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Back in 2017, UNDP helped a Namangan factory to support young people’s careers. Today, the factory is paying it forward by helping people stay healthy.

“When a national and global situation, like the current pandemic happens, impacting every one of us equally, businesses should feel compelled by duty to be part of the response,” or so believes social entrepreneur Soibzhan Kobilov. This last month he redirected his employees’ efforts to help Uzbekistan’s citizens protect themselves during the pandemic.

In 2011, Mr. Kobilov launched the ‘Rozdil Charm Savdo’ handbag factory in Namangan,  which was mentoring young people by organizing special classes in craft and fashion for them. Due to its successful involvement of young people, in 2017, the ‘Aid for Trade’ project provided to the company sewing equipment and training to help expand its production and create 15 new jobs. This investment helped the factory grow and by 2018 it was employing young craftspeople, many of whom went on to set up their own businesses.  

Until March 2020, the factory provided employment for 25 young people (15 women and 10 men) and was producing around 300 handbags daily selling them to customers and companies in Uzbekistan, and further afield in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia, with great potential. 

All that changed overnight, when COVID-19 pandemic reached Uzbekistan, and strict quarantine measures introduced Mr. Kobilov and his team reacted immediately, redirecting the factory’s operations to meet the nation’s health needs, while protecting critical jobs for young people, who are one of most vulnerable groups in the country. 

“In light of the pandemic, we’ve switched our focus to making personal health items, particularly the facemasks that are essential for protecting people in public spaces,” Mr. Kobilov said. “We already possess the infrastructure required to make these masks, particularly the sewing and cutting equipment we purchased with support from the UNDP ‘Aid for Trade’ project.” 

“Originally, this factory was about improving the prospects and lives of young people, and I’m proud to say that we’ve successfully done that and will keep doing that in the future. Right now, we want to help people meet this new COVID-19 challenge.”

Obviously, the factory has enforced strong safety rules: using the right physical distance, sanitizing surfaces. All profits have been funneled back into the factory’s work mentoring craftspeople both during and after the quarantine. 

Already filling a considerable part of Uzbekistan’s economy, medium and small businesses are essential to the national COVID-19 response. In addition to its other operations during the pandemic, UNDP is helping businesses redirect their efforts as needed. In a partnership with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, UNDP launched the “Business Clinic” service, providing free legal and business consultancy to businesses on adapting their operations and taking advantage of support measures provided by the government.
“Small businesses and social enterprises are key to strengthen from the grassroots, the wellbeing of women and men in Uzbekistan and we have been proud to assist them through the years,” said Matilda Dimovska, UNDP Resident Representative. “It is great to see factories like ‘Rozdil Charm Savdo’ putting forward support received from UNDP and the Government of Finland, our strong partner.”

We hope to support even more small and medium enterprises in Uzbekistan through their recovery from the impact of #COVID19 and beyond.

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