Friendship wins in Zhazy

According to the research done by International Alert, Zhazy aiyl aimak (municipal unit) in Kyrgyzstan has a high level of engagement with religious organisations and a high level of understanding of the secular state and the role of religion in a secular state.

Students in Kyrgyzstan attending a seminar on child rights
Students attending a seminar on child rights

There are women’s committees, youth committees, Aksakal courts (Courts of Elders) and youth movements in every village. In addition, community members have a strong sense of patriotic Kyrgyz identity and the need to preserve the traditions and customs.

However, the level of migration out of Zhazy villages is quite high, therefore children and teenagers are left alone without parental supervision and control, which often results in conflicts among students from different schools. To solve this problem, an initiative group from Zhazy, consisting of civil activists, representatives of local governments and religious leaders, developed the ‘Yrys aldy – yntymak’ (‘Friendship wins – Kyrgyz’) project with the support of International Alert.

As part of this project we conducted trainings for students at all four schools of Zhazy, with the aim of encouraging children and adults to be friendly, tolerant and resolve conflict situations peacefully. We also held a general school parent-teacher meeting, where we familiarised parents with the laws of Kyrgyzstan on the protection of children’s rights, as well as ways to resolve conflicts peacefully,” the leader of the initiative group of Zhazy, Kumurakhan Umetbaeva, tells us.

Based on the results of the trainings, I can say with confidence that the number of conflicts among children and adults has significantly decreased. At the same time, we also received training that helped us to develop skills to resolve conflict situations, protect children’s rights and know the laws of Kyrgyzstan. We will continue to work in this direction.

Participants taking part in a training to understand the Constitution of Kyrgyzstan
Participants taking part in a training to understand the Constitution of Kyrgyzstan

Over the course of two months, the initiative group has organised many events: expert round table on conflict resolution and children’s rights for school students, their parents, social pedagogues and representatives of aiyl okmotu (village). Psychologists conducted trainings on conflict prevention for teachers and social pedagogues.

“There have often been disagreements between school students, residents of the villages in our Zhazy aiyl okmotu. There were fights between streets. We have adopted a method of conflict resolution, and a psychologist has helped us with this. We hope that we will be able to reduce the number of fights in the future and teenagers will treat each other kindly,” says a social pedagogue at Zhazy school.

Through games and exercises, psychologists have shown students how to cope with life’s difficulties, negative feelings, and most importantly, to listen to each other’s opinions. Students showed small performances on topics that they thought were unfair: discrimination against children with special needs, violence or neglect of migrant children left in the care of relatives, and the problem of bullying in schools.

The final activities of the project ‘Friendship wins’ aimed to further strengthen the friendship and unity of the youth of Zhazy villages. The students took part in actions that included ‘skilful hands’ (to repair school furniture), and ‘clean village’ (jointly cleaning each other’s territories). The children jointly repaired desks and chairs and made benches for school yards using the materials provided.

Young people taking part in the 'skilful hands' campaigns
Young people taking part in the ‘skilful hands’ campaigns

“By participating in the training, we learned more about our rights and responsibilities, and learned to speak openly about our problems in the classroom. Now we can also share our knowledge with peers and younger children, we are able to work in a team and find common ground in conflicts between adults and parents.

We began to have a conscious attitude towards solving conflicts among school students and learned to resolve disputes peacefully.

“During joint seminars, we made friends with children from other schools. Our recommendations: let more adults and parents participate in our activities. The public accepted the training very well, let the organisers come more often so that we do not lag behind in knowledge of the city’s students,” student of a Zhazy school.

Inspired by the information received at the trainings, high school students formed their own initiative group and conducted several lessons on children’s rights and ways to resolve conflicts for students of Zhazy schools. In 2020-2021, the Zhazy initiative group will continue to carry out various activities to strengthen rural solidarity and friendship and engage local governments, social pedagogues, psychologists and religious leaders.

About the project

The project ‘Increasing tolerance in selected municipalities to promote social cohesion in Kyrgyzstan’ supported civic participation and peaceful dialogue between communities, religious groups and local authorities.

Focusing on six municipalities in Chui, Issyk-Kul, Naryn and Osh oblasts (regions), we ran focus groups, organised public debates and discussions on the role of religion in a secular state and provided training for religious leaders in mediation, conflict analysis and resolution, gender issues, and the social and legal role of religion and religious organisations in the country. We also piloted a scheme to give small grants to communities.

This project ran from March 2019 to March 2020, working with the following local partners: Development Policy Institute, Muftiyat, State Agency for Local Self-governance and Inter-ethnic Relations, Kyrgyzstan and State Agency for Religious Affairs, Kyrgyzstan.


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