Equipping Socially Vulnerable Women in Uzbekistan to Become Entrepreneurs

December 4, 2023
Eight women in professional outfits show off their certificates of completion.

Nargiz Rahmanova was only 19 when she first recognized the significant challenges faced by women in her community. Working at a local factory, she saw firsthand the struggles of balancing work and personal responsibilities. This exposure ignited her passion for advocating for women’s rights, especially those facing educational and economic hardships.

“I have witnessed numerous women battling with debt, insufficient education, economic difficulties, and societal pressures,” Nargiz shares. “This observation made me question the root causes of these issues and how to effectively address them.”

Nargiz stands in front of a TV screen displaying a presentation on gender-based violence. She looks at the camera and tucks hair behind her ear,
Nargiz supports women to acquire job skills or
start their own businesses.

In 2020, Nargiz founded the NGO Sogdiana and enrolled in the Central Asia Youth Leadership Academy (CAYLA) within Eurasia Foundation’s Social Innovation in Central Asia program. CAYLA helped Nargiz foster her skills as a nonprofit leader. “Although I had a vision of what I wanted to do, I did not have knowledge of the documentation process and knew nothing about financing and fundraising opportunities,” Nargiz recalls. Through CAYLA, Nargiz developed professional skills in project management, social entrepreneurship and communication. She also received a two-month paid internship at Imkoniyat, one of Uzbekistan’s largest NGOs. The opportunity helped her gain an insider’s knowledge of the NGO business. Most importantly, Nargiz learned fundraising techniques and writing quality grant proposals.

Over the past three years, Nargiz has successfully implemented six projects with the support of international donors. One of the projects was a Youth Leadership Grant from SICA, aimed at improving the computer literacy skills of socially vulnerable women. With support from SICA and cooperation from the local khokimiyat (city hall), Nargiz procured computer equipment and established the first free educational center in Uchquduq. The center provided training for 100 women in internet use, job searching, and Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint skills. Additionally, some women were able to receive microloans for business development.

Gulkhan Rakhimova successfully secured a job thanks to computer training. As a mother of a small child who does not yet attend kindergarten, Gulkhan struggled to find a job that would allow her to work from home. The microloan enabled Gulkhan to purchase a laptop and find remote work. “This opportunity has changed my life,” Gulkhan shares. “Next year, I dream of enrolling in a university.”

Nargiz recognizes the immense value of the connections she established during her time at CAYLA, which continue to provide invaluable support even two years after her graduation. Recently, during a grant application process, Nargiz required assistance with documentation processing. A fellow CAYLA alumnus, Asilbek Muminov, generously offered free help. This support enabled Nargiz to proceed with her plans to train 300 women in computer literacy, sewing, pastry, and business skills in the Navoi region.

Two women sit and work at computer screens in a computer classroom.
Sogdiana’s IT skills workshop for women in Uchquduq.

“I believe that equipping women with education and skills training is crucial for their economic and social development. My mission is to develop legal and digital literacy and leadership qualities in women, making them real agents of change in their communities and beyond,” emphasizes Nargiz.