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Hard Life for Migrants' Wives in Kyrgyzstan

Strains caused when husbands are absent for months or years.


Wives left behind by the hundreds of thousands of men going off to work in Russia say they are reduced to the role of unpaid servants.

When men go off for long stretches at a time – driven by unemployment and low wages at home – their wives live with the husband’s parents, not their own. They are expected to cook, clean and care for their elders, as well as produce babies after every visit from their husbands.

Jipara, from the Batken region in southern Kyrgyzstan, got married six years ago at the age of 21 and in that time has had two children, and spent perhaps two years in total with her husband.

Her husband saw his first child only when the boy was aged two. “Even then, he didn’t stay long,” Jipara continued. “We lived together two or three months, and then he went away to work again. Then we had a daughter, whom he didn’t see till she was more than two years old.”

“You can’t call that a good life,” she told IWPR. “We are leading some strange life, living with the in-laws. But someone has to earn a living.” It was taken for granted that that “someone” would be her husband, even though she has a university degree and he has no qualifications.

“It would be better if my husband didn’t go off to Russia and stayed with us. But then he’d be unemployed,” Jipara said.

In some cases, both parents go abroad and leave the children with the grandparents, leaving them at risk of missing school and even drifting into crime. (See Kyrgyz Migrants’ Children Left Behind on this problem)

Aytunuk Nurdinova is an IWPR contributor in Kyrgyzstan.

This audio programme went out in Russian and Kyrgyz on national radio stations in Kyrgyzstan. It was produced under two IWPR projects, Investigative Journalism to Promote Democratic Reform, funded by the European Union; and Strengthening Capacities, Bridging Divides in Central Asia, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the EU or the Norwegian government.   

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