Gulnara Derbisheva – Kyrgyzstan

Linked with Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan.

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

She is named also on Political Heroes.

She says: “Helping the poor is the main goal of my work. Anybody, who needs support, must get it without fail” … and: “I always want to be there, where people need me” … and: “Young people are alone with their problems and are easily subjected to the propaganda of political and religious parties of extremist character, similar to Hizb ut-Tahrir”.

Gulnara Derbisheva - Kyrgyzstan rogné redim 90p.jpg

Gulnara Derbisheva – Kyrgyzstan

She works for Insan-Leylek (named on IATP), and for the Babushka Adoption Fund (named on Swiss Cooperation Fund).

Gulnara Derbisheva is a human rights activist who lives in one of the poorest regions of Kyrgyzstan. She is committed to helping the unemployed, destitute and elderly people of rural Kyrgyzstan through her work with two funds that serve as lifelines for many. Gulnara is active in local government and community affairs, and reaches out to the media to bring attention to the problems of her region.

She is also a tireless advocate for the removal of landmines along the border territories. More than 100 civilians have been killed by these deadly mines, including friends and colleagues. Over the past ten years, Gulnara Derbisheva has been teaching in one of the poorest areas of Central Asia.

Born in 1968 to a family of office workers in the Isfana village of the Ash region of Kyrgyzstan, she finished secondary school and then, like many others from the area, left home in search of greater opportunity.

She went to Russia to study the Russian language and Literature at the Pedagogical Institute in Magnitogorsk. Following graduation, she returned to her native country to teach the people living in the poorest, most remote areas of Kyrgyzstan. She married and has five children.

While working in the rural schools of Kyrgyzstan, Gulnara became active in the movement to promote democratic reforms in the area. Her work expanded from educator to activist and humanitarian. She is involved with two different funds designed to overcome poverty, to educate, and to protect the rights and interests of the people of the Republic, who each day exist on the brink of extreme poverty.

In 1998, realizing a need to help the elderly population suffering in the region, Gulnara was instrumental in bringing the Babushka Adoption fund to Batken. With the support and financing of the Swiss Coordination Office in Kyrgyzstan, this non-governmental organization provides aid and a social outlet through a program wherein Gulnara and other employees find sponsors to adopt lonely, elderly “babushkas” and “dedushkas” living in extreme poverty.

The private sponsors transfer money equal to 10 U.S. dollars per month by mail or the Internet into the account of their adopted “babushka” or “dedushka,” an amount which can literally transform a life in this country. Altogether, since this project began, the “adopted” have received more than 11 million Kyrgyz soms.

The Babushka Adoption program offers a social outlet as volunteers organize tea parties and Khozyayushka (housewife) clubs so that the elderly citizens can spend leisure time together. Gulnara has succeeded in garnering international attention for the program, and at present, nearly 700 elderly men and women have been adopted. Gulnara herself contributes to the program using her own means.

In 1999, with the support of friends, Gulnara created Insan-Leylek, a non-governmental organization dedicated to facilitating democratic reforms through the involvement of women and young people of Kyrgyzstan’s Batken region. The fund is structured on the local, regional, and national levels, and is geared toward protecting the rights and interests of these people by educating them on the democratic processes of decision making and problem solving.

The Insan-Leylek fund, with Gulnara at its helm, provides information, training and other initiatives to the rural people, and unemployed women, teachers and youth of the region. Despite their remote location and difficult living conditions, the fund has grown into a solid, successful organization, succeeding in defending rights, promoting reforms, establishing democratic institutions, and working toward the creation of a civil society.

In 2004, Gulnara was an advisor on the implementation of a national program focused on gender equality (Beijing Platform of Action). She has also worked to make government officials more accountable to the people of the Batken region for their actions.

Gulnara has faced many challenges in her time. In 1998, militant Islamic formations invaded the Batken region, and 68 Kyrgyz frontier guards were killed and eight hostages were captured. Gulnara was at the center of these terrifying events. By the end, two villages were completely wiped out. International humanitarian aid sustained the tremendously damaged region for two years during the rebuilding process.

Gulnara Derbisheva is also a passionate advocate dedicated to the removal of the dangerous landmines that still contaminate much of the border territories. These mines were laid by Uzbek soldiers in 1999 and 2000 after 300 militants tried to seize the Ferghana Valley. Gulnara and her employees worked in and around these border territories, an area rife with danger.

In one mine-infected area, there are two or three explosions every month. Landmines also harm the animals and hamper grazing in the country’s impoverished border areas. Since this campaign began, Gulnara has lost ten colleagues along the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border due to the blasts of these deadly underground bombs.

With the help of local authorities, government representatives, local farmers and citizens as well as the world community, she is successfully bringing attention to this dangerous problem plaguing her country. Throughout this perilous time, Gulnara lived among the people in their native village, without leaving. She always aspired to help people where they live. “I always want to be there, where people need me,” she says.

Gulnara is active in a number of cooperation programs in the border district area of the Ferghana Valley. International conflicts continue over a number of issues, including the shortage of drinking water, disputes over land and the vast migration of Tajik citizens into Kyrgyzstan. Gulnara has initiated projects to help find solutions to the water and migration problems as well as the unemployment crippling the area, a crisis which can have a terrible impact on the young people of the region.

In this very isolated and poor province of Kyrgyzstan, the unemployed youth are vulnerable to the extremist propaganda of the Islamic party. Many young people feel they have nothing and are attracted to the militant and terrorist groups. “Young people are alone with their problems and are easily subjected to the propaganda of political and religious parties of extremist character, similar to Hizb ut-Tahrir,” Gulnara says. Hizb ut-Tahrir is the extremist Islamic party in Central Asia.

In her efforts to help the people of her community, Gulnara uses only peaceful methods to accomplish her work. These include the examination of normative and legal literature, sociological questioning, attending meetings, civil forums, monitoring of political processes, lobbying the deputies of the Kyrgyz Parliament and local councils, participating in educational and informational campaigns, issuing legal brochures and memoranda for the advancement of human rights.

She organized public hearings to encourage cooperation and dialogue between the region’s local authorities and the citizens. She set up joint roundtables to iron out boundary disputes. Some 200 craftswomen are employed thanks to a joint Kyrgyz-Tajik Project, Crafts without Borders. Ten women’s and ten youth initiative groups have been established that teach participants how to defend their interests on their own. More than 1000 people have received training and attended educational seminars on a number of subjects, including: advocacy, lobbying, social partnerships, project development, basics of micro-business, fundraising, and community and government organizations.

An NGO house has been built for community use. With support from employees and volunteers of the Insan-Leylek fund, as well as local authorities, it was constructed through a traditional system of collective volunteer labor by the people of the community. In this house everyone has a free access to the Internet and a library.

Gulnara’s painstaking labor has improved the lives of the most vulnerable members of the population: the elderly, the disabled, the rural youth and uneducated women. Her efforts have succeeded in bringing attention to the plight of her community. She is a well-known figure in the area. People are acquainted with her and her work. In her, they have an ally, someone they can go to for help.

Her humanitarian work has been praised by international organizations in Kyrgyzstan and by the national Government. In March of 2004, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) nominated her to represent the civil society of Kyrgyzstan at the UN and World Bank conferences. Their goal is to develop cooperation between legislative officials, executive authorities and the civil society of the developing countries for the implementation of poverty surmounting strategies. Gulnara is often invited by NDI to advise beginners on issues of lobbying and protection of human rights as a volunteer.

In March of 2004, Gulnara was awarded the State Prize for her dedication and accomplishments in overcoming poverty and the development of a civil society. This, however, has not been her greatest reward. For her, it is much simpler. “The main prize, for me, is seeing happy and joyful people.” (1000PeaceWomen).

Gulnara Derbisheva, Kyrgyz Republic, Batken region – Budget Partnership Initiative, Rationale: Funds used by local self-government bodies belong to people. Therefore, local authorities should regularly consult with the population on how to spend local budgets, should report to citizenry on funds spending.
Most of the population of the Kyrgyz Republic does not know how local budget revenues and expenditures are formulated, how much money is used to meet social needs of the population, especially those of the aged and pensioners. Citizens do not know what ratio of funds is used to maintain public property and generation of revenues from leasing lands of the Assets Reallocation Fund … (full text).

Gulnara Derbisheva has been working in NGO sector since 1998. In 1999 Gulnara and her colleagues from a small village school established “Insan-Leilek” Public Foundation. The main objective of the NGO is promotion and lobbing interests of youth and women in rural areas. For achievement of that goal the NGO conducted huge educational work in raising awareness among young people and women about their rights, the ways of increasing their participation in social life of the village. Thus, the idea of involving young people to decision making processes at the local level emerged. For the first time in Batken oblast, the organization together with the village youth conducted Public Hearings on problems of the youth. As a result of those Public Hearings, a provision in local 2002 budget of Isfana village administration for item “Expenditures for work with youth” was made. The amount envisaged was not huge but for local young people knowing that their needs and problems are taken into account by local administration had much greater impact. At the moment 12 staff members and 44 volunteers work for the Foundation. Gulnara graduated from Orenburg Pedagogical University with specialization of a teacher of Russian language and literature. Now she is studying at the Academy of Management under the President of the Kyrgyz Republic specialized in non-profit management. (full text).


Central Eurasian Studies World Wide CESWW;

General Info about Kyrghyzstan;


10 Academic Resources Daily, page of May 31, 2006 – and their Homepage;

a yahoo group: kelkel, KelKel-Vozrojdenie’ Civil Youth Movement (most in Russian and Kirghez, few in english);

Seminar for Central Asian Academics;, and their Homepage;

Kyrgyz News, (their Homepage in Kirghez).

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