Eurasianet ran a wonderful article recently on the emergence of local citizen-led public works groups in a number of Central Asian nations:
“Farmers, teachers, bazaar traders, senior citizens and unemployed people have formed mutual-assistance groups in recent years … But the majority of self-help groups’ members are women with low-income backgrounds.”
1,800 mutual-assistance groups are currently operating in Kyrgyzstan and similar organizations are also becoming popular in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. In many countries (particularly Uzbekistan) these local groups raise suspicion with local government authorities. Trepidation regarding citizen groups is not unfounded from the perspective of the public or the government as the Andijan Massacre is not so far in the past to have fallen from the memory of would-be Uzbek organizers.
Emblematic of the resilience of communities to navigate hardship, the importance of these organizations should not be underestimated. “Before, people thought that their government must do things for them. But now, people are increasingly becoming aware that they have to take control over their own problems. This idea is new in our region,”
As a Post-Soviet generation of Central Asian citizens take the reins of businesses, communities and, ultimately, their governments the world should expect a new self-reliant face to emerge from the region. Although handicapped by repressive governments and, in some cases, not privileged with natural resource wealth, the influence of local voices may swell in the near future as we’ve seen in neighboring nations to their south west.