Uzbekistan: Sakhibakhon Irgasheva

If people trust me, I cannot betray that trust. If they come to me for help, I must do my best to support them.

— Sakhibakhon Irgasheva

Sakhibakhon Irgasheva (born 1948) has headed the Kokand branch of the Business Women's Association (BWA) since 1994, which provides training, advice, and support to women in developing small and medium enterprises. From 1991 to 1994, she was chairperson of Nodira, an NGO working for the protection of mothers and children. She is vice chairperson of Mekhr, a women’s forum in the Ferghana region. Sakhibakhon has played a significant role in supporting the establishment of over 60 NGOs in the Kokand area, in raising civic awareness and building civil society.

Sakhibakhon Irgasheva decided early on to devote her life to the protection of women’s rights. Since 1991, she has headed the Kokand branch of the Business Women’s Association (BWA), one of the first NGOs in the newly-established Republic of Uzbekistan. At that time, the idea of an NGO was received with hostility because the government viewed “non-governmental” as “anti-governmental.” Since 1991, Sakhiba has managed to establish many NGOs in Kokand, a small city in the Ferghana Valley with a population of about 200,000. Currently, there are over 60 NGOs in the area, 30 of which are run by women. This is particularly noteworthy in a region like the Ferghana Valley in which Islamic traditionalism is severe and women are expected to be passive, subordinate, obliging, and obedient to men. As an Open Society Institute National Board Member, Sakhibakhon has contributed greatly to the development of the general strategy of the women’s movement in Uzbekistan. She personally assists women leaders in working out their NGO’s strategies and the implementation of their projects. The BWA of Kokand focuses on six priorities: women's issues, civil society and local community, public health, youth, and environment. Since its establishment, the BWA has worked in close collaboration with a number of international donor organizations and implemented over ten large projects. The most significant impact of the BWA’s activity is the organization, establishment, and development of NGOs run by and for women, such as the women’s centers Kamolon, Mohlar Oyim, Family and Child, Adolat, and the Children’s Puppet Theater Semurg. The creation of Mekhr, a women's forum in Ferghana Valley, was one of the significant steps in strengthening the status of rural women in society, releasing them from the feudal home-fortresses.

Business Women's Association (BWA) Mekhr Open Society Institute