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Kyrgyzstan women who work as migrant workers and a “lost generation of children

A dichotomy between the benefits of economic growth and social effects always marks migration of workers.

Based on a 2016 United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) study conducted in Kyrgyzstan, women who have migrated have to endure a lot of ridicule when they return home.

In a survey of 6,000 households in the study, it was discovered that more than half respondents (51 percent for women and 61% males) consider that the “wife’s career is less important than the career of her husband”. However 43% of males as well as 38% of females believed that “woman’s work has negative impact on family and children”. The majority of people were in agreement they believed that “a real woman is willing do housekeeping – it is a pleasure for her”.

Women returning from relocation also have issues with returning to their families and separation from children. However, studies have found that remittances to home are usually used for regular consumption such as clothing, food, medicine and other items. The majority of savings are put to buying things like cars or homes.

It is not easy to determine what percentage of money transferred by women who are migrant workers however it is mentioned that the migrants from Kyrgyzstan transfer an average of 1/3 of the GDP of the country between 2012 and 2014.

Experience and independence

Despite the stigmatized public reaction to women’s labor migration, it is a great way for women to attain financial independence and get the an experience in making personal decisions regarding partner, budget and investments that they would not make in the traditional patriarchal rural communities from which they typically come. The process of transferring labour is also the most accessible method to socialize for them.

The gender gap is transformed by migration in contemporary Kyrgyz society, where the Soviet female emancipation movement, as well as the revival of Islam and capitalism, all compete in the creation of an entirely new national identity.

These changes are seen as a threat to many Kyrgyz males, some who resort to violence. The new climate has led to the rise of nationalist Kyrgyz male groups, known as “Patriots”, who create “moral police” to pursue Kyrgyz women who live their own unmoral way of life in Russia.

In the UNFPA survey, these actions are favored by a large portion part of Kyrgyz population:

More than half of respondents favor their nationalist organizations … the stripping the migrant womenand uploading photos and videos of ‘punishment’ for poor behavior. In the same way 22 percent females and 26 percent of males are not against it for a man to start an entirely new family during a migration in the event that he takes care of his family that he left in his country of their origin.

Criticism was only confined to the circles of the liberal minorities.

“What girls are accused of is due to inequality and poverty. However, no one has the right to offer an opinion on their moral actions. If these people were true patriots, they’d … assist to find work, and look for homes”, claimed Nurgul Asylbekova. She is a United Nations Development Programme representative.

Beyond the attacks, the underlying issue is a conflict in the public eye regarding what is a Kyrgyz woman should look like and what is the Kyrgyz man. It is a sign of a fracture within Kyrzgyz society.

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Jane S. King

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