How an innovative Joint UN Programme is enabling local communities in rural Uzbekistan to cook up their own paths to progress. Authors: Malika Musaeva and Adam Rogers.
Alima Rzamuratova discovers a sweet recipe for success
August 24, 2022
Alima Rzamuratova, 32, is one of six sisters struggling to earn a living for themselves and their families in Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republic covering the northwestern region of Uzbekistan. She graduated from pedagogical college and planned to be a teacher, like her father, who taught geography and history.
Finding a job as a teacher proved difficult, made even more so by the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down the schools in early 2020. “I have always considered myself a person of purpose, and after graduating from college, I applied to various agencies and organizations in search of work,” she said. “However, due to lack of experience, all my attempts were unsuccessful. I was refused everywhere."
After several years of searching, Alima realized it was time for her to decide on a new area of work what skills were required for this. Her natural love of cooking gave her the impetus to search in that direction. " I realized that in our community we all love baking, and no feast is held without candy and sweets. At the same time, we have no delivery services or confectionery stores," she said.
Indeed, most of her neighbours went to the district center of Bozatau that is located kilometers away to buy sweets and products for their events. Having discovered an entrepreneurial streak in herself, Alima began to study the market, the specifics of doing business, and the procedures for its registration and launch. It was during this research when she came across an announcement about training on the "Fundamentals and skills of women's entrepreneurship to increase the socio-economic activity of women in society", which UNDP, UNFPA and FAO had organized as part of a UN joint programme on "Unleashing young people’s and vulnerable citizens’ creativity and innovation by strengthening their adaptive capacity to address the economic and food insecurities in the exposed communities of the Aral Sea region".
" I was lucky to be among the 110 students of this course,” she said. “We studied the basics of the principles of gender equality, teamwork, family budget planning, entrepreneurship, and business plan development. This helped me to better understand how to start moving towards my dream. Specialists guided us at every stage of training. That's how the first outlines of my business idea appeared.”
Using her new skills, Alima drew up a business plan, created a budget and submitted a proposal to a competition for financing her business idea. UNDP in Karakalpakstan organizes this competition each year to kickstart local economic development and to give entrepreneurs like Alima a chance to succeed. The selection committee studied the project and decided to support the initiative in the category of family business development.
UNDP Programme Manager Alisher Utemisov said Alima was one of the most active participants in the trainings. “Alima took her studies seriously, listened attentively to all lectures, both online and offline, and performed all the tasks of mentors,” she said. “And when she made her presentation to the members of the selection committee, we noted her willingness to work independently."
Increasing the potential of entrepreneurial youth and women through vocational training supports socio-economic development in rural areas and directly contributes to reduced unemployment and poverty. In October 2021, in Muynak, Kungrad and Bozatau districts of Karakalpakstan, 30 girls and women, including Alima, were in the culinary arts of professional cooking. Having successfully passed the exam, Alima received a Diploma with honors. She also was hired as a teacher at rural kindergarten No. 8.
"I have got so much strength and energy that I want to share my knowledge and skills with everyone around,” she said. “Today, my work helps not only women, freeing them from the need to spend extra time at the stove, but also children, for whom I not only bake pies, but also cook different dishes for every taste".
Today, Alima’s confectionary produces several different products - cakes, various pies, cupcakes, gingerbread, and other pastries and delivers them to neighboring communities and shops. She is a successful entrepreneur, confectionary chef and kindergarten teacher who no longer remembers unemployment. She actively contributes to the food and economic security of her community, and has additionally hired two girls to help her run the business while she teaches at the kindergarten.
The UNDP, UNFPA and FAO Joint Programme "Unleashing young people’s and vulnerable citizens’ creativity and innovation by strengthening their adaptive capacity to address the economic and food insecurities in the exposed communities of the Aral Sea region" is funded by the UN Multi-Partner Human Security Trust Fund for the Aral Sea Region in Uzbekistan with the support of the Governments of Uzbekistan, Norway, the European Union, Finland, South Korea and the Alwaleed Philanthropies charity organization.
The programme promotes community development, empowerment of youth aged between 14 to 30, women, as well as vulnerable population, including people with disabilities, families headed by women, migrant workers, unemployed youth and others. In general, 183,200 residents of the pilot districts of Karakalpakstan will benefit from the programme’s implementation.
"I have got so much strength and energy that I want to share my knowledge and skills with everyone around.”Alima Rzamuratova