In Russia and Central Asia, UN Women has joined national governments and non-governmental partners, the International Organization for Migration and the World Bank in a programme aimed at improving the living conditions of families of migrant workers. It helps them gain skills and seek better livelihoods.
One strategy the programme uses is to aid migrant families in establishing self-help groups. By September 2011, Tajikistan had 178 groups involving 1,049 people. Members learn basic business tasks, and about gender and legal issues that will help them protect their rights. Besides Russia and Tajikistan, the programme also operates in the Kyrgyz Republic and Kazakhstan.
One group in Tajikistan, called Sitora, is among those that have started a small business. Members come from different walks of life — one is a teacher, another a bookkeeper. But they all are looking for ways to generate extra income.
During summer time, they preserve pickles, tomatoes, strawberries, apricots and other produce from local farms, and sell them in the winter. The service ensures a steady local supply of fruits and vegetables.
“Now everything is continually available and prices are not very high,” says Matluba, the head of the group.
“I sell during winter time when my husband arrives from labour migration from Russia,” she adds, pointing out that this is when the family income usually falls off. Money received from selling is shared between group members.
She and others say the formation of self-help groups like Sitora is a useful tool not only for income generation, but also for social networking between migrants’ families.