Posted on 16 Apr, 2024 by Kanykey Jailobaeva, Senior National Expert

The project ARAKET: For a Better Life in New Settlements in Kyrgyzstan of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) aims at contributing to the improvement of residents’ livelihood in eleven new settlements around Bishkek and Osh cities in Kyrgyzstan. During the project's first phase (2023 – 2027), the GFA team on behalf of SDC is particularly striving for outputs in the improvement of job and income opportunities for women in these areas.

The new settlements emerged in the early 2000s due to land squatting amid the political and social upheaval following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Driven by poverty and unemployment in rural areas, thousands of internal migrants relocated to the cities of Bishkek and Osh. This led to a surge in unauthorized and at times hazardous residential areas. Hence, the new settlements have become home to some of the most vulnerable population groups in newly independent Kyrgyzstan. Studies conducted during the project’s inception phase found residents there facing numerous hardships such as the lack of legal housing documentation, access to school and health services, or clean drinking water facilities (studies conducted at the inception phase of Araket project).

In the media, settlements around Bishkek are frequently depicted as sources of socio-economic and environmental issues, while the ones in Osh were rarely mentioned. Most media coverage before 2023 concentrated on property and land disputes and their contribution to smog levels. The portrayals often highlight residents as extremely impoverished, struggling to afford amenities.

Positive narratives from these settlements are rarely told. Yet, studies conducted by the Araket project and lessons learned from the first year of implementation reveal fresh insights and success stories. Just to mention a few, women in these areas are relatively well educated and half of them are employed so that they expressed an interest in improving their skills. GFA experts together with their local partners took up these findings in 2023 and empowered women through skills training related to financial literacy, job searching techniques, and the basics of entrepreneurship. In 2024, the team’s priority is to support women with start-up grants to establish new businesses or expand existing ones, with a special emphasis on early childhood development centres. The centres will ease the dilemma for many women who so far have to prioritize childcare over work or income-generating activities.

> Read more in our brief factsheet