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S. Kyrgyzstan builds strength, unity through youth programmes
Focusing on youth projects, leaders aim to strengthen the state by promoting tolerance, knowledge and prosperity.
By Bakyt Ibraimov
OSH – Leaders of civil society in southern Kyrgyzstan, together with local authorities, are implementing projects designed to strengthen inter-ethnic harmony, rejuvenate the economy and support ethno-cultural centres.
The ideas are not new, Sonunbek Zhunusbayev, chairman of the Osh City Committee for Youth Affairs at the mayor’s office, told Central Asia Online, but now, thanks to a significant increase in the budget, he hopes implementation is possible.
"All these ideas are quite feasible and are already being put into action by some organisations, thanks to which the advancement of the notion of tolerance in ethnic communities can be felt,” he said.
"In the first year, our committee budget was very small, 200,000 KGS (US $4,255), which was not sufficient for us to properly implement our ideas,” Zhunusbayev said. “Now we have this opportunity, as this year our budget was 4m KGS (US $85,106), and 1.5m (US $31,914) of this was allocated for youth business projects.”
With the increased support, activists from all over the country October 4-6 came together in a nationwide forum in Osh under the slogan "My life is dedicated to the country’s development," where they discussed youth and education’s roles in shaping the future.
Youth solidarity encourages inter-ethnic unity
The youth leaders’ initiatives should be encouraged, at the very least because these leaders are aware of their problems and are willing to tackle them together with the authorities, Osh Secondary School No. 17 history teacher Kadicha Turgunbayeva told Central Asia Online.
"Activists should be trusted and, if necessary, guided in the right direction, so it is very important for the government to give youth project proposals full attention," she said.
Such steps can greatly accelerate the integration process in a multi-ethnic society and prevent rifts from forming on the basis of ethnicity or other characteristics, she said.
Local authorities, not just youth, are committed to promoting joint projects aimed at peace building, strengthening friendly relations and boosting economic potential, Eliza Kadyrova, head of a Dzhalalabad-based activist group, told Central Asia Online.
"We have implemented various projects aimed at improving inter-ethnic relations in the affected areas of southern Kyrgyzstan, but these were only one-time events and did not produce the hoped-for results," she said.
In order for a country to develop and prosper, youth solidarity is vital, so the authorities should continue to support youth projects aimed at strengthening Kyrgyz statehood, she said.
Youth perspective can help shape social policy
"All our problems are caused by family poverty, high youth unemployment and ineffective social policy in the provinces," Larisa Kuznetsova, head of the youth organisation Smail.kg, told Central Asia Online in an interview in Osh.
Involving youth in these projects helps build a better understanding of youth culture from within and in turn boosts the effectiveness of these projects several-fold, she said.
In a recent project, NGO members and employees of local government agencies co-operated on community development and renovation in southern Kyrgyzstan. "Community facilities were renovated, information centres created, and young people taught new skills," she said.
Such projects help to foster co-operation between youth and local governments and to strengthen youth’s knowledge of law and awareness of public and political life in Kyrgyzstan, Kuznetsova added.
Today's investments support future prosperity
Aizhan Toktosheva heads the association Youth of Osh, which supports projects aimed at improving the young’s well-being.
"Since April this year, we have given the green light to 19 projects and have spent a total of 1,451,355 KGS (US $30,879),” she told Central Asia Online, mentioning the support of the Youth Initiative project in the funding effort.
Youth will improve their community’s environment, advance volunteerism, develop the spirit of tolerance and neighbourliness and raise interest in sport and education among their peers, she said.
"I expect that every young person who implements a youth project will acquire the faith and confidence to put his or her ideas into action and will also gain the life experience and necessary skills needed for a future career," she said.