She is one of the 1000 women proposed fort the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
She says: “If people trust me, I cannot betray that trust. If they come to me for help, I must do my best to support them.”
Sakhibakhon Irgasheva – Uzbekistan
Sakhibakhon Irgasheva (born 1948) has headed the Kokand branch of the Business Women’s Association (BWA) since 1994, which provides training, advice, and support to women in developing small and medium enterprises. From 1991 to 1994, she was chairperson of Nodira, an NGO working for the protection of mothers and children. She is vice chairperson of Mekhr, a women’s forum in the Ferghana region. Sakhibakhon has played a significant role in supporting the establishment of over 60 NGOs in the Kokand area, in raising civic awareness and building civil society.
Sakhiba Irgasheva was born in 1948 into a traditional Muslim family. Her mother died when Sakhiba was eight years old and her father remarried a young girl of only 17 who could not really be a mother to Sakhiba. She witnessed scenes of family violence and early in her childhood, she swore that her life would be devoted to the protection of women’s rights.
She is now a happy wife and mother. Her son and daughter have presented her with five wonderful grandchildren. Her husband is the director of a school. All her life, Sakhiba has given help and support to those around her. She has resolved inter-ethnic conflicts in her region and protected the rights of women and children there.
Sakhiba was an active participant and initiator in the closing of the chemical plant in city of Kokand and the freezing of construction of Sokh water reservoir, which was affecting the natural ecological balance in the Ferghana region.
She promoted the movement of the mothers of soldiers who died in the Afghan war. During the tumultuous events of 1989 in Ferghana, she initiated negotiations with a furious crowd and managed to stop them from committing criminal acts and sent them home.
Since 1991, she has headed a non-governmental organization (NGO), the Kokand Business Women’s Association (BWA), one of the first NGOs in the newly established Uzbekistan Republic. At that time, the idea of an NGO was received with hostility, because the Government viewed “non-governmental” as “anti-governmental.” Since 1991 Sakhiba has managed to establish many NGOs in Kokand, which is a small city in the Ferghana Valley with a population of about 200,000. Currently there are over 60 NGOs, thirty of which are run by women. This is particularly noteworthy in a region like the Ferghana Valley in which Islamic traditionalism is severe and women are expected to be passive, subordinate, obliging and obedient to men.
Sakhibakhon Irgasheva actively participated in international women’s forums and conferences in Istanbul, Budapest, New York and Zagreb and brought her international experience to the development of the women’s movement. She has had a positive impact on policy and decision-making processes in legal, social and economic spheres. She has worked on civil and humanitarian initiatives, including the protection of minority citizens and refugees.
As an Open Society Institute National Board Member, Sakhibakhon has contributed greatly to the development of the general strategy of the women’s movement in Uzbekistan. She has been instrumental in improving public opinion regarding gender equality and has contributed to projects advocating the human rights of women.
She has also contributed significantly to the development of the Foundation’s educational strategies for the promotion of equal access to education. She is working within the system to further support various reform initiatives which try to make the educational process more democratic and involve stakeholders in the decision-making process in order to improve the quality of education.
The current socio-political situation is difficult and unstable and there is the threat of an anti-democratic ideological indoctrination of young people. In this environment, Sakhiba has been very active in promoting the sense of citizenship and civic qualities, participation in society, and leadership skills. She has raised the awareness of young people to society, individual rights and responsibilities. She has also promoted health care programs for Kokand women and children.
She personally assists women leaders in the working out of their NGO’s strategies and the implementation of their projects. The BWA of Kokand focuses on six priorities: Women’ Issues, Civil Society and Local Community, Public Health, Youth, Health, and Environment. Since its establishment, the BWA has worked in close collaboration with a number of international donor organizations and implemented over ten large projects.
The most significant impact of the BWA’s activity is the organization, establishment and development of NGOs run by and for women, such as the women’s centers Kamolon, Mohlar Oyim, Family and Child, Adolat and the Children’s Puppet theater Semurg. The creation of the Forum of Women’s NGOs in Ferghana Valley was one of the important steps in strengthening the status of rural women in society, releasing them from the feudal home-fortresses.