A crisis centre for pregnant women has been opened in the Russian Orthodox church in Bishkek.
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Nadezhda (Hope) centre is located in one of the buildings in the territory of the church and is designed for four mothers with children.
A room for mothers is big and cosy, newly renovated and divided into four sections. Every section has a bed, a playpen, a drawer unit with essential goods. Six-month-old Sofia and her mother Olga are now residing in one of the sections:
– I got divorced before giving birth. My mother-in-law and husband said they didn’t need children. I was so desperate that I wanted to have an abortion several times, but I didn’t have heart to do it. I have no home so I didn’t have any place to go.
When I was pregnant, I was renting a house and working at the bakery. But as you know it is a very hard work there: it’s too hot from furnaces, you should move the dough back and forth, and they underpaid me. It was very difficult so I left.
Then I found a job at a sewing shop and earned extra money by cleaning the floors. But my money was enough either to pay the rent or to buy food. Then I came here, to the church. At first, they helped me with food, but it was getting harder so I asked them to help me pay the rent. They said if I could do without them until I give birth, they would take me from the maternity hospital.
After the birth, the sisters of charity and the father took me here. I’ve been here for six months. The crisis centre was opened on June 3, and I signed an agreement with the church for one month. Upon the expiry of one month, I will have to either terminate the agreement, or sign the new one. If a mother comes here who has even worse situation, I will have to give place to her.
Suffering for the sake of children
There are 14 crisis centres in Kyrgyzstan, according to the head of the crisis centres for women association Tolkun Tyulekova. Two of them are located in Bishkek, the rest in the regions.
“Nearly 7 thousand women come to crisis centres for help, consultations. They are mainly the victims of domestic violence. Also, girls who were kicked out from home because of their pregnancy, victims of bride kidnapping, rapes come to crisis centres. There are also adult women who suffer from domestic violence, rapes,” Tyulekova said.
According to the National Statistical Committee of Kyrgyzstan, about fifteen hundred women apply every year to forensic departments due to the facts of family abuse. In 2017, this indicator was 1,172 women, in 2018 – 1,305.
If in 2017 1,404 women who suffered from domestic violence were treated in medical centres, last year their number was 970.
However, according to the head of Sezim crisis centre, Byubyusara Ryskulova, the majority of women suffering from domestic abuse never go to crisis intervention centres or law enforcement bodies.
“Women that come to us say they live with their husbands only for the sake of their children. The majority of them go back to their husbands. And their children, in turn, accept their behaviour model and become the same as their parents,” Ryskulova said.
All centres functioning in Kyrgyzstan are private. Last year, the state allocated 300-600 thousand soms per year under the social procurement. The amount allocated depends on the number of staff. According to Tolkun Tyulekova, nearly 30 thousand soms accrue to one crisis centre.
“Hope” in difficult situation
As a rule, crisis centres in Kyrgyzstan provide psychological and legal aid to the victims of abuse. Until recently, the latter could stay temporarily in two of them: one in Osh, the other in Bishkek.
Now Nadezhda crisis shelter for women is available in the capital. According to the head of the social department at the Orthodox Church, Elena Ivanova, at first they planned to establish a shelter for elderly people, but then decided to render help to pregnant women in difficult situation.
“However, we are not going to solve all mom’s problems. We are trying to instruct her so that she could solve her problems on her own, but with our help. When a mother stays in the shelter, an individual rehabilitation programme is developed for her based on her psychological and emotional state,” Ivanova said.
This crisis centre welcomes everyone regardless of their faith. When necessary, a woman can be provided with medical aid or a special child care training programme. The number of women is limited – the centre can take up only four women, and the church is not going to expand. According to Ivanova, their task is to provide qualitative aid to a certain number of women who have nowhere to go.
However, crisis centre creation won’t solve the problem, according to experts. In 2003, Kyrgyzstan passed a law “On social and legal protection from domestic violence”. It recognises domestic violence as an independent offence and introduces a restraining order system, which has never been effective in fact.
The law “On protection from domestic violence” became effective in 2017. The new instrument made it obligatory for the police to respond to every report of family violence and to issue restraining orders. It restrains the aggressor from approaching the victim and is valid from three days to one month.
It all looks good on paper, but in practice the laws don’t work, Byubyusara Ryskulova said. According to her, the institution of family should be paid attention at the national level, starting from kindergarten and school.
“For example, every school has youth counsellor, but as we see teachers of other disciplines become youth counsellors. The state is responsible for every case of domestic violence so it should monitor the execution of these laws,” Ryskulova said.
This publication was produced under IWPR project «Forging links and raising voices to combat radicalization in Central Asia»