Dear Mrs. Berdimuhamedova,
We extend our congratulations to you on becoming the First Lady of Turkmenistan. As you may know, the First Ladies in many countries play an important role in promoting various causes that matter to the public. We believe that you, in the position of the First Lady, have influence, a leadership role, and a unique platform to improve people’s lives in Turkmenistan.
We hope that you will consider using the office of the First Lady to promote and improve the access of Turkmen women and youth to reproductive health information and family planning services.
As you may know, Saglyk.org is the only website that provides science-based public health information in the Turkmen language. We work to improve public health literacy in Turkmenistan by developing quality and easy to understand content in the Turkmen language.
It is unfortunate that we could not find your first name and your office’s email to send this letter to you personally. Both your first name and your email are not publicly available. We understand that Turkmenistan did not have an aсtive office of the First Lady in the past, but with the young new president we hope for progressive approaches in public communication in our country.
In this letter we would like to share few examples of work by the First Ladies from the region and recommend several priority issues that we believe you can make a big impact by highlighting them in Turkmenistan.
The First Lady of Turkey
Mrs. Emine Erdogan, the First Lady of Turkey, has been active in the project "Support Campaign for Girls' Education", also known as "Come on Girls, Let's Go to School!". This campaign was launched in 2003 by the Ministry of Education and UNICEF with the support and commitments of public institutions, NGOs, and local administrations. Mrs. Erdogan started a country-wide campaign to address the lack of schooling of girls that were not allowed to go to school by their families. According to UNICEF, it is estimated that about 350,000 additional girls enrolled in school as a result of this campaign between 2003-2006.
Mrs. Erdogan has also played a role in opposing child marriages, stating that "Child marriage is clearly unacceptable under any conditions." She is also involved in the campaign "Mothers and Daughters at School" targeting young girls and women in poverty without access to educational opportunities.
The First Lady of Azerbaijan
Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva, the First Lady of Azerbaijan founded and runs the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, which has been implementing various projects in spheres such as education, culture, sports, science and technology since 2004. The foundation supports various public health programs that benefit the public in Azerbaijan by sponsoring surgeries and procuring medical equipment and medicines.
The foundation provides insulin for diabetic children under 18 in Azerbaijan and life conditions of over 1500 children were improved as a result of that in 2020. The Foundation also supported Cochlear implantation operations for people with hearing deficiency and operations have been carried out on over 200 people (mostly children).
The First Lady of Uzbekistan
Mrs. Ziroat Mirziyoyeva, the First Lady of Uzbekistan, is the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Zamin International Public Foundation, which aims to improve living standards in Uzbekistan focusing on the environment, innovative technologies in the social sphere, and educational development programming for deaf and the hard of hearing. The Foundation and UNICEF signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2021 aimed at developing and strengthening partnership in the areas of health, protection and development of children, including those from socially vulnerable segments of the population. One of the main goals and objectives of the Zamin Foundation is to include children with disabilities in all spheres of society, to create conditions for them to be equal and find their place. In an online speech, she declared that having a disability "is no longer a medical issue, but a human rights issue".
With support of the Foundation, charitable funds totaling 5 billion soums were distributed among 5,000 women in need in all regions of Uzbekistan during the COVID-19 pandemic. Zamin Foundation launched a pilot project to screen newborn babies for hearing loss. The foundation funds treatments of children with hearing impairments.
The First Lady of Kyrgyzstan
The First Lady of Kyrgyzstan Mrs. Aigul Japarova founded "A Source of Hope" Foundation. Its main goal is to support single mothers, orphans, and other vulnerable groups throughout Kyrgyzstan. The foundation also provides assistance to nursing homes for the elderly and disabled. She volunteered to help volunteers in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in Kyrgyzstan.
The Foundation donated 80 school backpacks with school supplies to children from low-income families in Kyrgyzstan and donated 20 buses to operate in the city of Bishkek. Moreover, the Foundation together with the "Deniz Feneri" association provided 318 eсonomically vulnerable families with clothes.
Based on our 11 years of work on public health education in Turkmenistan, consistent engagement with the Turkmen public, letters and questions we get from our readers, women’s and youth’s health are among the most important issues for the public in Turkmenistan. We believe that your attention to these urgent issues as First Lady will positively impact the lives of Turkmen women and girls, and youth in a significant way. We kindly ask you to prioritize and promote these topics in your engagement with the public:
↪ Initiate discussion around high infant mortality in Turkmenistan which is the highest in Central Asia. The death of a child is a tragedy not only for the family, but also for the society. Starting research on the causes of high infant and children under 5 mortality in our country will be the first step towards exploring solutions to this issue.
↪ Help improve the reproductive health and services in the country. Currently half of Turkmen women suffer from their unmet needs for contraception and the law on 5-week abortion restriction harms both women and the entire society.
↪ Encourage and promote the introduction of a science based, comprehensive sexuality education program in schools of Turkmenistan: the lack of basic facts relating to biology, anatomy and psychology fuels misogyny and gender-based discrimination in our society. The absence of basic, science-based knowledge harms the physical and mental health of our young people.
↪ Promote gender equality in Turkmen families by publicly talking about endemic domestic violence in Turkmenistan and by bringing up absence of law on domestic violence. Saglyk receives letters from readers in which they describe their traumas, struggles and incidents of domestic violence in their families, and unfortunately, they have nowhere to seek help due to a lack of mechanisms and institutions in our society.
If left unaddressed, these problems will have a profound negative impact on the lives of many generations in our country. We provided links to our educational materials and we will be happy to provide more information if needed. Please let us know your thoughts. We will be happy to meet to discuss them.
Thank you for your attention.
June 24, 2022
- 877 gezek okalan