Photo caption: Freedom to all immediatly

Let us welcome Lola to a board of active youth in Central Asia! Lola has been selected as one of the participants of the summer residency arranged by CAG a month ago. Regrettably, Lola was not able to come to Sweden, because of issues with her visa. Nevertheless, we are in touch with Lola and discuss ways of potential collaborations in the future.

Lola was born and raised in one of the remote areas of Uzbekistan (more about Uzbekistan: https://centralasien.org/en/uzbekistan-en/). Her family is not big. She has a little niece, who she likes to spend time with. Lola tries to spend as much time as possible with her niece to positively impact her upbringing. 

Lola started her activism journey when she turned 12 years old. Since then she got acquainted with different topics such as human rights and gender equality that enhanced her capacity to work with these very issues. At some point, a camp on eco-journalism greatly impacted her life. 

According to Lola, activism means sharing. Sharing knowledge and experiences can make a huge difference for people who lack access to information. Thus, after learning about HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, gender equality and youth activism through Y-PEER in Uzbekistan, Lola became eager to hold trainings for youth herself. In 2012, she had her first traineeship experience. Also, Lola had an international volunteering experience during FIFA 2018 in Russia. She found this very exciting and inspiring.

A moment captured during a thematic camp #FightLikeAGirl organized by IDEA Central Asia

Later, Lola had to take a break from activism and focus on her studies in Moscow, where she specialized in linguistics. After 5 years of studies, Lola returned to Uzbekistan and started her work in a small industrial zone as a leading specialist. She focused on monitoring of the work of entrepreneurs. Even though she admired her work and team, Lola decided to quit in order to try herself in a new field. 

Currently, she is working in a fashion company. One of the reasons she got a job in a fashion company is the story behind its foundation. A founder of a company is a woman who had faced many challenges to start her own company. 

“I am always inspired by women who try their best to fulfill their goals;  work hard, put all necessary efforts and never give up. My mom has been the best example of this type of women. It keeps me being encouraged”

When I asked Lola about challenges in Uzbekistan and/or Central Asian region, Lola mentioned the problem of quality of education, high unemployment rates, migration, and early marriages. Lola thinks that young people in Central Asia never get a chance to think about their personal values. There is a high level of pressure from society on what one has to do and how one has to live their lives in Uzbekistan. Family, especially parents, force their children to live up to certain standards and to have certain values.  

“ There are a lot of people with  fixed-mindset, who don’t think of self-realization, self-positioning. They don’t try to break social norms and strive for something bigger”  

At a legislative level  the marriage age for men and women is set at 18 years, but it is still very common for youth to marry before they actually turn 18 years old. in many cases, parents find alternative ways to arrange a marriage. In some rural areas, girls as young as 15 years old are forced to get married in religious ceremonies that are not recognized by the state. Youth are forced to create families against their will.   

Due to strong gender norms, girls and women are not being considered as leaders of society.  Therefore, some families don’t invest in girls and thus they don’t get to study at universities. Sometimes girls and women are not even allowed to finish their high school studies. They are perceived at being better at doing household chores. 

Lola posing with Zere, a famous singer from Kyrgyzstan who sings about issues of women and girls

When it comes to Lola’s family, she feels lucky about them.  Even though her parents are conservative, they respect and support Lola’s choices. Lola’s mom cheers her up every time she feels down.  When Lola entered the university in Moscow, she was happy, but studying in a different environment was a big struggle. Sometimes she thought about quitting the university, but eventually she successfully graduated. 

Recently, Lola together with her friend started a project aimed at youth development. They created a channel at one of the famous networks among youth in Central Asia – Telegram. This channel is an online platform for young people where they can learn about success and failure stories of people who managed to achieve something – enroll in foreign universities, receive fellowships or scholarships. Project leaders want to keep youth informed, inspired and motivated.

#FightLikeAGirl

By the end of our conversation, I asked Lola to deliver a message for young people. After a while, Lola highlighted that it is important for youth to continuously work on their capacity. If there is a problem of quality of education at schools or universities, young people should learn to educate themselves by reading books or attending alternative trainings or seminars. She also mentioned that there are plenty of study opportunities for young people not only abroad but also in Uzbekistan. Thus, she wants people to keep searching for opportunities and stay persistent whatever comes along. 

If you are curious about Lola’s work, her project, please follow on Facebook and Telegram channel.

 

Written by: Ainagul Amatbekova