[English] Interview with Agnes and Miriam, CAG’s residency participants in Kyrgyzstan

Featured image: Miriam and Agnes at Novi Ritm’s office

Agnes and Miriam are participating in a two-month residency project in Kyrgyzstan, where they will be working together on developing a fundraising strategy for CAG’s partner, Novi Ritm, a youth organization based in Osh, Kyrgyzstan. About a week ago, Agnes and Miriam arrived in Osh, and we had some questions for them about the residency and how they are settling in.

Tell us a bit about yourself. 

Agnes: I have a great commitment and interest for civil society, and previous working and volunteering experience within the sector in fields related to human rights, labor rights, sustainable development and peace and security. As for my educational background, I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science, and a Masters’ degree in International Development and Management.  

Miriam: I am also a political science graduate, and one major interest of mine is democracy-building and democratic participation. I am very interested in the role that civil society has in promoting human rights, especially in a context that faces democratic challenges. 

What led you to apply for the residency position? 

Miriam: The residency position with Novi Ritm contained many of the aspects that I am interested in and eager to learn more about; youth participation in democratic processes, the Central Asian region and advocacy work in the civil society. Combined with my previous fundraising experience from Swedish civil society as well as from the UN system, I believed that the position would offer me many new learning opportunities, and at the same time provide a space where I hope that my previous experiences can be a valuable input. 

Agnes: As Miriam says, there were several things with this residency that caught my attention. For example, I was excited to learn about the work of Novi Ritm, both their thematic areas and their methodology working with young people. In Sweden I am engaged in a youth organization, previously as a volunteer and currently as a board member, and I was excited to be able to work with and learn about similar issues in a new context and region for me.

Do you have any prior experiences from Kyrgyzstan and/or the Central Asian region?

Miriam: This will be my first time in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia, but it is a region that I have been longing to visit, and learn more about, for a long time. I have previously been very interested in post-Soviet societies; I have studied one year of Soviet history, and carried out an internship at the Swedish EU representation where I followed the council working party on Eastern Europe and Central Asia. This was my first time working on the issues related to the Central Asian region and it sparked an interest that I now hope to deepen. 

Agnes: No, not at all! In my experience, Central Asia is not a well-known region within my social network, and it is also not a region which has been particularly discussed during my education. When I have been telling friends and family about the residency, the majority responded: “Kyrgyzstan? Where is that? What do you do there?”. I believe the internship and residency opportunities through CAG are very valuable for giving visibility to Kyrgyzstan, as well as the region as a whole, and I look forward to sharing the experiences within my network both in Sweden and other parts of the world. 

How do you find Osh and Kyrgyzstan this far? 

Agnes: This far, I have only good things to say. We were very well received by representatives from Novi Ritm upon our arrival in Osh, and they have been super helpful in providing recommendations and helping us settle in. What strikes me the most is the friendly people, and although communication sometimes could be a bit difficult given language barriers, you are always greeted with a smile. I look forward to getting to know Osh and Kyrgyzstan more in the upcoming two months!

Miriam: I have also gotten a very positive first impression! Novi Ritm has given us a very warm welcome, and helped us answer all questions we’ve had at hand. There have been some language barriers with people we meet out in the city, but, just like Agnes said, people are super friendly and willing to help. The first week has been quite calm workwise, so we’ve had the opportunity to explore the city. So far, we have tried traditional food, been to the bazaar and climbed Sulaiman-Too mountain in Osh. I am excited to see what the upcoming two months will bring! 

Mairambek (supervisor at Novi Ritm), Agnes and Miriam at Novi Ritm’s office with some Swedish candy – an appreciated gift

View over Osh from the sacred mountain Sulaiman-Too, located inside the city of Osh.