Speech by Ms.Chamberlain at the Women Creative Lab (WCL) opening

Posted April 5, 2022

A good morning to you all – I am very happy to address you on this auspicious occasion of the opening of Women Creative Lab (WCL), first gender-responsive co-working space in Osh! And I am even happier to say that we open the Women Creative Lab based on the Osh IT Hub which was launched with the support of UNDP and Russian Federation earlier this year. This is exactly how we envisioned the mission of the IT Hub in creating favorable and enabling environment for IT community in Ferghana valley and supporting nurturing ecosystem of digital entrepreneurs and creators. This is a great example how such a special place serves people to meet and successfully integrate into the new digital world.

The Women Creative Lab that we launch today is an innovative gender-responsive paradigm. It is an inclusive, safe, creative coworking space and an enabling environment for more than 100 girls and women who will join the Lab over the year. The residents will have access to unique training programs and mentoring support as well as to seed funding for testing or accelerating their business ideas in creative industries. But in fact, WCL is more than just a physical space. It is a networking and nurturing environment in which girls will feel comfortable, become more self-confident, develop new skills, discover opportunities, and improve the quality of their lives. We expect that more than 1000 people will join the WCL’s network through attending open events, providing diverse support, becoming ambassadors.

We believe with such initiatives as Women Creative Lab, we can accelerate gender-sensitive digital transformation which is crucial to make development inclusive and fair and fight against gender stereotypes about girls and women in creative industries and IT. Moreover, by empowering themselves economically, girls gain greater social and political rights within their communities and beyond.   UNDP will continue to work with our partners in supporting these endeavors to achieve widespread digital social innovation, and to promote creativity and ICT entrepreneurship for social impact, to create a better world for all.

The launch of the Lab was made possible with the UNDP core funding and we believe that with your support we can make the impact even larger. Along with the opening of the Lab today, we would also like to announce the launch of the crowdfunding campaign to scale the impact of this initiative.  We believe that crowdfunding as a type of innovative development financing and one of the enablers of sustainable development, is a great tool for attracting additional resources to expand positive impact while simultaneously raising public awareness about such important issues as gender-sensitive development.

Dear Partners and Creators, let’s together create futures with the Women Creative Lab in Osh! And I thank you very much for your commitment to this project, and for your attention today!

Background Information

About Creative industries in Kyrgyzstan:

Creative industries are uniquely positioned to promote better employment and income-generating opportunities especially for youth and women in Kyrgyzstan, while simultaneously providing positive impact on social cohesion among diverse creative communities and beyond. Furthermore, creative industries can help traditional economic sectors with reinvention of their products and services and increasing competitiveness of local companies at the regional and world markets.

The importance of the development of the creative economy in Kyrgyzstan has been highlighted on the part of the Government in the strategic documents.  For example, the “National Development Program of the Kyrgyz Republic until 2026”, states that “the area of creative industries has particular potential for employment. Development of diverse creative industries requires establishment of investment and regulatory environment, granting specific status to the residents of creative parks, creative zones and districts, and introduction of a special tax regime.” Moreover, in 2021 the Ministry of Economy and Commerce developed the  “Concept of Creative Economy 2021-2023” targeted to “lay the foundations for the development and promotion of the innovations for economic policy”.

Creative Industries in numbers: Over the period 2014 - 2018, contribution of the creative industries to the GDP of the Kyrgyz Republic stayed at around 1% annually, whereas foreign direct investment to the sector constituted about $500K per year. In 2020 the total number of those employed in creative industries were 13,000 which is around 0.6% of the total number of employed population. There is a high employment rate of youth and women in creative industries: 60% are women, 40% are youth. Total number of enterprises registered in creative industries in 2020 was 798 units, 513 out of which were from the private sector and 285 were state enterprises.

About IT Hub and ololoOsh:

ololoOsh was established in August 2018; in three months thanks to the investment from founders (PF “Accelerate Prosperity” and “ololohaus” LLC) as well as the owners of the space, a coworking space was opened. The total amount of investment counted more than $50K USD. Profit generated over the next three years was being continuously reinvested (total expenses in addition to the initial investment constituted more than $120K USD in order to launch diverse events for nurturing startup ecosystem and educate youth with digital skills, engage in art, business and human rights areas. In fact, ololo was operating as a non-commercial organization following the vision “Osh is IT Hub of the Ferghana valley”.

Within three consequent years more than 250 events were held with participation of more than 6000 people (>60% are women, >3% - people with disabilities); more than 50 residents were working in the space on a regular basis; IT Academy which is placed in the coworking space equipped more than 70 students, the plan for 2022 is to educate more than 100 students. IT Academy is helping its alumni with employment as freelance developers. Thus, those young people have opportunity to stay in Osh while working for other countries.

With the support of UNDP, ololoOsh has widened its space from 400 sq m to 1000 sq m that allows to increase the number of residents, number of educating events. With the opening of a new location, co-founders of ololoOsh has invested more than 1 mln KGS to cover operational costs.