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March 2023

Rapid Needs Assessment for Uzbekistan

Objective

National Women’s Business Agendas for Central Asia is a multi-disciplinary regional program aimed at building and supporting country-level and regional alliances, referred to as coalitions, of women’s organizations to improve the ability of Central Asian women to engage in economic activity. Launched in April 2021, the program is working with women’s business associations (WBAs) and women’s civil society organizations (CSOs) to identify and address legal and societal barriers to women’s participation in the Central Asian economies. The program fosters collaboration among WBAs, CSOs, and other key stakeholders in the private sector and civil society to establish and advocate National Women’s Business Agendas (NWBAs). The purpose of this rapid needs assessment (RNA) is to inform policy recommendations used by the business community and civil society in its advocacy efforts to promote an enabling environment for women’s economic empowerment (WEE) in Uzbekistan through a NWBA.

WAGE is providing technical support to the coalition of business associations and CSOs to develop a NWBA in Uzbekistan. The NWBA is an advocacy methodology developed by the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) and is used around the world to support the business community and civil society to advocate for market-oriented reforms to make doing business easier and to increase economic inclusion. The RNA complemented a series of consultative meetings conducted by members of the Coalition with over 125 women entrepreneurs from across the country. These meetings are a staple of CIPE's Business Agenda model that aims to secure broad-based support from private sector stakeholders for the NWBA and ensure the program is a truly locally led initiative.

RNA findings and recommendations, along with the data collected during the consultative meetings, are used to establish the specific topics the Coalition focuses on within the NWBA it develops. This allows the Coalition to direct its energy and efforts to developing its advocacy approach on how to address policy and legislative issues identified through the women’s business agenda. The women's business agenda is a planned implementation activity that shows the Coalition’s evidence-based plan of action it follows to improve women's economic success at a regional level in Central Asia, including in Uzbekistan. The data collected over the course of the RNA was also used to validate and update the following sections within the WAGE Central Asia Gender and Inclusion Analysis: 1) Laws, Policies, and Institutional Practices, 2) Access to, Use, and Control over Assets and Resources and 3) Gender-Based Violence (GBV). This will help to ground the Gender and Inclusion Analysis in a more focused perspective in line with the specific project goals and objectives.

The Rapid Needs Assessment Key Findings cover:

  • Laws, Policies, and Institutional Practices Related to Women’s Entrepreneurship
  • Sociocultural Issues and Gender Norms
  • Gender Roles and Power Dynamics
  • Access to, Use, And Control Over Assets and Resources
  • Gender-Based Violence (GBV) 
  • Capacity and Services of Business Associations

Conclusion

Women in Uzbekistan continue to face substantial obstacles that prevent their full participation in the economy. Socio-cultural norms are predominantly patriarchal, relegating women to the private sphere, where women are expected to fulfill nearly all household duties and responsibilities of child-rearing. These expectations create barriers to women’s economic participation and career advancement. Respondents noted that women also have limited decision-making and financial power in their domestic lives. Several respondents mentioned that many women start their business to improve their living conditions.

While opening a business in Uzbekistan is a relatively easy process, women lack knowledge of legal provisions, tax codes, and regulations that are essential for women entrepreneurs to successfully run their business. This stems from women having obstructed access to education, as many women are married young and are encouraged to not pursue higher education, especially in rural areas. This results in many difficulties for women who later decide to pursue entrepreneurship.

According to respondents, men and women have equal opportunity to apply for loans and credit. However, women face several obstacles in their attempt to apply for loans including the lack of financial literacy and sufficient collateral. The problem with the latter derives from unequal asset ownership which favors men, positioning a male spouse or relative as prime owners. This prevents many women from taking the initial steps in opening their businesses. Women also face difficulties in obtaining inheritance, as typically all assets are given to male relatives, regardless of legislation giving the equal rights to inheritance to men and women. While a substantial number of business associations attempt to support these entrepreneurs, they typically lack the funding necessary to provide resources and advocate for reforms.

Uzbek authorities have made attempts to mitigate these challenges through legislation such as the “Law on State Guarantees, Equal Rights and Opportunities”. However, respondents emphasized the extensive need to support the development of women’s economic empowerment. Many emphasized the lack of awareness of the government programs and grants geared towards supporting entrepreneurship, as well as the need for the government to scale up current programs. The Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “Law on the protection of women against all forms of oppression and violence” passed in 2019 and "On measures to improve the system for protecting women and girls from oppression and violence" signed in 2020 have all been positive steps towards addressing GBV and traditional gender norms, however they have not been enough to change prevailing gender stereotypes and practices.

While there are several laws and programs intended to develop the status of women, their implementation to date has been underwhelming. Women continue to face discrimination to accessing property and widespread gender-based violence. These factors prevent women from developing the skills and accessing the credit they need to open their business.

Read the Report

    The National Women’s Business Agendas for Central Asia program is an initiative of the Women and Girls Empowered (WAGE) consortium. The program is led by the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) with operational support and gender-based violence (GBV) technical expertise from the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) and Search for Common Ground in the area of advocacy.

    The statements and analysis contained in the report “Rapid Needs Assessment (RNA) for Uzbekistan” are the work of the WAGE consortium, led by ABA ROLI in close partnership with CIPE, Grameen Foundation USA, and Search for Common Ground (Search). The Board of Governors of the American Bar Association (ABA) has neither reviewed nor sanctioned its content. Accordingly, the views expressed in the report should not be construed as representing the policy of the ABA.

    Furthermore, nothing contained in this report is to be considered rendering legal advice for specific cases, and readers are responsible for obtaining such advice from their own legal counsel. All opinions, findings, and conclusions stated herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the United States Government, WAGE, or any members of the WAGE consortium.

    About WAGE

    Women and Girls Empowered (WAGE) is a global consortium to advance the status of women and girls, led by the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) in close partnership with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), Grameen Foundation, and Search for Common Ground (Search). WAGE works to strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs) and private sector organizations (PSOs) in target countries to improve the prevention of and response to gender-based violence; advance the women, peace and security agenda; and support women’s economic empowerment. In this context, WAGE provides direct assistance to women and girls, including information, resources, and services they need to succeed as active and equal participants in the global economy and public life. WAGE also engages in collaborative research and learning to build a body of evidence on relevant promising practices in these thematic areas. To account for the deeply interconnected nature of women’s and girls’ experiences, WAGE’s initiatives employ approaches that are highly collaborative, integrated, and inclusive. WAGE is funded by the U.S. Department of State Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues.