the number of people being forced to work the fall harvest has fallen each year. However, the demand for cotton has not ceased, and it found that reports of forced labor were increasing within the Uzbek subdivisions of Syrdarya, Surkhandarya, Khorezm and Tashkent in 2019.

Even with legislative power, the need for cotton was still prominent, and corrupt government officials still threatened public sector employees to work. S&P Global reports that near the end of 2019, President Mirziyoyev proclaimed “Instead of using forced labor, I’d prefer not to have the cotton. Let it stay in the fields.”

Successes

In March 2020, President Mirziyoyev abolished the state-set cotton quota as a plan to incentivize representatives to double down on cotton production, therefore reducing the need for forced labor. In late September, The Ministry of Agriculture announced that Uzbek cotton-picking wages increased from $60 per ton in 2019 to $90 per ton in 2020. Monitoring has also played in Mirzoyev’s favor since late 2019, with the International Labour Organization (ILO) successfully recording 1,282 cases of forced labor, which has been assisting Uzbekistan since 2013.

Today, the ILO is an integrated third-party monitoring agency in Uzbekistan, working with its own training, methodology and monitoring tactics. Elena Urlaeva, a human rights activist and monitor for the ILO, says Uzbekistan has given the organization badges to access cases without question, and due to the new legislation that President Mirziyoyev signed on January 2020, “we have also recently introduced criminalization of forced labor, which we hope will serve as an effective deterrent.” However, the country lost an estimated  670,000 migrant jobs due to COVID-19, and the need for voluntary labor overruled the new legislation.

Human Trafficking in Uzbekistan and the Internet

On the local level, the internet has given a platform for migrants to find work easily but also allows traffickers to facelessly trap their victims online. The IOM UN Migration, an intergovernmental organization, reported that “We’ve noticed a sharp increase in this phenomenon of online trafficking in the past two years, and it’s high time that we fought back, also online.” The organization worked within the Uzbek region to further its campaigns online, workshopping through social media to safely spread the word of working fraud online.

Coincidentally on August 19, 2020, within the midst of COVID-19, the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), hosted an online awareness campaign, promoting younger kids in Uzbekistan to send in “the best video, article, fine art, photo and essay on the subject of “Youth against human trafficking!” produced by young people of Uzbekistan.” There were thousands of submissions and the event occurred in an auditorium with panels of kids participating and learning through Zoom.

President Mirziyoyev seeks to keep helping victims by pushing laws that help rehabilitate trafficked victims and using his legislation to uphold human rights, but even though trafficking numbers have fallen, Uzbek Parliament reveals that traffickers’ selling of newborns has risen by 43% in 2020. As a result, the fight to eliminate human trafficking in Uzbekistan continues.

– Matthew Martinez
Photo: Flickr

 

Paulownia TreesThe Central Asian nation, Uzbekistan, has a population of just over 33.6 million. Recently, President Shavkat Mirziyovev made history, becoming the first Uzbekistani President to acknowledge the poverty epidemic in the nation. Mirziyovev announced that somewhere between four to five million people currently live in poverty in Uzbekistan. The administration subsequently constructed anti-poverty measures and efforts to boost the economy. One woman in Uzbekistan took initiative, investigating how Paulownia trees can aid in poverty reduction.

A Proactive Mission

Sojida Jabborova, a Uzbekistani woman, observed both the poverty crisis within her country and the successful poverty reduction measures taken in China to create a plan. Under Mirziyovev’s reform campaign and insistence to study Chinese practices, Jabborova found the versatile Paulownia trees and entered the business world.

Each part of the Paulownia tree can be utilized to lift communities out of poverty. They are capable of adapting to poor soil, fertilizing it and purifying the air of harmful gases. Paulownia leaves can be used to feed livestock, they contain nectar for bees and other insects and their wood is sturdy enough to be used for houses and furniture. In 2018, Jabborova negotiated with Chinese business partners to deliver seeds and seedlings to Uzbekistan where they are now grown in experimental fields in four different regions. She has not stopped the investigation into how Paulownia trees can aid poverty reduction, continuing presentations and experiments on various products.

Uzbekistan Reform Campaign

Once in office in 2017, President Mirziyovev began multiple reforms to lift Uzbekistan out of economic depravity and better the livelihoods of its citizens. Poverty reduction has moved to top priority in Uzbekistan as the government granted $700 million to be spent on anti-poverty efforts in 2020. The administration believes to reduce poverty in Uzbekistan, they must first address unemployment and bolster entrepreneurship. This includes improving the tourism industry, improved training for essential trades and heightening economic literacy for citizens, particularly women.

Uzbekistan established a partnership with China to investigate and solve issues of unemployment, gender inequality and poverty in early October 2020. The Institute for Tourism Development in Uzbekistan has engaged in a joint research project to link tourism and poverty reduction. The plan for Uzbekistan is to increase the production of exports, expand the industry, boost small businesses, and in the long-term, improve government regulations and education regarding these fields.

Innovative Entrepreneurship Leading to Solutions

Sojida Jabborova was once a dentist in Uzbekistan, however, she was driven by the critical state of poverty in her country to find a solution. The reform campaign created the perfect atmosphere for Jabbarova to begin her work as the nation honed in on entrepreneurship and financial literacy in women especially. The partnership between China and Uzbekistan, with Beijing as the model for Uzbekistan’s progress, provided Jabbarova with the knowledge and support to begin experimentation with Paulownia trees. In the beginning, Paulownia trees were only grown on 19 acres and now they are grown in fields in Fergana, Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent.

Poverty Reduction in a Global Pandemic

Sojida Jabbarova’s efforts in exploring how Paulownia trees can aid in poverty reduction is crucial. Her spirit along with the dedication of the Uzbekistani administration to place poverty reduction at the top of the to-do list will surely mean progress. These efforts have been constrained by the global pandemic where the administration focused on protecting lives and businesses and maintaining headway in the fight against poverty. The administration has centered on healthcare, financial support and social assistance in the fight against COVID-19.

The administration’s efforts for poverty reduction are substantial and the alliance with China has brought great insight on how to best lift citizens from poverty and kickstart a downtrodden economy. Jabbarova and her Paulownia tree fields are a success story for poverty reduction efforts and the overall reform campaign begun by President Mirziyovev.

– Lizzie Herestofa
Photo: Flickr

Women in UzbekistanAfter the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan, like many post-Soviet nations, experienced a surge of conservative culture amongst the ruling elites and the general population. This surge led to the implementation of policies that were more restrictive to women than the previous Soviet policies had been. Women in Uzbekistan have long been excluded from policymaking. Now, women in Uzbekistan are taking to activism to ensure their voices are heard.

ACTED Uzbekistan

ACTED Uzbekistan is an organization that works to uplift the voices of women and girls throughout the country. It is a European Union-funded project that raises awareness for women’s issues and helps to mobilize women who otherwise may have been unsure how to begin. In addition to fieldwork, ACTED Uzbekistan also works to generate a report every year that analyzes the gender equality status in the country and offers suggestions on how to increase equality. Through the implementation of this project, a greater number of female activists have been able to claim platforms and affect policy.

Child Brides in Uzbekistan

One of the largest issues for activists currently is child marriage within the country. Though the law requires that girls be at least 17 years old before they are married, families have begun to pursue more religious ceremonies that legally eliminate the need for a civil union. As more girls are married off young, the amount of women in higher education and public office decreases and the cycle of discrimination continues. To combat this, organizations such as UNICEF and Girls Not Brides have partnered with the country’s Committee of Women to raise awareness of the detriments of child marriage, help young brides in danger and push for legislation that will end this practice once and for all.

HIV/AIDs in Uzbekistan

Another issue that has generated a lot of female activism has been the fight against HIV/AIDS in the country. Roughly 50,000 people in the country are currently living with the disease, according to UNAIDS, but through activism, the numbers have come down in the past few years. Organizations such as the Day Center for HIV Affected Families gather volunteers, many of them HIV positive themselves, and they work to provide assistance to struggling families while also providing educational material on HIV/AIDS and how to prevent it. Many of these activists are young women who were born HIV positive and who are committed to helping others like them.

Domestic Violence

In addition to the aforementioned activist initiatives, a large movement has begun in the country to identify and counter domestic violence. Like many nations, domestic violence in Uzbekistan is still seen as a personal issue and there are no provisions in the law that prohibit violence perpetrated by a spouse or parent. Both the official Women’s Committee and nongovernmental organizations have worked to combat this issue, with the Women’s Committee focused mostly on establishing crisis centers and shelters and NGOs promoting awareness and education on the issue. With both of these measures applied in conjunction, the country is slowly starting to recognize domestic violence as an issue.

The Necessity of Women’s Activism

As the United Nations and many NGOs have stated, women’s activism is necessary for progress. In Uzbekistan, this is evident by all of the work women have done to increase female participation, counter disease and help other women in need. The work gives evidence to a brighter future for women in the country but also for the people of Uzbekistan at large.

– Mary Buffaloe
Photo: Flickr

Flags of Member States Flying at UN Headquarters: Uzbekistan
In the past, hunger in Uzbekistan showed staggering numbers. However, these rates have decreased exponentially since the early 2000s. Within the past 20 years, hunger rates peaked in 2002, where 19.8% of the population either could not afford or access a sufficient amount of nourishment necessary for survival.

The Connection Between Poverty and Hunger

Poverty drives hunger in Uzbekistan. For example, many people could not afford bread in 2005 due to the inflated price, but the rates have dropped by 14.5% since then. Moreover, many people did not even make sufficient wages to purchase a bag of flour each week to provide for their families.

Reducing Undernourishment

Globally, 805 million people experienced undernourishment in 2014. Of that number, 1.7 million lived in Uzbekistan. While these numbers may seem disheartening, there has been a turn for the better. From 2016 to 2017, there was a 0% increase in hunger rates in Uzbekistan. While there was not a reduction in hunger during that time, a 0% increase is still a victory showing that Uzbekistan is on the path to creating a country without hunger.

With these numbers in mind, it is important to highlight just how much progress there has been. Within the country, hunger in Uzbekistan decreased to 6.3% by 2017, which was the lowest it had been since 2000.

Many volunteers and organizations, such as Action Against Hunger, have provided aid to people in Uzbekistan including those that violence displaced in 2010. Action Against Hunger’s actions have directly affected the rates of undernourishment in the country. Here are some of the ways Action Against Hunger influenced the hunger rate in Uzbekistan.

3 Ways Action Against Hunger has Decreased Hunger in Uzbekistan

  1. Food Security: Action Against Hunger has workers and volunteers on the ground in countries all over the world. In the case of Uzbekistan, Action Against Hunger has been working to train local workers on farming and food sustainability. Additionally, it has been providing a work-for-cash program to help families pay for food each week.
  2. Water and Hygiene: With hunger comes the need for water. In providing and helping to secure the infrastructure in these communities, Action Against Hunger is providing the resources necessary to build and maintain sustainable water sources for those living in the country.
  3. Research: Research has allowed for Action Against Hunger to understand the leading factors influencing undernourishment in Uzbekistan’s communities. With this information, it has been able to find solutions to provide aid during even the most desolate of situations. Once Action Against Hunger completes its research, it goes into the advocacy stage. This is where the organization asks for others all over the world to support its work.

Hunger and malnutrition can come from many places but mostly stems from insecurity within the economy, poverty and job instability. With help, Uzbekistan should be able to eradicate these problems and increase food security. The fight to end hunger in Uzbekistan continues, but the numbers show that change surely is possible.

– Natalie Belford
Photo: UN Multimedia

Healthcare in UzbekistanUzbekistan is a former Soviet country and many consider it to be the population center of Asia with a young population. Since its independence in 1991, the country has diversified its agriculture, while keeping a significant agricultural base to its economy. The quality of healthcare in Uzbekistan endured a drop after its independence from the USSR but now is on the upward trend, even though it remains low in global rankings. Here are seven facts about healthcare in Uzbekistan.

7 Facts About Healthcare in Uzbekistan

  1. Under Soviet control, all healthcare in Uzbekistan was free. However, the government focused on access and less on outcome, leading to weaknesses when dealing with sickness and disease, especially in rural communities. Meanwhile, about 27% of hospitals in rural areas had no sewage and 17% had no access to running water, while doctors received 70% of the salary of a farmer, a common Uzbek job. Now, reforms focused on rural areas have improved conditions in all hospitals, and doctors now make 26 times the amount of a rural farmer.
  2. In Uzbekistan, most people rely on public healthcare providers, organized in three layers: national, regional and city. Private healthcare is minimal due to unsafe practices in treatment and surgery. As a result, the government is the principal employer of health workers, as well as the primary purchaser and provider of health-related goods and services.
  3. Spending on healthcare in Uzbekistan has increased from the country’s independence in 1991, as the country aimed to westernize and reform. Uzbekistan’s current health expenditure is 6.4%. The government health spending increased from $36 to $85 per person; out of pocket spending almost doubled from $37 to $69 per person, and developmental assistance doubled from $3 to $7 per person in the 30 years from its independence. The increased funding led to higher availability in healthcare, especially in rural areas, and better quality of care.
  4. In the past 30 years, Uzbekistan has implemented healthcare reforms in rural areas. Some improvements include increasing sanitation levels in hospitals and healthcare availability, allowing for all patients to get better care. Overall, the under-5 mortality rate has decreased by 50%, and healthcare access and quality (HAQ) grew from 50.3 to 62.9 from 1990 to now.
  5. The physician’s density is low, at 2.37/1000 people, mostly due to the emigration of skilled professionals, even though the median pay for physicians has sharply increased to about $13,000 a year. On the other hand, the hospital bed density is higher than in some highly developed countries, such as the United States, at four for every 1,000 people.
  6. Uzbekistan ranks low in maternal and infant mortality. At 29 deaths out of 100,000, it ranks 114 in maternal mortality. At 16.3 deaths out of 1,000, it ranks 93 in infant mortality. Although its healthcare system has gotten better with reforms in sanitation and access to healthcare, Uzbekistan still needs to create more improvements, as the mortality rate is still high.
  7. Uzbekistan is also low-ranking in adult health. The country holds the rank of 125 in life expectancy, with an average lifespan of 74.8 years. As for the quality of health, Uzbekistan ranks 115 in HIV/AIDS, with a prevalence of 0.2% and ranks 123 in obesity, with a prevalence of 16.6%.

Project Hope

Uzbekistan has not accomplished everything on its own. Many charities have worked with Uzbekistan, such as Project Hope. In 1999, Project Hope established its first office in Uzbekistan, with a focus on reducing child and maternal mortality rates, through the Child Survival Program and Healthy Family Program. It created initiatives, as well as opportunities for sexual education for the new mothers. Since then, under the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Project Hope has focused on creating opportunities for AIDS-focused healthcare and education.

Uzbekistan has made progress in healthcare from the time of its independence, but it still has a long way to go. As Uzbekistan’s government continues to implement reforms heavily focusing on rural areas, it will most likely continue on its upward trajectory and create a health system that is beneficial to all of its citizens. As healthcare grows, poverty will decrease. Currently, Uzbekistan’s most poor are in rural areas, the areas with the least access to healthcare, as well as the lowest levels of sanitation. If Uzbekistan continues making reforms, rural areas will receive more healthcare, decreasing the disadvantage of living there, and therefore increasing the quality of life for Uzbekistan’s poor.

Seona Maskara
Photo: Flickr