Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Uzbekistan: Women's Work

A market provides a microcosm of part-time, seasonal or informal employment.
By IWPR Central Asia
  • Rano is a seamstress by trade, but now works at a café in Tashkent. She said she has a guaranteed wage and likes her work. Rano is officially registered at work, which guarantees her an above minimum pension. (Photo: IWPR)
    Rano is a seamstress by trade, but now works at a café in Tashkent. She said she has a guaranteed wage and likes her work. Rano is officially registered at work, which guarantees her an above minimum pension. (Photo: IWPR)
  • Malika sells candy floss in the busy Chorsu market in Tashkent. She earns about 40,000 soms (four dollars) a day. (Photo: IWPR)
    Malika sells candy floss in the busy Chorsu market in Tashkent. She earns about 40,000 soms (four dollars) a day. (Photo: IWPR)
  • Nasiba sells oilcloth in a homeware shop in  Chorsu. (Photo: IWPR)
    Nasiba sells oilcloth in a homeware shop in Chorsu. (Photo: IWPR)
  • Seamstress Umida works in a small dressmaking workshop in the old town of Tashkent. Her salary depends on her orders; it costs around 120,000 soms (12 dollars) to make each dress. (Photo: IWPR)
    Seamstress Umida works in a small dressmaking workshop in the old town of Tashkent. Her salary depends on her orders; it costs around 120,000 soms (12 dollars) to make each dress. (Photo: IWPR)
  • Zukhra Opa has been selling various charms for many years. Kuzmunchok are traditional handmade beads to protect the wearer from the evil eye. These are often bought for kids, for about 3,000-5,000 soms (three to five dollars) each. Zukhra Opa said she earned a decent wage. (Photo: IWPR)
    Zukhra Opa has been selling various charms for many years. Kuzmunchok are traditional handmade beads to protect the wearer from the evil eye. These are often bought for kids, for about 3,000-5,000 soms (three to five dollars) each. Zukhra Opa said she earned a decent wage. (Photo: IWPR)
  • Firuza sells traditional Uzbek food at the market. She is saving her money to help pay for her granddaughters weddings. (Photo: IWPR)
    Firuza sells traditional Uzbek food at the market. She is saving her money to help pay for her granddaughters weddings. (Photo: IWPR)
  • Mamlakat sells fish from Chinaz in the Tashkent region, which together with chicken is now seen as an affordable source of protein. Beef and lamb cost too much. She said she earns well, but has to save for the summer months when people don’t buy fish. (Photo: IWPR)
    Mamlakat sells fish from Chinaz in the Tashkent region, which together with chicken is now seen as an affordable source of protein. Beef and lamb cost too much. She said she earns well, but has to save for the summer months when people don’t buy fish. (Photo: IWPR)
  • Dilafruz, a folk dancer, also teaches children and adults. She likes her job and thinks everyone should learn traditional dance. “Girls should learn how to dance from childhood because it gives them grace and confidence,” she said. (Photo: IWPR)
    Dilafruz, a folk dancer, also teaches children and adults. She likes her job and thinks everyone should learn traditional dance. “Girls should learn how to dance from childhood because it gives them grace and confidence,” she said. (Photo: IWPR)
  • Kamola sells balloons, earning 30,000-40,000 sons each day a day (three to four dollars). She said she spends her money on her children. (Photo: IWPR)
    Kamola sells balloons, earning 30,000-40,000 sons each day a day (three to four dollars). She said she spends her money on her children. (Photo: IWPR)
  • Salomat lives in a mountain village near Tashkent and sells flowers from her garden and the surrounding fields. Prices start at 1,000 som, or only one cent. She stands outside the subway station and sells her flowers before they wither; or before the police come and move her on. (Photo: IWPR)
    Salomat lives in a mountain village near Tashkent and sells flowers from her garden and the surrounding fields. Prices start at 1,000 som, or only one cent. She stands outside the subway station and sells her flowers before they wither; or before the police come and move her on. (Photo: IWPR)

Women once formed the backbone of Uzbekistan’s state sector, working predominantly as teachers, doctors and agricultural workers. But after independence in 1991, the economy struggled to adapt to market reforms, forcing the government to slash public service budgets. As a result, many women lost their jobs and employment conditions for those who remained deteriorated.

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Most women worked in Soviet times, now around half are officially jobless. Many women are employed in part-time, seasonal work or in the informal sector.

Chorsu, in Tashkent’s old town, is one of the capital’s busiest markets. Here, women of all ages take the opportunity to sell food, household items or knick-knacks – with whatever profits they make going to support their families.