In Central Asia we are supporting groups of women who are working had to turn their lives around, sometimes in very tough circumstances

When Gulnaz emigrated with her family to a large city in a thriving Central Asian Republic last year she saw it as an exciting adventure.

So she was shocked when, just weeks after they arrived, her husband left her and their children for a local woman.

Selling tea

But Gulnaz is inventive and strong. With few other options available to her, Gulnaz began walking around the local bazaar selling hot cups of tea, hoping to make enough money to provide for her family.

Such people often blur into the sea of faces and become invisible. But Gulnaz wasn’t invisible to God, nor was she invisible to the kind-hearted bazaar butcher who introduced her to one of our project teams the very first day they went looking to connect with women to talk to them about their Self-Help Group initiative.

Talking about the pain

As she was relating her story to the team she couldn’t help but cry – a mix of being open about the pain in her life and realizing that there could be help out there for people like her.

Self-Help groups give women the opportunity to meet together, save money, learn from each other, take out loans and set up small businesses. In Central Asia, the Freedom Challenge is supporting projects that are establishing these self-help groups in many communities; the groups are thriving and giving women and their families fresh hope for the future.

Women like Nas, who joined a self-help group a year ago:

“My neighbor shared so much about the group until I had to join,” she says. “My life was difficult because we were very poor. I was not sure how or if I could save money, but I decided that I would, so I started saving a little at a time.”

Not alone

There was a lot of tension in Nas’ family as her husband was unemployed and angry about their circumstances, but being part of the self-help group meant Nas did not have to cope alone.

"When I joined the group, I shared my problems and they encouraged me to try to have patience with my family. They also advised me to take a loan from the group to start a small business for my husband.

Feeling hopeful

 “I was afraid to take a big loan because I knew that I could not pay back a big loan, therefore, I took small loans of $45.
With the money, I bought underwear and a push cart for my husband to start his business as a street vendor. I am hopeful that he will continue with this work so that we can have a better life. I also hope that we will have our own shop someday.”

Exciting future

Gulnaz too accepted the offer to join a self-help group, and while it is still early days she is excited about the future again, and is grateful for this unexpected opportunity.

Thank you for your gifts that enable us to provide such wonderful support to vulnerable women and children. These self-help groups are transforming lives.