Monday, October 7, 2019

In Rural Kyrgyzstan, Coding Caravan Encourages Girls’ Leadership and Entrepreneurship

kyrgyzstan girls project computers coding, kyrgyzstan small group art tours
Participants of the coding caravan in rural Kyrgyzstan. Photo: Mirdan Akinov
In rural Kyrgyzstan, the first ever Technovation Coding Caravan for girls has taught more than 600 girls the basics of computer programming. Launched in Talas Province, the caravan reached Issyk-Kul, Naryn, Jalal-Abad, Batken, and Osh provinces this spring.

"I used to think that only men can code and become a programmer. Now I want to study programming, pursue my career in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)," said Erkinai Omurzakova, a participant from Jalal-Abad Province.

Omurzakova and the other girls aged 10-18 practised prototyping mobile applications, and working in teams, learned to conduct marketing research, write business plans, make videos and presentations and discussed solving socioeconomic problems of Kyrgyzstan through technology.

"I always wanted to become a programmer, but others used to tell me that this career is not for me," said Alina Baktybekova, a participant from Issyk-Kul Province. "After participating in the training, all of my doubts and fears disappeared. I’ve decided to follow my dream!"

The caravan inspired rural girls to participate at the annual Technovation Challenge, the world’s largest global tech entrepreneurship competition for girls, which will take place in 2020. The coding caravan, supported by UN Women, offers girls around the world an opportunity to learn the necessary skills to emerge as tech entrepreneurs and leaders.

kyrgyzstan girls project computers coding, kyrgyzstan small group art tours
Coding Caravan participants during a session on the
development of a website, Talas, Kyrgyzstan. Photo: Mirdan Akinov
"I grew up in Talas Province. The fact that I myself came from a rural area made girls believe in themselves even more," says Ainura Sagyn, a UN Women partner and Technovation Regional Ambassador.

She is also one of the top women in tech in the region and founder of WasteToWealth, an online platform to encourage re-use of recyclable waste. "The Technovation Coding Caravan is just a small seed which, I hope, will lead to empowerment of hundreds of rural girls pursuing careers in STEM."

"Unfortunately, in Kyrgyzstan and all over the world there is a low representation of women in STEM," said Ulziisuren Jamsran, Representative of UN Women in Kyrgyzstan. "UN Women promotes empowerment of women and girls, especially those who have limited access and resources, to realize themselves in STEM”.

Technovation Coding Caravan for girls is led by the UN Women partner Technovation with support of the UN Women Kyrgyzstan Country Office, US Embassy in the Kyrgyz Republic, and a network of the top talent in business, design, and technology in the world – TopTal.

This article was first published 8 August 2019 on UNWomen. 

Related posts
Kyrgyzstan Ends Statelessness in Historic First
Kyrgyzstan Instagram Star Comes of Age and Flies the Nest
Kyrgyzstan: Social Entrepreneur Finds Foothold in Tien Shan Foothills
Kyrgyz Space Program: Creating the First Kyrgyz Satellite Ever & It Will be Built by Girls 

kyrgyzstan girls project computers coding, kyrgyzstan small group art tours
In Osh, Kyrgyzstan, Coding Caravan participants learn and practice coding skills using the programming language Scratch. Photo: Aikanysh Kerimkulova


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Ikat Textiles in Art

Long before Oscar de la Renta worked with Ferghana ikat master Rasuljon Mirzaakhmedov and brought about a revival in ikat weaving, artists in the early 20th century were incorporating ikat patterns in their paintings.

Here are some splendid examples.

ikat textiles paintings, ikat art 19th 20th century art, uzbekistan art textile tours
The Reader by Felix Vallaton, 1922
ikat textiles paintings, ikat art 19th 20th century art, uzbekistan art textile tours
Portrait of K.B. Kustodiev by Boris Kustodiev, 1922

ikat textiles paintings, ikat art 19th 20th century art, uzbekistan art textile tours
Odalisque with Red Box by Henri Matisse, 1952



ikat textiles paintings, ikat art 19th 20th century art, uzbekistan art textile tours
Portrait of a Young Gentleman Seated on a Sofa, by Nicolette Meeres

ikat textiles paintings, ikat art 19th 20th century art, uzbekistan art textile tours
Samarkand by Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, 1920s


ikat textiles paintings, ikat art 19th 20th century art, uzbekistan art textile tours
To the Train by Victor Ufimstev, 1927 (View it at the Savitsky Museum, Nukua)
ikat textiles paintings, ikat art 19th 20th century art, uzbekistan art textile tours
Tajik with Teacup by Pavel Benkov, 1929 (View it at Bukhara Museum of Contemporary Art).
ikat textiles paintings, ikat art 19th 20th century art, uzbekistan art textile tours
Zorah on the Terrace by Henri Matisse, 1912
ikat textiles paintings, ikat art 19th 20th century art, uzbekistan art textile tours
A Rich Kyrgyz Hunter with Falcon by Vasily Vereshchagin, 1871
ikat textiles paintings, ikat art 19th 20th century art, uzbekistan art textile tours
Carpet Seller (Tartar) by Boris Kustodiev, 1920
Related posts:
A 19th century Georgian Painter in Uzbekistan - Gigo Gabashvili
Robert Rauschenberg: Samarkand Stitches
Central Asia in Art: From Soviet Orientalism to the New Republics  
Celebrities in Ikat

Friday, August 30, 2019

Kyrgyzstan: Women Bring Change Through Water, Technology and Better Infrastructure

kyrgyzstan farming water management, kyrgyzstan women farmers, kyrgyzstan small group art craft tours
A typical rural family farm in Kyrgyzstan
Shakhodat Teshebayeva from Khalmion, a village in southern Kyrgyzstan bordering Uzbekistan, is 50 years old and the sole breadwinner of her family.

Her income comes from farming, working for 8-10 long hours in the fields every day. She doesn’t shy away from the hard work, but lately, the hard has become impossible, because of the growing water crisis.

The crisis, which is worse in spring and summer, stems from a combination of factors. As the mountains get less snow because of climate change, the glacier-fed rivers don’t have enough water. The dwindling water source is the same for Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, and as Uzbek farmers across the border start irrigating their fields in spring, the Kyrgyz farmers living down river experience water shortage.

The lack of access to irrigation water in this area, where agriculture is the mainstay, has hard consequences. Women and girls often bear the brunt of the problem, as water collection is considered a women’s chore. As the water source dwindles, they have to walk further and longer to fetch water, even after dark.

"Lack of access to water harms my agricultural production, food security and business opportunities in the local bazaar," explains Teshebayeva. "Fetching water during the night is a daunting task as it puts us women at risk of violence and carrying it over long distances can have lasting health effects".

Two years back, Teshebayeva decided to take matters into her own hands and mobilized a women’s self-help group to advocate for equal access to water resources in her community. As a first step, she started attending the village Water Users Association meetings, which were dominated by men and decisions about water access were taken without women.

"When I started to participate at the meetings, many said behind my back that I did it as I had nothing better to do," said Teshebayeva. But all the talk didn’t dissuade her. Teshebayeva continued to voice women’s challenges at the meetings and offered solutions. She became the first woman in the history of her village to advocate for women’s participation in water management.

Through a livelihoods project funded by the Government of Finland, UN Women has facilitated the establishment of 14 women’s self-help groups in southern Kyrgyzstan that now have 170 members. The project provided skills training to boost women’s income and connected them with Water User Associations and local-self-governments so that women could have a voice in water management decisions that impacted their daily lives, livelihoods and safety.

kyrgyzstan farming water management, kyrgyzstan women farmers, kyrgyzstan small group art craft tours
Shakhodat Teshebayeva shares her best practices on water management with the women from different regions.

"Prior to the project launch the situation was difficult for women. Women were afraid to irrigate the fields at night," continues Teshebayeva. "We used to collect water strictly in turns as per the schedule agreed at public gatherings where women had no say." The result was a prevailing sense of insecurity among women and low harvest as they often missed turns due to safety concerns.

Teshebayeva has been a trailblazer for other women in her village as she managed to negotiate water supply during the day-time and flexible schedules for irrigation for women farmers, especially single heads of households. She also encouraged more women to participate at the village meetings to advocate for women’s equal and safe access to irrigation water.

As a result of the work of partners and UN Women, the number of women participating at the decision-making level in Water User Associations has increased from 13 to 124 women in the 14 self-help groups between 2016 and 2018.

These numbers matter. "The project ensured that women’s voices are heard and taken into account in water resources management by empowering them to be active participants in addressing inequalities related to access to and control over water," says Anara Aitkurmanova, UN Women Project Coordinator.

About a hundred kilometers (62 miles) north-east of Khalmion, the village of Naiman used to have similar challenges. Its main water source had been contaminated with mercury for years and access to safe drinking water and cultivable land were key issues for the community. The young and able were migrating out of the village, leaving an older and dwindling population behind. Through women’s self-help groups and peer educators among young girls and boys, the UN Women project facilitated women’s participation in water management, with great results.

kyrgyzstan farming water management, kyrgyzstan women farmers, kyrgyzstan small group art craft tours
Shakhodat Teshebayeva learns how to calculate the expenditures for making greenhouses (center) in her home garden.

Roza Shamaeva, who worked closely with the project, is the first female head of the village and a force to reckon with. She says, "through the UN Women-led project, I informed people about fair and equitable distribution of water resources and how to effectively use land and water for sustainable agriculture. I hope that the positive changes we’ve achieved will prevent young people from migrating so that we can work together for the development of our village."

Shamaeva was re-elected as the head of Naiman rural district for the second time in 2018. She has brought not only water, but also electricity and better street lighting to Naiman, restored irrigation infrastructure and convinced the local population about the need for efficient water management and timely payment of their water bills.

Because of her advocacy, farmers in her community have started applying modern and sustainable agricultural methods such as drip irrigation and composting. As a result, the harvests are better and have less impact on the environment.

For villages across Kyrgyzstan, water management is a woman’s issue; and making sure women can inform and shape decisions on water management needs to become everyone’s issue.

This article was originally published by UN Women in March 2019

Related posts:
Farmers in Kyrgyzstan Try to Capitalize on Global Quinoa Fad
Kyrgyzstan: Social Entrepreneur Finds Foothold in Tien Shan Foothills
Kyrgyzstan: Yurt Preschools Reach Nomadic Children
Kyrgyzstan Ends Statelessness in Historic First