For too long female survivors of domestic violence in Uzbekistan were forced to live side-by-side with the perpetrator. A lack of access to safe shelters and viable options for financial independence severely curtailed their capacity to break away and make a new start. ACTED is working with the Rahmdilik center, and other local organizations to provide women with the security and training to allow them to regain a meaningful foothold in their lives.
Around the yard, the setting sun ignites the dust on the center walls, turning them to tangerine. A child slams a door and runs excitedly towards the unsuspecting swing which bounces and splutters before it finds a smooth rhythm. A woman in a patterned dress floats outside seeking the first fresh winds of the night.
The Rahmdillik Shelter is one of the busiest centers of its kind in the country, providing shelter to female survivors of domestic violence. With the support of ACTED and the European Commission, it helps women to rebuild their lives after a trauma by providing protection, training, and legal, medical and psychological support.
Cases of domestic violence are not rare in Uzbekistan: Within the first two months of 2019, the newly created GBV hotline managed by the local branch of the Women’s committee of Uzbekistan received 1,712 calls from women in need of assistance. The majority of these women have very little choice but to remain at the side of their perpetrator, as leaving often means exclusion from the community, impoverishment and marginalization.
The Women’s Committee of Uzbekistan is an NGO which works closely with the government in implementing and monitoring the observation of laws on gender equality and the protection of women.
To respond to the lack of support for these women, ACTED launched the project “Advancing women’s rights through enhanced protection and self-employment” in 2018, which provided much needed assistance to the Rahmdilik and Oydin Nur Centers. The European Union was central in providing financial support.
The Centers, with the support of a range of local organizations, provide temporary shelter, capacity-building trainings to survivors of GBV. ACTED also encourages women’s organizations to use the them as hubs for awareness raising and advocacy activities. The goal is to influence decision-making and promote women’s rights at the regional and national level.
To create a national-level platform linking women’s civil society organizations, ACTED worked with existing CSOs to create a national Gender Equality Platform which launched in November 2018. The platform will facilitate future efforts to forge partnerships, share information and raise awareness around violence against women and girls.
The two centers now host a larger number of women, providing them with food, accommodation, child spaces and a complete set of consultations (medical, social, psychological and legal).
Every time I visit the shelters I am really touched. Last time I met a woman who faced repeated attacks at home and was struggling to retain custody of her daughter after fleeing her spouse. Obviously, she was in great need of legal and psychological support. I really felt her pain while listening to her story
Residents are personally involved in the project, attending work, entrepreneurship and life skills trainings, as well as volunteering opportunities with the associations. Their courage and will to move forward can be seen in their choice to participate to ACTED’s entrepreneurship program. Many participants soon submitted their own business plans, forging their own paths towards future economic independence. ACTED is currently working towards providing small grants of up to $2,000 USD to support the realization of each selected business plan.
The government engagement against gender-based violence has also gained strength, partly through the positive influence of the Women’s Committee which consults with both ACTED and high-level decision makers. Work is currently underway to allow the opening of new social rehabilitation centers overseen by the Women’s Committee.
“In 2018, the Nurabad district’s Women’s Committee referred woman to our shelter. She hasd just been forced out of her house by her husband after months of continuous insults and aggressions. All of that while being pregnant!“ said Bibisora Aripova, director of the NGO “Rahmdillik.”
The surviror, Orzigul, was able to remain at the center for a year with her newborn baby. With the help of social workers and psychologists, week by week she started regaining self-confidence, interacting more, and even talking about the future. The legal consultation that she received enabled her to apply for a divorce and register her new address at the shelter. This not only helped her to get a job at a local hospital but also to obtain social housing from the government. Last month, she submitted a business proposal to ACTED for the creation of a social enterprise, after having followed a training on entrepreneurship.
I can think about my life now, and my dream is to help the shelter by setting-up a laundry service that can create jobs for vulnerable women
— the field