Kirgisistan: Gulnara Derbisheva

Helping the poor is the main goal of my work. Anybody, who needs support, must get it without fail.

— Gulnara Derbisheva

Gulnara Derbisheva (born 1968) is a human rights activist who lives in one of the poorest regions of Kyrgyzstan. She is committed to helping the unemployed, destitute and elderly people of rural Kyrgyzstan through her work with two funds that serve as lifelines for many. Gulnara is active in local government and community affairs, and reaches out to the media to bring attention to the problems of her region. She is also a tireless advocate for the removal of landmines along the border territories. More than 100 civilians have been killed by these deadly mines, including friends and colleagues.

Over the last ten years, Gulnara Derbisheva has been on a mission to bring peace and opportunity to the rural poor of her native country of Kyrgyzstan. She is involved with two funds designed to overcome poverty, educate, and protect the rights and interests of the people of the Kyrgyz Republic who live on the brink of extreme poverty. As executive director of Insan-Leylek, an NGO focusing on the rural poor, unemployed women, youth, and teachers in the area, she is an educator and human rights activist, working each day for the creation of a civil society in the region. Realizing a desperate need to reach out to the elderly men and women of the area, Gulnara was instrumental in bringing the Babushka Adoption fund to Batken. This NGO offers social support and aid through a program which finds sponsors to “adopt” elderly "babushkas" (grannies) and "dedushkas" (grandpas) living in extreme poverty. Gulnara is also a passionate advocate dedicated to the removal of the dangerous landmines still buried along the border territories. These mines are the result of mine-laying by Uzbek soldiers in 1999 and 2000 after 300 militants tried to seize the Ferghana Valley. In one mine-affected area, there are two or three mine explosions every month. Gulnara has lost ten colleagues along the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border due to the blasts of these deadly weapons. With the help of local authorities, government representatives, local farmers, citizens, and the world community, she successfully is bringing attention to this dangerous problem plaguing her country. “There were real difficulties, when local authorities exerted pressure on me during the monitoring of the elections, threatening physical violence," Gulnara recalls. "When I walked along the mined fields with the employees of the frontier posts, without knowing where the mines were buried. That was difficult.”

Insan-Leylek Babushka Adoption Fund