In her previous job at a local bank, one of Mahri Rejepova’s responsibilities was to provide support to people who were struggling with banking. She remembers how she used to keep a glass for water and a chair next to her table for elderly people to comfort them when they were referred to her to get assistance with their problems.
“Being overwhelmed with their concerns, these people would sometimes be aggressive,” recalls Mahri, “and they would not accept any advice until they calm down.”
Mahri tirelessly helped elderly people by explaining them how the banking system works and she was very much interested in helping professions. This desire led her to go through the training in pedagogy and psychology despite her tertiary education in business-information and her professional experience as a chief specialist at an accounting department of a local bank. She was delighted to learn from the job announcement of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of Population of Turkmenistan that she could join a group of people discovering a new profession – a specialist of social work. This group consists of 45 specialists who started to work within the framework of the UN-Turkmenistan Joint Programme on inclusive, quality and community-based social services. As many other successful candidates, Mahri was also recruited and she will contribute to the transformation of the social service provision system.
Being recruited as a specialist of social work created an opportunity for Mahri and her other colleagues who wanted to build their future careers in social work to benefit from capacity building trainings within the framework of the Joint Programme. The first 10 days of Foundational training in social work were held in all regional centers of Turkmenistan by national trainers who successfully completed online training of trainers in social work provided by the Bulgarian Institute of Social Activities and Practice.
Mahri says: “I thought I was tolerant, but these training increased my potential of acquiring informed tolerance, that is understanding issues of vulnerable people and improving my professional competency of working with them.”
Another specialist of social work, Aybolek Hudayberdiyeva, says that along with learning theoretical aspects of social work, she improved her communication skills required for working with vulnerable people and became more aware of her role in improving lives of others.
She says: “It is important to make our society inclusive, so that vulnerable people will have more opportunity to participate in life of their communities.”
It was interesting that profession of social work was not popular only among women, as it is commonly perceived. 27 of 45 specialist were men and one of them, Seydylla Mustapayev, confidently says: “I know how to conduct need assessments of people in difficult life situations that we will further use for creating individual support plans. It is very important to take an individual approach in social work.”
During the first stage of trainings, specialists of social work enhanced their knowledge by learning fundamental social work theories, legislation in the sphere of social protection in order to increase their competencies of helping people with different types of disabilities and people in difficult life situations. Moreover, they learnt principles and ethics in social work, and types of assessment to be used in individual approach to providing community-based social services.
UN-Turkmenistan Joint Programme on inclusive, quality and community-based social services aims to transform the social service provision system in Turkmenistan by building social workforce capacity, piloting a new model of social services, and creating legislative and regulatory framework to make changes sustainable.