Why Have Women’s Carriages Become So Popular in Kazakhstan?

Kazakhstani women have already had time to appreciate women-only cars in trains – an innovation that seemed unthinkable in the secular country a few years ago. However, the special carriages did not appear as an indulgence to traditionalist views.

Kazakhstani women now have a choice: they can ride in a regular carriage, or they can ride in a carriage that is practically closed to men – and demand for the latter service is increasing year by year.

In May, the statistics of Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ), a railroad monopoly, were published, which revealed that women twice as often choose women’s cars. Since 2021, more than 359,000 women have chosen this option, and since the beginning of 2024 alone, the service has been used by about 70,000 women, whereas in 2023, only 34,000 did so.

Today, women’s cars run in eight long-distance passenger trains, with only female conductors working in them. Male children up to seven-years-old are allowed, whilst men can go enter for a short period of time, but overnight stays are strictly prohibited.

The need to ensure the safety of women in trains began to be discussed after the scandal that broke out in the fall of 2018, when two conductors raped a female passenger on the high-speed train “Talgo” on the Astana-Aktobe route. This crime resonated widely, and led to loud demands for the authorities to take action. Conductors Zhetes Umbetaliev and Kolkanat Kurmaniyazov were found guilty of rape in July 2019 and were sentenced to just 2.3 and 2.5 years, respectively, whilst Kanat Almagambetov, first deputy chairman of KTZ, apologized on behalf of the company.

The first women-only cars were launched in October 2021. “This is being done primarily for the safety of women… If demand for the service increases, our company is ready to expand the geography of these routes. Apart from the female conductors, these carriages are no different from the others. They have the same pricing policy,” KTZ explained at the time.

The current routes were chosen because of their length, company representatives said. Kazakhstan is a large country and a trip from Almaty to Mangistau, for example, takes several days.

Ainagul Kasenova, a resident of Mangistau Oblast, travels to see relatives in Almaty several times a year, and for her, women’s cars have become a solution. “Now I try to buy tickets only in a separate car. You travel for a long time, so it’s much more comfortable if there are only women and children around. I used to encounter men talking to me, paying me unnecessary attention; it was unpleasant. When the news about the rape of a female passenger by conductors broke, my parents didn’t even want to let me go to Almaty. Now they let me go without any problem,” Kasenova told TCA.

According to her, both students and pensioners are comfortable in women’s carriages, especially those who have to travel often, which increases the risk. “The women’s carriage is always quiet, friendly atmosphere, without drinking and noise,” she added.

The demand for women’s carriages seems set to grow; Kazakhstani women are increasingly fearful of violence, and they have good reason to be. A study published by the Karaganda Medical University says that statistics on domestic crimes against women are steadily worsening.

The study is based on statistics from the Ministry of Justice and on a survey of 14,342 women of different ages (from 18 to 75) from 2019 to 2022, conducted in 14 regions of Kazakhstan. In particular, in 2022, the number of reports to the police for domestic violence amounted to more than 125,000. This is almost twice as many as in 2021 (63,447). The study showed that the main victims of domestic violence in Kazakhstan are women (77.9%), followed by children (17.52%).

The report states that in only 12.2% of cases is violence against women committed by strangers. In 87.8% of cases, the perpetrators are men with whom the victims are in a close relationship, almost all whom are husbands or partners of the victims (95-98% of cases). The data also show that most episodes of violence against women (98.2%) are caused by the alcohol intoxication of the assailant.

Although the percentage of unknown persons or casual acquaintances who have harmed a woman is so not high compared to domestic tyrants, the risk of stumbling upon a perpetrator in the transportation network increases many times over. Researchers note that Kazakhstan still has a high level of domestic violence, the main reasons for which include poverty, corruption, and low levels of education,

In the wake of the death of Saltanat Nukenova, which saw former Minister of National Economy Kuandyk Bishimbayev sentenced to 24 years in prison for the torture and murder of his common-law wife after a live-streamed trial, an open discussion on the issue of domestic violence has come to the fore in Kazakhstan. In April 2024, President Tokayev signed a new law onto the statute book in line with OECD standards which tightens the penalties for domestic violence and provides more help for survivors.


Times of Central Asia

World Bank loan

World Bank Helps Improve Social Services for Vulnerable People in Uzbekistan

On 24 May, the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved a $100 million concessional loan for an Innovative Social Protection System for Inclusion of Vulnerable People Project to improve access to, and the quality of social services for vulnerable people in Uzbekistan.

The project is co-financed by a $2 million grant from the Early Learning Partnership; a multi-donor trust fund managed by the World Bank to support vulnerable children’s development and learning. The grant will be used to evaluate and improve social services’ provision for the well-being of vulnerable children in Uzbekistan’s local communities or ‘mahallas.’

Welcoming the government’s commitment to broadening the nation’s social protection system and provide more inclusive and effective support to vulnerable people, Marco Mantovanelli, World Bank Country Manager for Uzbekistan, commented: “This project will help build the legal and institutional foundations of the care economy. It will also expand access to quality on-demand social services that are currently underprovided to thousands of vulnerable people across the country, including older people, persons with disabilities, survivors of gender-based violence, and vulnerable children.”

The project will be implemented by the National Social Protection Agency through the Office of the President of Uzbekistan, in close collaboration with various government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and Uzbekistan’s international development partners.

Over 50 community-based territorial social service centers (TSSCs) will be established across the country to improve access to enhanced social care and rehabilitation facilities for over 50,000 vulnerable citizens, including the elderly, people with disabilities, and vulnerable children.

The project will also create a platform for a regulated and accredited provision of social services from the private sector and by encouraging external investment, reduce the strain on the state’s institutional-based care and welfare system.

Once in operation, the project will equip 1,200 people with disabilities, at least half whom are aged 15-24, with professional skills and employment opportunities. Women will also benefit from legal, health and psychological services offered by the establishment of 29 Women Adaptation and Rehabilitation Centers.

Last but not least, the initiative will lay the foundations for shock-responsive social protection in Uzbekistan, including the development of policies, emergency procedures and the piloting of a new climate adaptation program. Serving 100,000 impoverished people living in rural communities, the program is designed to increase awareness of climate-related risks and improve communities’ resilience through the provision of seeds for climate-resistant crops, tools, and training in climate-smart agriculture and climate adaptation practices.



Times of Central Asia

photo: US Embassy in Kyrgyzstan

US Donates 12,000 English-Language Books to Schools and Libraries in Kyrgyzstan

The United States has donated over 12,000 English-language books to 30 schools, libraries, and universities in the Osh, Jalal-Abad, and Batken regions of south Kyrgyzstan.

The much-welcomed project is the initiative of a collaboration between the Rotary Club of the Fergana Valley, the Women’s Peace Bank Public Foundation, Osh State University, the U.S. Embassy, and the Kyrgyz government. The Rotary Club of Annapolis’ “Books for International Goodwill” project played a key role in securing book donations.

The donation includes books for all ages – children to adults – and covering a wide range of subjects, is an invaluable resource for learning the English language.

“These books are more than just paper and ink,” said U.S. Ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic Lesslie Viguerie. “They are keys that unlock the world of English language learning and bridges connecting the people of the Kyrgyz Republic and the United States.”

The donation was further praised by Akylai Karim, Project Leader at the Rotary Club of Fergana Valley and Women Peace Bank, who announced:  “This initiative is a celebration of the Kyrgyz-American friendship, trust, and collaboration. It will have a lasting, positive impact as youth learn English by reading these books and dream big about their future.”



Times of Central Asia


Kyrgyz Banks Urged to Unite and Create Single ATM Network

The chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers of Kyrgyzstan, Akylbek Zhaparov, has urged the consolidation of the nation’s ATMs into one network in a speech at the Bishkek International Financial Forum, stating that the government has been unable to reduce commissions on transfers through banks for two years. reports.

“This problem has always been there, and it has hindered us. But today, when we are working on the transfer of most payments on a cashless basis, you cannot expect a passive position from us. I have addressed both the National Bank and the Ministry of Economy several times and entrusted the issue to the Ministry of Economy. Therefore, it’s probably time for us to study and adopt the experience of other countries on legislative regulation of fee collection for inter-bank transfers,” said Zhaparov.

The Cabinet of Ministers believes that banks should stop spending a lot of money on installing ATMs as this wastes time and resources, and proposes that banks unite and create a single ATM structure. Zhaparov emphasized the development of digital payment technologies and increasing the share of non-cash payments as essential growth pillars, noting that work is being done in two directions to implement the digital concept: choosing the right technological solution and harmonizing legislative acts to introduce the legal status of the digital system.

“The introduction of the digital som contributes to the country’s economic development by providing a more efficient payment system and stimulating innovation in financial technology. We are pursuing the goal of increasing innovation capacity in the banking sector. Realizing the possibility of protected and secure information exchange between the banking sector participants will allow the development of new products and services and increase their availability and integration,” said Zhaparov.


Times of Central Asia

Photo: Kamilla Turakhodjaeva

The Power of Kindness: Psychologist Kamilla Turakhodjaeva Promotes the Value of Volunteering in Tashkent

In an ever-challenging world, volunteering is becoming a powerful tool to help and support people facing difficulties. In Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, this activity has become increasingly important, uniting people who care about making the world a better place.

Kamilla Turakhodjaeva, a psychologist at the first children’s hospice in Uzbekistan and head of the volunteer initiative, Power of Kindness, shares her experience of the challenges faced by volunteers, the qualities required for such work, and how the state supports their noble efforts.


TCA: How long have you been volunteering in Tashkent, and what prompted you to engage in this activity?

Working as a psychologist at the first children’s oncology hospice in Tashkent since it opened in August 2022, I have long been attracted to the activities of various hospices elsewhere and realized that volunteers play a key role in the life of such institutions. These people give their time and energy to make the patients’ stay more comfortable and enjoyable. They provide a variety of recreational and educational activities, help celebrate holidays, and provide support to both the patients and their families. Thanks to volunteers, a hospice provides not only medical care, but also mental support and a place where patients can safely voice their concerns.

However, because many of us are intimidated by words such as hospice and cancer, it is not always clear how best to support and communicate with people facing such difficult situations.

The importance of good practice at a time when people are afraid and in need of attention spurred the organization of ‘Training in Hospice and Hospital Care.’ To date, four streams of volunteers who participated in the course have either stayed with the hospice or are offering their help to cancer hospitals and societies for people with disabilities.

The course covers important topics including skills in communicating with patients, the organization of workshops and how volunteers can take care of themselves to avoid ‘burning out.’

“The Power of Good” came about by chance, out of a desire to help improve our country’s treatment of those less fortunate than ourselves. All volunteers engaged in this initiative have completed a training course and are ready to offer their support in a way that will harm neither themselves nor others.


TCA: What areas or issues in the community have you chosen to volunteer in, and why are they important to you?

Our first task was offering help to medical facilities, but over time, we realized that we have the resources to help in other areas as well. We hold various educational workshops at the Millennium Society for people with disabilities. Many of the adult members are unfortunately, unable to secure official employment and earn a decent living. All the Millennium children are very talented and hardworking, and our task is to channel their abilities in the right direction. The girls knit toys, make jewelry and handmade soap, which we sell at Teplomarket fairs. Volunteers have now developed a course especially for them, aimed at promoting their personal brand. The project has already proved very successful and born from a humble idea, we now have a veritable store of Anastasia’s handmade soap!

In addition, we raise funds for surgeries and treatment. Thanks to kind-hearted people, we were able to cover the costs of surgery for  six-month-old Gavhar as well as  radiation therapy for Tatiana.

Over the ten months since we launched the initiative, we have held 25 masterclasses, participated in 4 fairs, distributed 21 ‘charity boxes’ of food to needy families and organized a charity concert. Modest numbers, but this is just the beginning.


TCA: What challenges have you experienced during your volunteer work in Tashkent? Can you provide any specific examples?

Volunteering has given me the gift of meeting many amazing charitable people. I know that there are many in our world who are ready to give their kindness and warm those who feel cold. It’s just that people don’t know how or where to realize it. My job is to connect these incredible people, highlight the areas where help is needed, and then watch the magic happen!

A year ago, I started with an idea. I really wanted to make palliative care in the city a little better. I realized that people deprived of their basic needs -food, clothing, safety- will never think about their psychological problems, so with volunteers in the city’s oncology clinic we began by improving living conditions. And it has now borne fruit!


TCA: What are the main goals of your volunteer work and what changes do you hope to achieve?

We strive to make volunteering an ordinary, natural phenomenon, where kindness does not arouse surprise or suspicion and instead, becomes a habitual part of our lives. Our goal is not just to help, but to introduce positive changes in society and improve the quality of life of those in need. We want to create an environment where everyone can feel supported and cared for, where kindness is the norm and help becomes a reality available to everyone.


TCA: What skills or qualities do you need to be a successful volunteer in Tashkent?

Volunteering takes many forms. Before signing up people for a course, I always ask what area a person is willing to help in, because everyone has their own personal story. Someone may wish to help because a loved one died of cancer whilst someone else, wants to earn pluses in karma. Others not ready for direct contact with the sick, may prefer to only participate in fairs;  everyone has their own fears, desires, and motives. Not all volunteers stay on after the course to help in the hospice and oncology. This is understandable, and in no way condemnable.

All contributions are valuable, whether participating in fairs, conducting workshops, talking to beneficiaries, creating flyers and publications for social networks. No volunteer is less important than another. Just because you don’t have contact with people doesn’t mean you are doing an easier job and we have a number of  ‘special’ volunteers with professional skills designated solely to creating websites, designs, research, auto-volunteering and so on.

Regarding communication with the beneficiaries, all you need is to open your ears and heart.

Our volunteers need to be responsible and show empathy, rather than pity towards our patients. But, of course, the most fundamental thing of all, is to love what you do.


TCA: How does volunteering affect your personal and professional life?

Life has become much more interesting! As the leader of the Power of Good initiative, I have additional responsibility, and being in charge, requires a lot of skills and abilities. I quickly realized that the job requires an organized and systematic approach whilst I tend to be more of a ‘firefighter’ who does everything at the last minute, albeit professionally. Allocating resources, delegating tasks and understanding the capabilities  of each team member are all key aspects of successful leadership. I am comfortable with my inner chaos, but in our initiative there are about 50 people with different temperaments, rhythms, which must be taken into account. I like it, because this is how my personality is gradually forged, and I try very hard to be a worthy leader for our team.


TCA: What do you consider the main value of volunteering for Tashkent’s society?

In my opinion, the main value of volunteering is to create a caring society. If we have an opportunity to make someone’s life better, why not use it?


TCA: What has been the response of both the local community and the state to your initiatives and projects?

The private sector helps us a lot. No matter who we approach, everyone is happy to open their doors to us. The organizers of the Teplomarket fair allow us to sell our mentees’  products without charging rent. Rafael Mirovich, the founder of Ecocafé, gave us a room for a charity concert free of charge. All the performers and the compere also waived their fees. I am touched to the core every time people are willing to share. On behalf of our initiative, I want to thank everyone who helps us! Together we are strong!


TCA: What advice would you give to people who would also like to become volunteers or activists in Tashkent?

Try it once and you are sure to realize how wonderful it is to help others!  You will get to meet interesting people, revise your own priorities, gain experience, and become a part of a truly great cause!

Remember that good begins with ourselves!


Times of Central Asia

Image: TCA

Tajikistan Doubles Down on Fines for Wearing “Foreign Clothes”

Residents of Tajikistan will face fines ranging from 8,000 to 65,000 somoni for “importing and selling clothes that do not correspond to the national culture” and for wearing such clothes in public places, as reported by Radio Ozodi. These regulations are outlined in Article 18 of the new version of the law “On Regulation of Traditions and Rites” and the Code of Administrative Offenses. The drafts were adopted by parliamentarians on May 8 this year.

“In the draft law ‘On the Regulation of Traditions and Rites,’ a corresponding prohibiting norm is included in part two of Article 18. For its violation, amendments and additions to Article 481 of the Code of Administrative Offenses provide for administrative responsibility,” explained Mavludakhon Mirzozoda, a deputy of the lower house of Tajikistan’s parliament.

Article 481 of the current Code of Administrative Offenses addresses not only Article 18, but also broader non-compliance with the norms of the Law on the Regulation of Traditions and Rites. According to this article:

  • Individuals will be fined 7,920 somoni ($733).
  • Officials will be fined 39,600 somoni ($3,665).
  • Legal entities will be fined 57,600 somoni ($5,333).
  • Individual entrepreneurs, scientists, and religious figures will be fined 54,000 somoni ($4,998).

For repeated violations, fines will range from 46,000 to 86,000 somoni. The recent amendments have updated this article, although changes to the fine amounts are yet to be confirmed. The average wage in Tajikistan is approximately $172 a month.

According to the current legislation, the amendments to the law come into force upon publication in the official press after approval by the Majlisi Milli (lower house) and the president’s signature. However, citizens are already being compelled to comply with these new regulations. The current law does not specify which clothing is considered alien to Tajik national culture.

Experts suggest that the law likely pertains to women’s national dress, although the text itself does not differentiate between men’s and women’s clothing.

Reactions within Tajik society have been mixed. Some residents of Dushanbe, during a street survey, expressed their opinion that people should have the freedom to choose their own attire without compulsion.

Tajik authorities have long campaigned to encourage the wearing of national dress and to discourage the adoption of foreign styles. They prohibit women from wearing black clothing, black headscarves, and hijabs, considering them alien to Tajik culture and traditions. Although mini-skirts, sweaters, dresses with cleavage, tops, and transparent fabrics were also banned at one point, these restrictions were quickly “forgotten.”


Times of Central Asia