Marlene, currently in the Kyrgyz city of Osh, is traveling around the region following up on the community action projects of alumni of Legacy’s Kyrgyz Women’s Initiative. Below is her first report from the community action project of Zhumagul Bolponova, one of 11 alumni of this program.[Video below: In the car on the way to Osh, Marlene introduces the region and community projects.] httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iw-BEsR8OeI&NR=1
These video clips show Zhumagul’s community action project. After the ethnic violence last June, both Kyrgyz and Uzbek families did not feel safe in their current neighborhoods. The goal of her project was to improve the interethnic relations between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks through the mobilization of women in the south of Kyrgyzstan near the border with Uzbekistan.
Zhumagul worked with 16 women from four villages, training them in tolerance and facilitation skills and working together to plan an entire day of activities around the Spring Celebration of Norooz. Two of the villages are primarily Uzbek peoples and the other two are mixed villages with both the Kyrgyz and Uzbek peoples. The final event actually included eight villages.
Villages participated in competitions days before this event including contests for “which villages could clean their streets the best.” Prizes were awarded for village cleanliness, arts, sports, and other categories.
About 1,500 people attended the events in colorful dress, and traditional costumes. Each of the four organizing villages prepared a skit, including a traditional marriage ceremony and even a demonstration from the border police on how they round up someone who comes across the border illegally.[Video Above: Marlene is hosted in a traditional Kyrgyz yurt and speaks with alumni about future plans of the women leaders.
When I sat in Washington D.C. with Zhumagul and the other Kyrgyz Women’s Leadership Program participants last October, I never dreamed that any of the events would be this big. There were speeches about the need for peace among the different ethnicities in Kyrgyzstan and the importance of the role of women in civil society. The local and regional officials were really amazed at what the initiative of a group of a few women could accomplish.
[Video left: Uzbek village dance and presentation.]
[Left: Pre-Norooz parade, song and dance. Right: Young boy sings a welcome song for Marlene and the village representatives.]