Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

"Due to the pandemic outbreak, we lost our incomes" - remembers Arukhan Seitmuratova from the Takhtakupir district of Karakalpakstan looking back into 2020. A challenging year, by all means, 2020 the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, has forced many young people and their parents to show economic ingenuity and entrepreneurial initiative. Supporting such ambitions in the aspect of promoting the principles of gender equality with the use of economic instruments of the concept of human security is the basis of the UN Development Programme in Karakalpakstan.

Guided by this concept, the UNDP-UNESCO Joint project “Addressing the urgent human insecurities in the Aral Sea region through promoting sustainable rural development” supported the initiative of the Khurliman-Aru Takhta Family Enterprise for the launch of soap production. The project was reviewed by the Joint Project Selection Committee that approved co-financing.

In December 2020, the necessary equipment was delivered to the workshop. Together with the head of this project Arukhan Seitmuratova, the initiative enabled employing 3 young people.

According to Arukhan, the idea to start making soap came up at a family gathering.

"We had some trading experience. We decided to organize a family business and start a small production. We called it "Khurliman-Aru Takhta", after the name of our daughter Khurliman, my abbreviated name Aru and my place of residence, since for my fellow countrymen Takhtakupir is simply "Takhta". And the pandemic encouraged to determine the choice of the production. When it started, we realized that laundry soap would be in high demand. It is necessary to keep your hands clean, and use disinfectant that was proven over the years during the pandemic. Secondly, the use of laundry soap for washing and cleaning is an established habit of local residents, - says Arukhan.

At the moment, the daily production capacity of the shop of the family enterprise "Khurliman-Aru-Takhta" is over 600 units of laundry soap for residents of the Takhtakupir district. But before launching a new initiative, there was a lot to learn. In conversation with us, Khurliman increasingly uses the word "for the first time". Indeed, in many issues, aspiring entrepreneurs did not have the experience, but, as people say, the right desire and ingenuity is half of the battle!

"When we and other entrepreneurs were invited to a meeting at the khokimiyat, we learned about the call for bids of the UNDP-UNESCO Joint project, which is carried out with the financial support of the MPTF. We quickly developed our own business plan and submitted an application. At the same time, we studied the production and technological process - where to get raw materials, in what conditions it should be stored and processed, etc. On the day of bids assessment, for the first time in our life, we spoke with the Selection Committee online! We successfully passed the qualifying round, and then carried out preparatory work for the acceptance of the equipment, - said Khurliman.

The official unemployment rate in the Takhtakupir district is 6.3%. At the same time, more than 32.7% of economically active people receive unstable income by performing seasonal work. In its activities, the UNDP-UNESCO project funded by the United Nations Multi-Partner Human Security Trust Fund for the Aral Sea region in Uzbekistan (MPTP) focuses on strengthening economic security for vulnerable communities. The project's initiatives are aimed at creating new conditions and opportunities for running and developing business, providing support to women and youth living in target communities.

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