Since 2016, the Italian Red Cross has been supporting the Red Crescent in Kyrgyzstan in developing the project “Building community resilience through women’s empowerment.”
The project, the Italian Red Cross explains, addresses the needs of a segment of the population that is particularly vulnerable and generally relegated to the margins of society, such as single mothers, widows, refugees, or migrant women and girls. These people can access professional sewing classes, family budgeting and entrepreneurship courses, and basic training on health, first aid, and the prevention of gender-based violence.
The project, which at first was implemented in two provinces of Kyrgyzstan, is now present in the provinces of Bishkek, Osh, Naryn, Batken, Jalal-Abad, Karakol, Talas, and Tokmok, thanks to the support of the Italian Red Cross.
In Bishkek, teacher Aigul imparts her passion for tailoring to the participants by teaching them to sew bags, pants, and skirts.
“Female students come from the most diverse backgrounds, but here everyone finishes the course and learns to sew,” Aigul says. “Every day the students take it a step further, learning a new stitch, or a new sewing technique until they can make pants, skirts, and bags. The clothes they create are then donated to vulnerable people who approach the Red Crescent at clothing distributions once a week. The bags, on the other hand, are sold to colleagues, acquaintances of the students, and Red Crescent volunteers. With the proceeds, we can support other activities in the social sphere of our national society.”
The tailoring sector is well developed in Kyrgyzstan. Today, several manufacturing companies contact the Red Crescent directly to offer jobs to the students upon completion of the sewing and first aid course, thus setting them on a path to social and economic empowerment.
The students involved in the project also participate in a first aid course, receiving a certificate. “One student who completed the course two weeks ago,” Aiugul says, “has already put into practice the lessons she received by literally saving a person’s life. We are really happy.”
The Italian Red Cross is working with the Kyrgyz Red Crescent to develop a strategy to make the project financially sustainable and thus ensure an even stronger local ownership of the program.
At the same time, the Italian Red Cross is looking for partnership opportunities with other civil society actors to ensure the continuation of activities. Through the financial and technical support of the Italian Red Cross, the Red Crescent of Kyrgyzstan supports about 1,000 women and girls each year. In addition, about 5,000 vulnerable people, including the families and communities of the students, benefit indirectly from the activities.