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SICA Success Stories

USAID Equips Socially Vulnerable Women in Uzbekistan to Become Entrepreneurs

Nargiz Rahmanova was only 19 when she found herself solely responsible for raising her child. As a young single mother with no formal education, she had to take a job at a local factory and struggled to balance work and childcare. This experience led her to realize her passion for advocating for the rights of women like herself.

"I have witnessed numerous young single mothers, just like me, struggling with debt, lack of education, economic poverty, and social expectations,” Nargiz shares. “This made me question the root cause of this problem and how to change it."

In 2020, Nargiz founded the NGO Sogdiana and enrolled in the Central Asia Youth Leadership Academy (CAYLA) within the USAID-funded Social Innovation in Central Asia program. CAYLA helped Nargiz foster her skills as a nonprofit leader. Since then, Nargiz has implemented several significant social projects that helped over 100 women in her hometown of Uchquduq enhance job skills, find work, or start their own businesses.

“I faced many issues when I was launching my NGO back in 2020,” Nargis recalls. “Although I had a vision of what I wanted to do, I did not have knowledge of the documentation process and knew nothing about financing and fundraising opportunities.” Through CAYLA, Nargiz developed professional skills in project management, critical thinking, social entrepreneurship, emotional intelligence, problem-solving, and decision-making. She also received a two-month paid internship at Inkoniyat, one of Uzbekistan's largest NGOs. This opportunity helped her gain an insider's knowledge of the NGO business. Most importantly, Nargiz learned fundraising techniques for writing grant proposals.

Over the past three years, Nargiz has successfully implemented six projects with the support of international donors. One of the projects was a Youth Leadership Grant from SICA, aimed at improving the computer literacy skills of socially vulnerable women. With support from SICA and cooperation from the local khokimiyat (city hall), Nargiz procured computer equipment and established the first free educational center in Uchquduq. The center provided training for 100 women in internet use, job searching, and Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint skills. Additionally, some women were able to receive microloans for business development.

Gulkhan Rakhimovna, a 32-year-old single mother, successfully secured a job thanks to the computer training. As a mother of a small child who does not yet attend kindergarten, Gulkhan struggled to find a job that would allow her to work from home. The microloan enabled Gulkhan to purchase a laptop and find remote work. "This opportunity has changed my life," Gulkhan shares. "Next year, I dream of enrolling in Tashkent National Institute."

Nargiz recognizes the immense value of the connections she established during her time at CAYLA, which continue to provide invaluable support even two years after her graduation. Recently, during a grant application process, Nargiz required assistance with documentation processing. A fellow CAYLA alumnus, Asylbek Muminov, generously offered free help. This support enabled Nargiz to proceed with her plans to train 300 women in computer literacy, sewing, pastry, and business skills in the Navoi region.

"I believe that equipping women with education and skills training is crucial for their economic and social development. My mission is to develop legal literacy and leadership qualities in women, making them real agents of change in their communities and beyond," emphasizes Nargiz.

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