We women do not stop: A teacher takes on trade in Uzbekistan
The Namangan region of Uzbekistan lies in the north of the country in the Fergana valley, a key stop on the ancient Silk Road. It is here, in the city of Chust, that Sanobar Tojibaeva lives.
For many years, she worked as a teacher but in 2013, she decided to start something new: her very own first business.
Using her creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, she decided to take a risk and set up a small textile production line. Namangan is fortunate to have access to qualified labour as well as low production cost; however, the majority of production is low quality, destined to the low-end segment of the textile industry. Sanobar decided to focus on high-end products forher business. Building on her experience as a teacher, she began by offering an internship to six female college students to provide them with training necessary to run a business. For these young women, it was an ideal opportunity to gain some crucial hands-on experience. Within a few months, two of the six were hired by Sanobar.
- Within just one year, production doubled and 10,000 units of clothing were exported to Russia
- The company has a permanent staff of seven, and eight rotating seasonal jobs.
- On average, staff income is seven times higher to what they previously earned, and all enjoy social protection under the labour law.
It was at this point that Sanobar learned about the Finnish-funded Aid for Trade project that focuses on helping out small businesses like hers. The UNDP project sensed that this business was ready to grow and invited Sanobar to submit a proposal to scale up.
“UNDP gave me the confidence that I could be a truly successful entrepreneur and expand my business,” she recalls.
Her business plan was selected through a competitive assessment process and the grant awarded helped her to buy new, more efficient sewing equipment. She also benefited from business development trainings on marketing, legal basis of entrepreneurships and accounting organized by the project.
It did not take long before her efforts paid off: between 2013 to 2014, her production volume nearly doubled. Her company gained market recognition and she entered into a partnership agreement with experienced exporter, allowing her to export 10,000 units to Russia.
In Uzbekistan, women make up 46 percent percent of the adult labour force. However, the majority of these opportunities are found in home-based work and the public sector. Sanobar’s achievement demonstrates just how much those trends are changing. She has founded a company by herself and now she is employing seven women, four of them are recent graduates. On average, her employees’ incomes are seven times higher than what they previously earned. Formal employment also enables them to enjoy social protection such as pensions, maternity leave or sick leave.
“I think, women can achieve great results in business, since they have more willpower and when faced with difficulties, we women do not stop, but overcome them and move on,’ she says. ‘Women are an inseparable part of a society. If women are successful and happy, so the society will be.”