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

Poverty in UzbekistanSituated between Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan sits the culturally rich and beautiful country of Uzbekistan. With thriving cities and lush mountainsides, Uzbekistan’s environment makes for blossoming communities. However, the country and communities within it have drastically changed within the last two decades. The Uzbekistan government has successfully lowered poverty rates, decreased unemployment rates and increased education, although these instances rarely make headlines. Here are five facts to know about poverty in Uzbekistan.

5  Facts about Poverty in Uzbekistan

  1. A large drop in poverty rates: The poverty rate has decreased by a staggering 14.7% in less than a decade. The national poverty rate in 2015 was 12.8%, in comparison to 27.5% in 2001.
  2. The issue of unemployment: In 2019, 5.9% of Uzbekistan’s population was unemployed, and 19.7% of those unemployed made less than $2 a day. A lack of job opportunities and a distinct living standard between those in urban and rural areas are only some challenges the country is facing. Due to unemployment, many choose to migrate to Kazakhstan or Russia in hopes of more opportunities to send money back home to loved ones.

  3. Maternal mortality: In 2000, the maternal mortality rate was 33.1 for every 100,000 births. By 2013, that number had fallen to 20. The fertility rate and the number of unplanned pregnancies had also decreased. Further, rectifying vitamin A, iodine and iron deficiencies as well as affordability and effectiveness have become critical in the development of national health care programs.

  4. Growing access to education: In 2017, only 29% of children between the ages of 3 and 7 had been enrolled in educational facilities. The Uzbekistan government, through a project in collaboration with The World Bank, predicts that 40% of children within that age range will be enrolled in education programs by 2024. The project aims to combat the high student to teacher ratio and create remote learning programs for those in rural areas. Access to education is one of the most important ways to fight poverty. Education helps reduce inequality, strengthen the economy and lower the risk of vulnerability.

  5.  Water access: In March of 2020, Uzbekistan accepted a $239 million credit from The World Bank to invest in a water service project. This project aims to reduce water loss and energy usage through improved sewage infrastructure within five communities. When the project is completed, over 500,000 people throughout Uzbekistan will have access to clean water. Access to water will help those in rural areas become more sustainable. Staying clean, hydrating and growing crops will become more available.

With a continuous decrease in poverty rates and an increase in educational and sanitation infrastructure, Uzbekistan has made large strides to improve the lives of its citizens. Poverty in Uzbekistan has dramatically shifted over the last two decades. Unemployment rates have dropped, neonatal mortality rates have decreased by more than half and resources such as education and clean water are becoming more accessible to all communities. With progress like this, Uzbekistan is on its way to great improvement.

Hannah Kaufman
Photo: The World Bank

Childhood Education in Rural UzbekistanAfter gaining independence from the Soviet Union in the 1990s, Uzbekistan gradually lifted itself off the ground, despite malnutrition problems, a lack of government transparency and high unemployment rates. Since then, advancements have been made to improve opportunities for education in rural Uzbekistan.

Education in Rural Uzbekistan

Children living in rural areas are at a geographic disadvantage compared to those who live in cities. Issues affecting children living in impoverished, rural areas include a lack of access to basic education and healthcare services.

Approximately 46 percent of children living in urban areas are enrolled in school, but in rural areas, this number drops to 23 percent. The population of children aged 0-3 living in rural Kashkadarya, for example, grew by 12 percent from 2013 to 2016, yet rates of enrollment have not kept up with a growing rural population.

Making a Difference

Ameliorating the effects of child labor and the lack of access to primary education coupled with the establishment of protections over children’s rights have set the foundation upon which Uzbekistan has begun to build its nation. Programs such as the Rural Basic Education Project have been allocating funding to improve learning conditions in the rural areas of Tashkent, Surkhandarya and Kashkadarya. The goal is to increase opportunities for higher education for children living in rural Uzbekistan.

Child Labor Issues

A major, longstanding issue Uzbekistan faces is the state-controlled labor system that supports massive amounts of cotton exports. This hinders education in rural Uzbekistan from making lasting and important impacts on children.

Government-mandated labor quotas that previously included children forced out of school are becoming lenient and age-restricted. As a result, there has been a substantial decrease in the number of children working in fields. This has led to an increase in funding and the number of schools, increasing education access for rural children. In rural areas, more children are continuing their education, rather than being forced into state-mandated labor. As a result, more adults, specifically women, have greater job opportunities than they otherwise would.

Increased educational opportunities lead to greater attention to human rights laws and how they impact children living in poverty. The availability of a more open education system has also improved gender equality.

For the first time, 56,000 children are enrolled in partial-day preschool programs because of the Improving Pre-Primary and General Secondary Education Project administered by the Ministry of Public Education of Uzbekistan and regulated by the World Bank. Developing the education system, specifically in rural areas, has led to greater economic success and improved livelihoods.

The Future for Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan still faces pressing issues, including forced labor and violations of human rights. However, by investing in its children, the country has become characterized by progress and improved quality of life. The children living in poverty are the future of Uzbekistan. Through a focus on providing education for children in rural Uzbekistan, the nation is helping them grow and flourish.

Jessica Ball
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Uzbekistan’s Economic TransformationAlthough the poverty rate in Uzbekistan is only 14 percent, the standard of living and GDP per capita are low. The government of Uzbekistan has partnered with the World Bank to undertake a massive economic transformation. It hopes to develop its economy, spur investment and improve livelihoods. The government is improving infrastructure efficiency and social services to achieve high-middle-income status for its residents by 2030. This is a part of the development strategy called Uzbekistan Vision 2030. The World Bank, International Finance Corporation, Asian Development Bank and the European Union have worked cooperatively to facilitate Uzbekistan’s economic transformation.

Massive World Bank Loan

The World Bank has worked with Uzbekistan since 1992 and funded more than 20 projects, totaling $3.6 billion. The bank recently approved a $500 million loan to stimulate private sector growth and job creation. Uzbekistan’s transformation into a successful market economy will ultimately result in a higher quality of life for its citizens. Currently, Uzbekistan’s GDP per capita stands at $6,900, almost one order of magnitude lower than the United States’ GDP per capita of $54,541. Uzbekistan believes that poverty levels will shrink as a direct result of developing its private sector economy and boosting GDP per capita.

Cyril Muller, World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia, said that the loan will “boost growth, promote transparency and accountability and improve services for citizens.” In 2018 and 2019, Uzbekistan reduced trade and investment barriers, decreased strict business regulations, loosened its currency and opened markets to spur investment and boost imports and exports. These recent changes to its economic policy show Uzbekistan’s commitment to loosening its controls on prices, production and foreign investment.

Livestock Sector Receives Support

The European Union and the World Bank jointly funded a five-year project in 2019 aimed at developing Uzbekistan’s livestock sector. More than $150 million will go towards addressing supply chain problems such as low productivity, substandard animal health services, financial constraints on research institutions and poor access to markets for smallholder farmers. The Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Jamshid Khodjayev, said that this project aims to increase the efficiency of the livestock sector by increasing the number of small farmers participating in commercial value chains, improving productivity and ensuring the sustainability of incomes.

The project will also support credit lines for farmers and other workers in the livestock industry. The agriculture industry employs about a quarter of the population. Livestock is an important agricultural product in Uzbekistan. About 90 percent of “livestock production relies on small farm holdings” and about 4.7 million smallholders depend on livestock for a living.

Energy Sector Boosts Agribusiness

“More than 126,000 MWh of electricity and 50 million cubic meters in natural gas” are available for use every year thanks to $50 million of project financing to improve energy sector performance and competitiveness. Since 2012, more than 560 farms and agribusinesses received credit lines made available through six financial institutions. Investment portfolio assets include agricultural machinery, greenhouses, livestock, orchards, vineyards and vegetable farming.

The poverty rate in Uzbekistan declined from 27.5 percent in 2001 to 14 percent in 2016 as a result of strong economic growth. GDP growth was a robust 8 percent for 2015 and 2016. The business environment has improved significantly due to a more open economic policy. Uzbekistan’s economy will continue to see improvement from internal changes to business-related statutes, like reducing the number of days to register businesses and property. Support from multilateral banks like the World Bank will further promote Uzbekistan’s economic transformation.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

House Resolution 599
On September 26, 2019, Mississippi Rep. Trent Kelly introduced House Resolution 599: Expressing support of independence and further development of the strategic partnership between the United States and Uzbekistan (H. Res. 599). This resolution affirms the U.S.’s continued partnership with Uzbekistan as it transitions to a more economically and politically democratic country. With a population of 27.9 million, Uzbekistan is home to more than 50 percent of the Central Asian people. Because of this, it is poised to be a leader in regional affairs. The dominant ethnic group in the country is Uzbek (78.3 percent), and the dominant religion is Islam (76.2 percent), specifically Sunni Islam. Uzbekistan was a Soviet satellite state until the early 1990s when the Soviet Union collapsed. In 1992, the newly-established Republic of Uzbekistan adopted a new constitution, which called for a national, bicameral legislature, a powerful executive and a judiciary.

The Situation in Uzbekistan

Since it gained independence, Uzbekistan’s government has taken measures to bolster the economy and increase economic development. As a result, its gross domestic product has been growing. However, at least 25 percent of the Uzbek population lives in poverty and much of Uzbekistan’s working-age population has gone abroad to find work. Uzbekistan also lacks quality health care. People can largely attribute the problems with its health care system to the uneven allocation of services during the Soviet era as well as environmental contamination.

Moreover, despite positive democratic developments, the government of Uzbekistan still perpetrates serious human rights abuses according to a State Department report. The Uzbek government commits arbitrary arrests and detentions of its citizens, denies them due process, restricts freedom of speech and freedom of the press and frequently tortures prisoners. The regime has violated religious freedoms and has forced adults and children to harvest cotton.

U.S.-Uzbek Relations

Since Uzbekistan declared independence from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the U.S. and Uzbek governments have cooperated in a wide range of areas, including regional security, economic development and trade and issues concerning politics and civil society. Specifically, the U.S. has collaborated with Uzbekistan in dealing with the illegal trafficking of both narcotics and people and in countering terrorism and extremism. According to the U.S. State Department, Uzbekistan is a key partner in providing electricity and economic aid to Afghanistan and in assisting in the development of Afghanistan’s infrastructure.

The resolution comes on the heels of Uzbek President Skavkat Mirziyoyev’s first visit to the U.S. in May 2018. During the visit, U.S. and Uzbek companies signed bilateral business deals worth $4.8 billion and contracts valued at $2.5 billion. According to the resolution, the newly-formed Congressional Uzbekistan Caucus “has led to unprecedented levels of dialogue” between the U.S. and Uzbek governments.

House Resolution 599

Rep. Kelly introduced H. Res. 599 on September 26, 2019. The resolution then went to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. On October 8, 2019, the resolution went to the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy and the Environment, where members of the committee will consider whether they should bring it to the whole House.

The U.S. benefits from economic development and democratization in Uzbekistan since both will bring stability to Central Asia. H. Res. 599 would increase U.S.-Uzbek trade and open up new business opportunities for U.S. firms. Furthermore, cooperating with Uzbekistan protects U.S. national security interests. As H. Res. 599 notes, Uzbekistan’s government was “crucial to the expulsion of al-Qaida from Afghanistan” after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The resolution states that the U.S. will “share burdens” with Uzbekistan on regional issues such as stability in Afghanistan.

House Resolution 599 calls for a strengthening of ties between the U.S. and Uzbekistan. The resolution encourages the Uzbek government to improve the economic conditions and political freedoms of its people.

– Sarah Frazer
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