Gender based violence in traditional society is a common thing. But it is hardly ever discussed. Women learned to disguise bruises and shunt the conversation on a more pleasant topic. Children who witness their mother’s suffering know that washing dirty linen in public is forbidden. Social attitudes give free rein to a family tyrant.  The tyrant is invulnerable and the victim «has only herself to blame». To counter a sadist in such a coordinate system is almost impossible. Having no hope for protection, a tired-out woman gives up and places herself and her children at a daily risk of being injured, raped and murdered.

In Karakol, a small town in northern Kyrgyzstan, according to the informal statistics, every fifth woman suffers domestic violence, which is more than five thousand women. These are women that are not able to change their situation by themselves; women that are intimidated and bound; women that need help.

The “Ulukman Daryger” Public Foundation has been working with such women for fifteen years. The stories of victims of violence are very much alike including: early marriage, lack of education, unconscious motherhood and financial dependency. All of these women are equally powerless and equally distressed. Most recently, they did not know where to seek help, where to escape from arbitrariness.

Now they have hope for help and rescue – a place that guarantees their safety. In 2016, the “Ulukman Daryger” Public Foundation with the financial support of the Soros Foundation-Kyrgyzstan and OSF Public Health Program opened a shelter on the outskirts of Karakol for women suffered from violence. The shelter is called «Khimaya», which is Arabic for «protection».

This small one-storey house – three rooms and a small courtyard – was the only hope for Begimai. For the five years she lived with her two young daughters in the hell of domestic violence and cruelty. Begimai is twenty five years old, she grew up in an orphanage, and she has no relatives. The girl dreamed of a stable and happy family; at the age of 17 she got married immediately after leaving the orphanage. However, a happy family did not work, all that she saw from her husband was pain and humiliation, even the birth of daughters did not change the situation. Trying to escape from the beatings, Begimai ran away from home and lived and worked at a carwash for a while.

In June 2017, Begimai abandoned all hope and turned for help to the Karakol mayor’s office. The mayor’s office sent Begimay to the “Khimaya” center. Protection and temporary shelter is sometimes the only thing a broken person needs to rehabilitate and restore her physical and moral state. Over the past year, Begimay made a significant breakthrough: she enrolled in dress-making courses and took on some of the responsibilities in the shelter working as a volunteer. Begimai understood that she can be socially active and help other women; she is no longer scared of male arbitrariness.

The director of “Ulukman Daryger” PF Ulan Tursunbaev says that the purchase of own building was a turning point in the work of the foundation. For many years, “Ulukman Daryger” has been seeking daily, for premises for women who hide from violence and repeatedly turned to the city mayor’s office for help. Now the foundation and the mayor’s office are equal partners. Karakol’s women have new opportunities, now they know where to turn for protection and support.

This story is a good example of how a non-governmental organization efficiently worked on the problems of a vulnerable group, and how it manages to cope with what the municipality cannot always cope with. Last year the «Khimaya» shelter provided support for 229 women.

In January 2018, the amendments to the Law of the Kyrgyz Republic “On State Social Procurement” were adopted. These amendments enable placement of government orders for the procurement of services for socially vulnerable groups at the municipality level.

Karakol was the first city in Kyrgyzstan to place such a social order for a working-shelter for women suffered from violence. This contract proved to be a good support for the public foundation and, importantly, took the relationship of the non-governmental organization and the municipality on the level of mutually beneficial cooperation and partnership.

Ulan and the organization’s staff are optimistic about the future – the availability of their own building enables the shelter to be financially sustainable, to develop and expand the services being provided and keep their own household running. The fund has already purchased a dozen hens and it plans to buy a cow. Eggs and milk will be a great support for women with children in the shelter. The foundation plans to use milk for cheesemaking. The availability of its own building enabled the foundation to start social entrepreneurship: the women who came to the shelter can learn sewing. The organization has already begun to receive a small income from orders for sewing bags, bed linen and other household items.

The success story of Ulan and his team encouraged the colleagues that work with socially vulnerable groups in Jalal-Abad and Kara-Balta to open similar centers in these cities. The administrations of these cities also decided to support the work of similar shelters as part of the municipal social procurement starting from 2019.