Image: UNDP Uzbekistan

2 October, Tashkent - The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly raised unemployment rates and dramatically reduced income levels on a global scale. The impact of the pandemic across all spheres of life has been more serious for women and girls, as well as for vulnerable groups.

According to the UN almost 60% of women work in the informal economy, which has put them at greater risk of impoverishment during the worldwide lockdowns. Women are not only the group most affected by the pandemic, but they are also critical for community recovery. The UN is working to provide concrete support to low- and middle-income countries and vulnerable populations, who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic’s socio-economic impacts.

The Ministry of Support of Mahalla and Family of the Republic of Uzbekistan and UNDP, within the framework of the recently launched ‘Measures to Combat COVID-19 and its Consequences’ programme, has identified more than 300 women and youth left without incomes in national regions most impacted by the pandemic. 

Through the programme, socially-vulnerable women and young people will be provided with free equipment and technology needed to start businesses, creating opportunities for them to establish sustainable sources of income. This project has been funded by the United Nations Multi-Partner Trust Fund.

The Ministry of Support of Mahalla and Family have concluded the identification of people in need of economic support in more than 30 mahallas of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, and in the Fergana and Kashkadarya regions, which according to the ministry are experiencing the highest unemployment rates to date caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

All the 300 selected people are women, almost 86% being unemployed or having worked in the informal sector and subsequently lost their incomes during lockdown. The average age of the identified women is 33 years, with 125 being under the age of 30. 50% are married, some in families with many children, while around 40 are divorced and more than 20 are widows or have lost a key breadwinner. 

12 people have a disabled family member or they themselves are living with a disability. The husbands of some of the women are abroad, while some of the families are considered to be troubled.

About 200 of the participating women wish to be work in home-based mini sewing workshops. To support these individuals special sewing equipment and components are being purchased by UNPD. In addition, a significant number are interested in producing flour products (pasta and bread), in making confectioneries or national crafts, becoming hairdressers, or working in other trades. Specialized equipment is required for all these roles.

Based on the results of an express analysis carried out in August by specialists of UNDP and the Ministry of  Support of Mahalla and Family, it has been determined that 500 units of sewing machines and related equipment is needed, including 189 industrial and 205 household sewing machines, overlocks, cover sewing machines, buttonhole machines, and others. More than 180 pieces of furniture, including cutting tables, ironing boards and others, are also required.

It is planned that before this sewing equipment is transferred to women and youth, they will undergo a month-long basic (intensive) course in garment design and the use of related technologies, as organized by the Ministry of Support of Mahalla and Family with UNDP’s assistance.

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