A Salary for Today, and a Future for Tomorrow

Youth making a shoe at a social enterprise
UNDP in Uzbekistan: For Jamshid Sa’dullaev, his work means not only financial independence, but also an opportunity to gain new skills and build a better future

For Jamshid Sa’dullaev, crafting high-quality shoes and developing his leatherworking skills not only means a regular income but also greater self-esteem and confidence, a better quality of life, and stronger sense of place within society.

Mr. Sa’dullaev is just one of a dozen permanent employees of the ‘TopMen Shoes’ social enterprise in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, established by philanthropists Ibragim and Islam Juraev in 2007 as a section of the professional college for people with disabilities.

Highlight

  • These centres have been designed to provide gainful employment to 227 members of vulnerable populations, more than 90 per cent of whom are living with disabilities, while an additional 200 people have benefited from home-based work.

The enterprise provides its employees, most of who are living with a disability, with opportunities to learn new skills, obtain a regular income, and plan for the future.

Employing 22 full-time and temporary works, and 30 interns-in-training, ‘TopMen Shoes’ is just one of 10 social enterprises that have been established with UNDP’s support throughout Uzbekistan.

Enterprise director Ibragim Juraev has said that while ‘TopMen Shoes’ has become a commercially-viable business, it has never lost track of its goal of improving the lives of its employees.

“The example of our social enterprise has shown that people with disabilities want to and are able to work, and to play active roles in society,” said Ibragim Juraev, who directs the enterprise.

“There are a number of former students who have become trainers in the college and our enterprise, while some former graduates who had worked for us are now planning to open their own businesses in the near future.”

UNDP project manager Yana Chicherina has said that social enterprises like ‘TopMen Shoes’ not only play crucial roles in promoting equal employment and social inclusion for vulnerable populations in Uzbekistan,  but have also encouraged change on a legislative level.

“At the policy level, the lessons learnt and information gained through these initiatives will lead to the preparation of policy recommendations, the development of a National Model of Social Inclusion, and the development of proposals for improving the existing or creating new legislation in this sphere,” she said.

In his time at ‘TopMen Shoes’, Mr. Sa’dullaev has developed his skills to a point of a master, now teaching newer members of staff, but his dreams reach beyond the workshop.