Istanbul, 5 March – A farmer struggling to contain sand dunes bordering the vanishing Aral Sea, a rabbi with a mission to revive a small Belarusian town, a century-old Georgian vineyard making a splash in business and women seeking justice in Uzbekistan: these little-known characters are at the center of a new UNDP series of underreported tales called “Voyages”.
Though often eclipsed by the global news cycle, these women and men dedicate their lives to make sure their communities don’t fall through the cracks of exclusion. Now “Voyages” is looking to celebrate these heroes by giving their stories a much-deserved platform.
Countries in the region have had a legacy of equality, job security and functioning safety nets. As a result, stories of every day struggles often go unreported. But the middle class in Eastern Europe and Central Asia shrank by 6 million people from 2013 to 2015, a sign that the region’s progress is fraying at the edges.
“There are large numbers of people with no access to roads or life-saving medication, de-industrialized towns where most young people have left, populations that find themselves trapped in the middle of frozen conflicts. It is their right and our collective duty to make sure everyone gets a chance to grow to their full potential,” said Mirjana Spoljaric-Egger, the Director of UNDP’s regional bureau for Europe and Central Asia.
“Voyages” will be released in four chapters from March to September. The first issue on “Shifting Landscapes” explores shifts around the region, from environment to gender to ancestral communities.
The second issue, “At Work”, will explore the meaning of the workplace, whether a church or a mosque, a workshop behind prison walls or the remote roads of Central Asia.
The third issue, “Boundaries”, will explore the topic of real and imagined borders, from conflict-affected regions to the artificial frontiers of exclusion.
Finally, the fourth issue, “Who am I?”, will look at changing identities in a rapidly evolving world, from parents of LGBTI children to HIV-positive patients struggling to exist.
“Through these stories, we wanted to create a sense that all around the world, people experience similar issues that prevent them from moving forward. But above all, we wanted to move viewers and convey a sense that exclusion is not inevitable and can in fact be eliminated,” said Nicolas Douillet, UNDP regional head of communications for Europe and Central Asia.
Voyages is a bi-monthly journal of stories from a changing Eurasia, produced by UNDP.