Finding beauty in business: Supporting women entrepreneurs in Uzbekistan
28 March 2023
Ziynegul's eyes light up as she carefully flips through her family album. "That's me," she says, "I think I was 8 years old, and I was playing with my dolls, fixing their hair." Little did she know that a childhood pastime would one day lead her to become a successful business owner in Bozatau district in northwestern Uzbekistan. The region, located in the northern part of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, which was once thriving due to the Aral Sea's role in its economy and infrastructure, has since faced a multitude of problems with the sea drying up.
Ziynegul is one of the winners of a business fair funded under the joint programme of UNDP, UNFPA and FAO with the financial support of the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Human Security for the Aral Sea region. With this support, Ziynegul has been able to turn her childhood passion into a thriving business that not only supports her family but also creates opportunities for other women in her district.
In March 2022, Ziynegul, along with 300 other women from the Bozatau, Kungrad, and Muynak districts, was trained in entrepreneurial skills by UNFPA trainers. At the end of the trainings, Ziynegul's business plan for beauty salon services received seed funding of USD 3,390. UNDP donated equipment and accessories for her salon, allowing her to expand and improve the range of services provided, attract more customers, and hire additional staff. Today the salon provides a variety of services such as make-up, pedicures, manicures, and hairdressing, serving 10 to 12 clients a day, and employing six women, with plans to expand even further.
“These were very interesting and productive trainings that helped me, and many women gain confidence, master essential business and planning skills such as business development, family budgeting, business idea evaluation and implementation, marketing and time management methods. I made many friends, and what is important, we constantly supported and still support each other, sharing experience and advice,” says Ziynegul.
“Fifteen years ago, I first started working in a beauty salon as an apprentice. It was very difficult, because required items and equipments were not easily available and I didn’t have the skills and knowledge it takes. It didn't always work out the way I wanted. There were moments when I wanted to quit everything, but I did not give up and continued to work hard on myself” recalls Ziynegul.
These days Ziynegul is thinking of expanding her business and is currently looking for a new building, where in addition to a beauty salon services she could offer rental services for wedding dresses. She has also trained 22 young girls in hairdressing and makeup and aims to train more of girls in her district, giving them new hopes.
Ziynegul’s story is one of resilience, determination, and support. Leading a thriving business, she also finds courage from having a supportive husband and family, whose livelihoods have also improved. For Ziynegul now, the sky is the limit.
About the Multi-Partner Human Security Trust Fund for the Aral Sea Region in Uzbekistan:
The fund was established under the auspices of the United Nations in late 2018 and provides an integrated platform for national and international cooperation to meet the environmental and socio-economic needs of communities living in the Aral Sea region, as well as enhancing joint efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Since its establishment, the Trust has worked to address food, environmental, social, economic and health security issues. As of January 2023, seven joint programs worth US$13.5 million have been funded to improve the lives of over 247,000 people, including youth, women, and the elderly. Thanks to generous support of Governments of Uzbekistan, Norway, Finland, Republic of Korea, Germany, European Union, and Alwaleed Philanthropies of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Written by the UN Information Office in Tashkent with editorial support from the Development Coordination Office. To learn more about the UN's work in Uzbekistan, please visit uzbekistan.un.org.