Policies for gender equality in modern Uzbekistan Part II

Overcoming the pandemic

Despite the negative impact of the global pandemic on all spheres of society and the state, especially on the economy and social sphere, 2020 was a turning point on ensuring women’s rights and freedoms. At the same time, Uzbekistan pays special attention to the following areas.

First, to expand the access of the population, especially women and children, to modern high-quality medical services and medicines. The principle formed by the President of the country, which states that taking care of the health of the mother and child is taking care of the whole society, of our future, is being implemented.

The international community recognizes Uzbekistan’s experience in deep reform, creation and development of a high-quality healthcare system and pharmaceutical industry in the country, public health protection, and the formation of a healthy lifestyle culture in society, which makes it possible to ensure a successful fight against the pandemic.

In 2020, 14.8 trillion soums were allocated from the State Budget for the reform of the sphere — 1.2 times more than in 2019. Also, within the framework of the Investment Program, 1.15 trillion soums were allocated to the sphere, which allowed, despite the existing difficulties, to perform a great job. For the purpose of fighting against COVID-19 pandemic, all regions of the republic have been allocated medical and preventive institutions, quarantine zones and distribution centers equipped with the latest and the most effective technology on offer. Unprecedented measures have been implemented to mobilize the entire healthcare system, put it into emergency mode, provide it with the necessary medicines, modern protective equipment and diagnostic equipment, and train medical personnel.

Suraya Dalil, Director of the WHO Global Coordination Mechanism on the Prevention and Control of NCDs, said that WHO welcomes the efforts of the Government of Uzbekistan for its timely response to the pandemic, as well as its commitment to comprehensive health reform aimed at transforming the health system of Uzbekistan into a modern and highly effective system, implementing the principles of fairness and human orientation.

She highlighted the Government’s efforts to rapidly increase its investment in public health, disease surveillance, improving the capacity of laboratories to test and analyze data, information systems, risk awareness, and working with the public to empower individuals and families to better manage their health, as well as regulating product quality and healthy behaviors. Despite global shortage of medical personnel, Uzbekistan has been able to provide all citizens with professional medical service by training some of the best medical workers globally. The fact that majority of medical workers are females has meant that the country has been investing more heavily into the education of females than previously thought. As such the country has invested into improving employability of females.

Second, to ensure the employment of women, the allocation of loans for women entrepreneurs. In this area, a number of state programs are being implemented, in particular, “Every family is an entrepreneur”, “A Prosperous Village” and “A Prosperous Mahalla”, “Five Essential Initiatives”.

Commercial banks of the republic have opened special credit lines for women entrepreneurs. In recent years, concessional loans worth 7.4 trillion soums have been allocated to more than 327 thousand women for the development of women’s entrepreneurship. In 2021, it is planned to allocate about 1.4 trillion soums to women entrepreneurs from the Fund for Reconstruction and Development of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

As a result, over the past four years, more than 620,200 women have been employed, and 106 thousand have been assisted in establishing private entrepreneurship. For example, in 2020, only within the framework of the “Every Family is an Entrepreneur” program, about 126 thousand people were granted preferential loans. Almost 215 thousand families have been allocated loans for the development of family entrepreneurship for a total of more than 6 trillion soums. Aspart of the implementation of Five important initiatives, sewing workshops were organized in remote areas, and ten thousand women were employed.

Third, systematic training in entrepreneurship and concessional lending to women entrepreneurs. In order to assist, women’s entrepreneurship centers have been established in the regions, where in 2020 alone, more than 61,500 women were trained in short-term professional courses. As a result, despite the pandemic, the number of women entrepreneurs reached 172,700.

In 2021, more than one trillion soums will be allocated to support women’s business projects and to solve their problems identified on the ground. To this end, the People’s Bank is introducing a new system of teaching women entrepreneurship, developing standard business plans for them and providing practical assistance in obtaining loans.

Fourth, the expansion of educational opportunities in need of social assistance. In particular, in 2020, 950 girls from low-income families were admitted to daytime departments of higher educational institutions of Uzbekistan on the basis of a state grant. In 2021, the number of quotas will exceed two thousand.

Fifth, the provision of housing for women in difficult circumstances and girls who are dependent on single mothers. In 2020 alone, 1,250 women who found themselves in a difficult life situation were paid initial contributions for the purchase of housing in the amount of almost 22 billion soums. In 2021, 210 billion soums will be allocated from the State Budget, as well as an additional 211 billion soums to provide women with social housing on a rental basis. Provided statistics is working proof the principle coined by the President of Uzbekistan that no female shall remain without the attention or care of the state and society.

Sixth, strengthening measures to prevent various forms of violence against women. In accordance with the Presidential decree “On measures to improve the system of social rehabilitation and adaptation, as well as the prevention of family and domestic violence” of July 2, 2018, rehabilitation and adaptation centers were established in 190 cities and districts. Their main tasks are to provide emergency medical, psychological, social, pedagogical, legal and other assistance to persons who find themselves in a difficult social situation, faced with family problems and domestic violence.

With the aim of financially supporting these centers, the Fund for Women and Family Support allocated 981.6 million soums in 2020 alone. In addition, the Public Fund under the Parliament allocated state grants of 461 million soums to 15 organizations for the implementation of projects to combat violence and harassment against women and girls.

So as to protect victims of domestic violence, the Cabinet of Ministers adopted a resolution “On measures to improve the system of protection of women from harassment and violence” dated January 4, 2020. The regulations “On the procedure for issuing protective orders to women who have been subjected to harassment and violence, ensuring their execution, monitoring” and “On the procedure for persons who have committed or have a tendency to exert pressure and violence, programs to correct their behavior” were approved. Among the main tasks of the correctional program:

• prevention of violence against women;

•  addressing the causes and conditions that contribute to this;

• identification and correction of latent (hidden) forms of violence;

• conducting individual (or in the form of groups) awareness-raising activities with perpetrators of violence, and others.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs has created 360 positions of female inspectors to work with women who need legal and social assistance. To provide prompt and high-quality support to women affected by harassment and violence, standard operating procedures for joint response to gender-based violence have been developed and implemented for law enforcement agencies, health workers, and social and psychological workers.

Seventh, to raise public awareness of gender equality and women’s rights, and to train responsible persons on the basis of relevant legal norms to ensure their implementation in the practice of the application of the law.

Development of international cooperation

Uzbekistan is developing cooperation with the UN treaty bodies in the field of the advancement of women and their empowerment in accordance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as well as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Our country periodically submits information to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on the implementation of its obligations in this area. In particular, in 2019, the Sixth periodic report of Uzbekistan on the implementation of the provisions of the convention was considered. As a result of their consideration, a “roadmap” has been prepared and is being applied to implement the relevant comments and proposals of UN international experts, who also noted many positive changes, progress made in changing the role and status of women in the political, socio-economic and cultural spheres of society.

Uzbekistan has resumed the practice of inviting UN Special Rapporteurs in various areas of human rights to the country. Thus, Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers gave a generally positive assessment of the reforms implemented in Uzbekistan in the judicial sphere, ensuring the independence of judges and making fair judicial decisions, and put forward recommendations:

  • first, greater attention in judicial acts to gender issues, the situation of women and children, recognizing the urgency of appeals to the court for the provision of protective measures received from representatives of these groups;
  • second, increasing the representation of women in the justice system, integrating a gender perspective in the selection and appointment of judges, and taking concrete measures to achieve gender equality in the judiciary.

On February 24, 2020, UN Secretary-General António Guterres launched initiative Call for Action for Human Rights. Overriding message in Secretary-General’s address included strengthening civil society, guaranteeing gender equality, equal participation rights for both genders in political, social, and economic life of the society and enjoying the right of freedom of information.

In his address at the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council, the head of our state elaborated on the priorities of deepening democratic transformations in the country, the main directions of Uzbekistan’s work within the framework of the HRC, and outlined new ways to deepen cooperation between Uzbekistan and the UN in the field of achieving gender equality. In particular, the President initiated the organization of a meeting of the Dialogue of Women Leaders of Central Asian countries, as well as a Business Forum. Their implementation:

  • will allow the exchange of best experience and practice in the field of empowering women, creating conditions for ensuring their decent employment and business development, preventing any form of violence against women, and also contributes to strengthening interaction in this area at the international and regional levels;
  • will increase the level of development of women’s entrepreneurship on a regional and global scale.

To summarize, all measures taken by the government of Uzbekistan is focused on providing the best conditions to live and prosper to 17 million females living in the country.

(c) Photo: Embassy of Uzbekistan