Project report: women’s entrepreneurship

Promising potential for economic development

Grantee: “Nurjolber”, Kyrgyzstan
Project: to raise awareness of domestic violence in Naryn province through support for entrepreneurship and small business development

Global trends are showing a steady growth in women’s entrepreneurship. Despite having played a major role in creating jobs and improving social wellbeing, its development still faces great challenges in relation to national economic models and practices and to general problems affecting financial markets. There is no State programme that supports women’s entrepreneurship in Kyrgyzstan and its regions. However, there are a number of women’s projects run by CSOs that receive financial support from international organisations.

Project participants setting up a traditional Yurt. Photo by Tobokelov Nurlan

The harsh climatic and geographical conditions, together with the distance of Naryn province from the capital, make the area less attractive for business projects and investors. There are not many SMEs in the region which means that unemployment rates are high.

However, thanks to the introduction of international projects, it seems this issue is gradually being addressed. Below, we talk about women’s entrepreneurship in Naryn province, its problems and development prospects. To this end, the “Nurjolber” CSO has trained 30 unemployed young people in the theoretical and practical principles of entrepreneurship, as well as business and financial planning.

Not so long ago, a fast-food outlet opened in the village of Baetov in the Ak-Talinsk district of Naryn province in which the entrepreneur, Toktobubu Tursunakun, employed three fellow villagers. “This small business is just the beginning of a great journey into the business world”, Toktobubu says confidently. And it all started with her receiving business skills training organised by Nurjolber with funding provided by the UK-based organisation, the BEARR Trust.

Businesswomen speak at Nurjolber’s training seminar. Photo by Tobokelov Nurlan

It’s no secret that a lack of financial literacy and specialist knowledge are the main reasons for entrepreneurs who are just starting out often being unsuccessful, giving up or going out of business. This is why business training, particularly in remote regions, is so important in helping to improve the social wellbeing of villagers.

A seminar was organised involving a number of successful businesswomen who shared their knowledge and experience with those on the business training course:

Burulkan Tologonova, a businesswoman from Naryn:

Making shyrdak and ala-kiyiz rugs (i.e. Kyrgyz felt carpets) is not easy work”. Burulkan inspired participants by saying “You have excellent opportunities for self-fulfilment and financial independence, to flourish in the social sector, principally the service economy, and to have the perfect combination of entrepreneurial skills with that of being a wife and mother”.

One participant making a shyrdak rug. Photo by Tobokelov Nurlan

Aiday Adylbek, a training participant:

Of course, if more jobs were available in the regions that would avoid a mass exodus of people from the countryside in search of work. No-one wants to leave their parents and children. I wish there were more seminars like this”.

Nazira Abakirova, Project Coordinator (Naryn):

It’s difficult for women living in rural areas to find work. Those who have entrepreneurial skills often don’t know where to start or how to implement their business plans. In this project, women learn useful business insights as well as acquiring basic knowledge. It’s also crucial that the training is free of charge. Such support becomes vital in times of rising unemployment and economic crisis. It’s also important for when women go out to work in order to provide for their families.

My own experience in working for an organisation that supports women’s entrepreneurship is that invitations to share success stories or organise business strategy seminars rarely go unanswered. Although the help provided by Nurjolber certainly plays its part, the most critical and motivating aspect is the personal exchange of knowledge and experience”.

A woman presents her Chiy rug made from reeds. Photo by Tobokelov Nurlan

Abakirova Nazira, Nurjolber Project Coordinator
Naryn, Kyrgyzstan
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