On the 25th April 2018 at the Embassy of Uzbekistan in London, Mrs Kathleen Rees MBE, Director of URU Connect, a non-profit organisation, gave the above presentation. The event was organised by the British Uzbek Society. Mrs Rees gave an overview of the history that lead up to their work with partners SABR, in Samarkand. Mrs Rees previously CEO for 24 years of The Haven Wolverhampton a charity set up in 1973 is an independent Domestic Violence Refuge provider. The Haven provides 63 units of accommodation and can support up to 100 children at any one time and has a range of support services. Counselling service, children therapeutic workers and independent advocates to support women with cases going through the justice system as a result of domestic violence in the home. Mrs Rees is also Chair of Access to Business a charity set up 14 years ago to support unemployed people into employment, self-employment and social enterprise, the organisation received the Queens Award for Voluntary service in 2017.

Mrs Rees was inspired by the work of Mavluda Shirinova, the CEO of SABR a voluntary non-governmental organisation which works to protect the interests of the most vulnerable layers of the society – women and children. They met at a women’s training conference in Wolverhampton in 1996. Following the long term partnership was formed, exchange visits were arranged and sharing of training and skills development were progressed. SABR over the years has become highly skilled in delivering microfinancing, employability and self-employment support, social programs and provides information and resource centres. It has a highly committed team of staff and volunteers. Mrs Rees and other members of URU Connect visited Uzbekistan many times over the years, presenting at conferences, delivering training and learning about the great history and people of this beautiful country.

There have been many projects delivered successfully over the years. The most recent 2016/17 “Tackling gender imbalance and economic empowerment of women in Uzbekistan” funded by the FCO where UK experts delivered training on business planning and business start-up. As part of our other partner project, supported by the IBPP EU program, 1398 people were consulted, 538 received training, 1,196 micro loans total $7,000 were distributed and 300 families improved their living standards. A great success with demonstrable impact at the grass roots level.
There are many barriers for women not just in Uzbekistan but globally, they are universal. Lack of confidence, traditional views, discrimination, responsibilities such as childcare, elder care, caring for disabled family members, low level skills for example IT, language, education to name a few. However we believe the new administration is taking on board the need for change and views of women’s position in society, employment and politically will improve over the coming years with the decree of the President on 4th May 2018 “On Measures to radically increase the role of Civil Society institutions in the process of democratic renewal of the country”.

We have recently been informed that our new joint project has received funding to progress and will be launched in the next couple of months. This new project will be the start of a network of NGO’s from 8 areas lead by SABR enabling the exchange of information and skills working smarter together to improve the lives of others less fortunate.

We have been successful with our work due to the support and commitment of some key individuals not least the Uzbek Embassy in the UK previous and current Ambassador, The Honourable Dr.Alisher Shaykhov, and embassy staff over the years, the Women’s Committees and grant giving and funding trusts to name a few.

We have travelled to many countries over the years acquiring cutting edge knowledge and information to share with others. We have presented to the United Nations at the Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW) on 4 occasions. The following cited by the previous UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon following research at one of these events has a lasting impact for us all:

  • Countries with more gender equality have better economic growth
  • Companies with more women leaders perform better
  • Peace agreements that include women are more durable
  • Parliaments with more women enact more legislation on key social issues such as health, education, anti-discrimination and child support.

The evidence is clear:

“Equality for women means progress for all”

Background Notes

URU Connect is a non-governmental non-profit organization, which provides and/or assist in the provision of services and development opportunities for the advancement of women in social life, to ensure their human rights are recognized.
Website: http://www.uru.org.uk

The National Socio-Economic Development Centre “SABR”, Uzbekistan is an independent NGO which works with and for women and children in difficult socio-economic situations, providing support, encouragement and opportunities for an independent life and safe environment. SABR’s programs include micro-financing, counselling, provision of information and training.
Website: http://www.sabr.uz/en/

Representatives of the two non-governmental, not-for-profit organizations have worked together in partnership for 20 years to support vulnerable women and children and promote women’s development in both countries.


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