Turkey shares women's economic empowerment experience with Tajikistan

UN Women-organized study visit to Turkish businesses and organizations gives Tajik policy-makers insights into new models to support women entrepreneurs.

Date: Thursday, June 2, 2016

Delegation of study tour visited Istanbul University Incubation Center. Photo: UN Women
Tajik delegation visited Istanbul University Incubation Center-Entrepreneurship Ecosystem. Photo: UN Women

Tajik policy-makers came to Istanbul on a four-day study tour in April to learn first-hand about Turkey’s approaches to women’s economic empowerment. They visited a range of offices and institutions connected with women’s entrepreneurship, banking systems and business models for women’s start-ups in Turkey.

Participants at the meeting with Selin Oz, SME Marketing Senior Manager in charge of Women’s Market Programme, Garanti Bank, Women Banking department Photo: Association of Innovative and Technological Entrepreneurship in Tajikistan /Manizha Haitova
Participants at the meeting with Seliz Oz, SME Marketing Senior Manager in charge of Women's Market Programme, Garanti Bank. Photo: Association of Innovative and Technological Entrepreneurship in Tajikistan/Manizha Haitova

The delegation gained insights into new models to support and build opportunities for women entrepreneurs, especially among disadvantaged women. As a low-income Central Asian country, Tajikistan faces serious development challenges. It is one of the main exporters of migrant, largely male, workers to Russia. This has had a negative impact on women, many of whom are abandoned by their husbands and left behind with no education, work or means to sustain their families.

Turkey is a close cultural neighbour and therefore a model for Tajikistan’s next development steps, with women entrepreneurs in decision-making positions.

Empower Women, UN Women’s online platform on women’s economic empowerment, organized the Turkey meetings for the Tajik government officials.

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Arzu Eryilmaz, Director Marketing and Business Development, Istanbul Technical University (ITU), Incubator Center explaining Cloud Media Systems. Photo: ITU/Gurhan Sen

Participants came from Tajikistan’s State Committee on Investments and State Property Management, the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, the Ministry of Labour, Migration and Employment and the Association of Innovative and Technological Entrepreneurship.

The study tour was implemented by the project, Empowering Abandoned Women from Migrant Families in Tajikistan, supported by Norway's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The project helps vulnerable women in the remote Rasht Valley and Khatlon regions, particularly those abandoned by their labour migrant husbands. It helps women develop job or small business skills and gain access to essential legal and financial services.

“The government supports gender equality and female entrepreneurship in Tajikistan with good strategies and laws but we lack mechanisms to implement them,” says Zamira Samadova, Deputy Head of Department for Entrepreneurship Support of the State Committee on Investments and State Property Management of the Republic of Tajikistan.

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Delegation of Study Visit at the Istanbul University Incubator Center. Photo: UN Women/Zarina Urakova

Participants discussed barriers to female entrepreneurship in Tajikistan. In rural areas, for example, social and family pressures to put family first limit women entrepreneurs’ possibilities. The large emigration of men out of the country means women can now work without asking permission.

The government is working to strengthen women’s economic empowerment. It supports the development of income earning activities and business incubators, an expansion of women’s entrepreneurship and empowering women and girls to claim their land, business and property rights.

Study tour participants visited and met successful women entrepreneurs who benefited from services provided by: the Women’s Investment Platform ARYA; Garanti Bank and Turkish Economy Bank (TEB), two banks specialized in women banking with a strong entrepreneurship focus; the women’s associations Kagider and KADEM, the Municipality of Şisli in Istanbul; the Istanbul University Incubator Center, a technological park; and the sisterhood networks TurkishWIN and Bin Yaprak.

Delegation of Study Visit near the Sisli Municipality, Social Equality Unit Photo: Translator/Rustam Argymbayev
Delegation of study tour visited the Social Equality Unit of Sisli Municipality. Photo: UN Women/Rustam Argymbayev

“This study tour was an eye-opener. It gave us new ideas and solutions, very useful contacts with our Turkish colleagues and new ways to reform programmes,” says Dilafruz Jalilova from the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade.

“The main learning experience was to see horizontal and vertical linkages between government, international organizations, financial organizations, NGOs with women entrepreneurs at the centre, which is missing in Tajikistan,” says Manizha Haitova, Director of the Association of Innovative and Technological Entrepreneurship in Tajikistan.

The Tajik delegation left Turkey with new ideas and possibilities for future action, including a forum on female entrepreneurship, creating affordable child care services, increasing the length of maternity leave, and crowdfunding for women entrepreneurs.