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Civic Partners—Networking Women in Central Asia

An IDEE Program for Women Leaders from Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan

funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State

Since 1999, the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe has developed Working Together: Networking Women in the Caucasus, an extremely successful program in the Caucasus that has promoted and sustained a cross-border network of women NGO leaders from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The program's achievements convinced IDEE of the need to implement a similar program in the countries of Central Asia, where civil society is steadily emerging, and where possibilities exist for positive dialogue, conflict prevention, and the formation of a stable cross-border network.

Working with its partner in Uzbekistan, the Taskkent Public Education Center, directed by Muborak Tashpulatova, IDEE focused on enhancing the leadership and networking capacities of women in non-capital areas in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, and facilitating a more open exchange of ideas between geographically and ethnically separated communities. Drawing on additional resources from its Centers for Pluralism program, IDEE and TPEC also included women NGO leaders from Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, making Civic Partners a fully region-wide program. In the 2001-2002 period, the program included the following:

1.    Women's Leadership Training Program
IDEE organized a series of four intensive three-day training workshops for thirty women over a five month period. A group of experienced trainers assembled from both the region and abroad led the workshops. The workshops focused on different themes, ranging from basic issues of NGO organization, management, and conflict resolution to the development of effective leadership skills, networking, marketing, and fundraising. The workshops also placed particular emphasis on intercultural cooperation and the transfer of learned skills to the participants' colleagues and other members of their communities. Upon completion of the workshops, the participants had reviewed principles of designing a project, drafting a proposal and a budget, and targeting potential funders and partner organizations.
Networking Meetings: Participants at the third workshop of the Civic Partners program in Samarkand; at right, Novella Jafarova Applebaum of the D. Aliyeva Association for the Defense of Women's Rights in Baku, Azerbaijan shares her experiences with her Central Asian colleagues in Tashkent.

2.   U.S. Study Tour July 2-15, 2002
Following the in-country workshops, IDEE invited six women to Washignton DC for an intensive two-week study tour. The tour linked participants with their American counterparts and provided first-hand knowledge of how the NGO sector works in the U.S. The tour also included meetings with donor organizations interested in supporting NGO work and women’s leadership programs in Central Asia, such as the American Federation of Teachers, the National Endowment for Democracy, the American Association of University Women, and Aid to Artisans. The participants were chosen because of their active status as NGO leaders who are dedicated to assisting NGO development and cross-border communication and expansion in their own countries.
Muborak Tashpulatova receiving the NED's Democracy Award from First Lady Laura Bush during the U.S. Study Tour in July 2002 WICA U.S. Study Tour participants in Washington, DC

3.    Small Grants Program
The small grants competition from the previous two years of "Working Together: Networking Women in the Caucasus" were highly successful in promoting NGO develoment, civic iniatives, and cross-border networking. IDEE organized a similar program for ten projects that promote cross-border or cross-regional cooperation in Central Asia. The grants, averaging $750 each, proved once again how much can be achieved through modest sums of money. Some examples of the grant recipient projects involving partners from two, and often three countries, are: 

  • A workshop for teachers from Turkmenistan focusing on interactive and democratic educational methods and an exchange for Turkmen women to make contacts with NGO activists in Uzbekistan;
  • A forum in the Fergana Valley on conflict resolution and conflict prevention aimed at promoting cultural ties between communities in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan;
  • A series of seminars and roundtables focusing on overcoming women's unemployment and poverty in Tajik and Uzbek villages;
  • Four seminars covering issues of NGOs and society, the State and the Constitution, organizational management, teamwork, leadership and the basics of entrepreneurship.

4.    NGO Handbook
The Tashkent Public Education Center (TPEC) organized an editorial team of NGO representatives who attended the workshops from Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, which finalized and edited four mini-handbooks with information useful for NGOs and the informal civic community. 150 copies of the handbook were published in each of three languages of the region - Russian, Tajik and Uzbek. The handbooks are entitled: "Citizens' Forums as a Way of Problem Solving," "Writing a Grant Application," "Women's Share," which describes women's and gender issue clubs in the region, and "Micro Crediting and NGOs." As of today, many reprints were added and the "Citizens' Forums as a Way of Problem Solving" is functioning in the area as one of the manuals. 

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