- Helping Women One Small Loan at a Time in Uzbekistan
- Family businesses are popular in Uzbekistan, and women play an active role in establishing and running them.
- In Uzbekistan, a project that lends money to small businesses, with a focus on helping women entrepreneurs, is having a broad societal impact.
In the remote autonomous region of Karakalpakstan, in northwestern Uzbekistan, there is a vibrant entrepreneurial spirit. Zamira Abdukarimova exemplifies that spirit. The 53-year-old mother of four adult children has dedicated over 25 years of her life to building her bakery business. She struggled with just a single oven—until 2014, when she received a loan to buy new baking equipment.
“Now I can make more than 100 flatbreads at a time,” she says. Her increased production has allowed her to employ 15 people, including 10 women, most of whom did not have permanent, full-time jobs before working for her. “We trained them and now they work here full time.”
Her growing business has paid for her children’s higher education and a son’s wedding. She also bought a new house and a car and opened another shop to sell baked goods. She is considering building a new two-story bakery and stocking it with new equipment to ramp up production further.
The loan that she received to jumpstart her business was part of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Development Project, which was supported by ADB with a $50 million loan and a $500,000 technical assistance grant. The project has provided a line of credit to two commercial banks—Ipak Yuli Bank and HamkorBank—which on-lent the money to small businesses, with a particular focus on helping women entrepreneurs.
The project also supported training to develop the banks’ microfinance operations and provide entrepreneurial skills to borrowers. Its ultimate goal was to enable women-owned and rural small businesses to play a greater income-generating role in Uzbekistan’s economy by providing them with better access to credit.
Jobs for Women
Loans from the project provided skills and employment to women in places where work opportunities were scarce. One such place is Karakalpakstan, where Bakhrom Yuldashev has worked for years struggling to get by selling ice cream he made himself.
Loans from the project provided skills and employment to women in places where work opportunities were scarce.
In 2013, he saw that a derelict former dairy factory was up for auction. After receiving a loan from HamkorBank in 2014, he was able to buy new equipment and refurbish the old building. As a result, Nukus Dilisha, his ice cream business, increased its sales and has become a local favorite. “We now produce 15 types of ice cream,” he says. “It is a great feeling to have our own Karakalpak brand sold across the republic.”
Bakhrom trained and hired 14 people—most of them women—to work at his ice cream factory. One of them is 20-year-old Ainura Satbayeva. She lives with her parents and is happy to be paid to learn and practice a new skill.
Family businesses are popular in Uzbekistan, and women play an active role in establishing and running them. Gulnora Khamidova, a 37-year-old mother of four, has for years helped her father run a porcelain shop in the city of Andijan. In 2014, her father retired and she took it over.
“I was a teacher at a local technical school and had recently had my third child, so combining that with a full-time job was a challenge,” she says. With an ADB-supported loan from the Ipak Yuli Bank branch in Andijan Region, she expanded the store’s inventory and has since visited the People’s Republic of China to scout for new types of products to stock.
She also invited two sisters and a niece to join her. The increased business has allowed her to build a new house, buy a car, and save money for her children’s education. “Just look how beautiful our shop has become!” she exclaims proudly.
From Worker to Manager
At the Andijan branch of Ipak Yuli Bank, the region’s trading tradition is evident. More than 30% of microfinance loans extended by Ipak Yuli Bank with ADB support in the region went to women entrepreneurs and more than 60% helped rural businesses.
In Khodjiobod District, some 40 kilometers from Andijan city, much of the entrepreneurial activity is centered around textile production. One of those small textile factories is managed by Abduvakhob Mamatkhodirov, who received a loan to increase his working capital and expand production.
More than 30% of microfinance loans extended by Ipak Yuli Bank with ADB support in the region went to women entrepreneurs and more than 60% helped rural businesses.
“After receiving support from Ipak Yuli Bank, we have almost doubled our production to 35,000 garments per month and are now exporting them to other countries—Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, and the Kyrgyz Republic,” he says, adding that they have hired 10 new employees, all women. “Unlike the seasonal agricultural work they were doing before, this provides a stable, year-round income for them.”
On the outskirts of Tashkent, the capital city, is another small business supported by the project. Utkir Sodikov used a loan to expand his factory’s dishware production and increase his workforce from 12 people in 2013 to 30 people in 2016, 24 of them women, mostly from the surrounding villages.
“We take young women without previous work experience and train them,” he says. “We have our own system whereby they start from the basic tasks and move up to more advanced work.”
The project has also had other positive effects on women, particularly in the area of providing better social services. In the small village of Munduz, in Khodjiobod District of Andijan Region, the project helped finance the opening of the first private medical service center and stocking it with critical diagnostic equipment.
“Before our center opened, people from the village and its surroundings had to travel 6 or 7 kilometers to receive good-quality medical diagnostics and help,” says Adkham Kenzhaev, chief executive officer. The clinic employs 8 people, including 6 women, and provides inpatient facilities to 120 patients per month, three-quarters of them women.
SMALL BUSINESS AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP DEVELOPMENT PROJECT
Learn more about ADB’s work in Uzbekistan.
This article was originally published in Together We Deliver, a publication highlighting successful ADB projects across Asia and the Pacific that demonstrated development impacts, best practice, and innovation.