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National Federation of Women’s Communities of Kyrgyzstan

The Challenge

In Kyrgyzstan, an estimated 12 per cent of girls are married before the age of 18. One per cent are married before 15. Many of these marriages are religious ceremonies that are unregistered by the state.

Poverty and illiteracy along with religious and patriarchal attitudes have continued to sustain the acceptability of child marriage. Authorities are soft on perpetrators, which means illegal marriages continue to take place daily, causing immeasurable harm to girls’ psychological and physical wellbeing.

An estimated 12,000 women and girls are abducted for marriage annually in Kyrgyzstan, according to Human Rights Watch. Because the marriages are not legally registered, wives are not entitled to the same rights afforded to a registered spouse including property, child support or alimony. The problem is worse in rural areas where 80 per cent of marriages are conducted through kidnapping.

According to UNFPA, every year 4-5 girls out of 1,000 teenage girls become mothers. Around 2,500 abortions are performed on teenage girls every year. The lack of access to sexual and reproductive services also means that the number of teenagers infected with sexually transmitted diseases is steadily increasing. One third of HIV cases occur among young people aged 15-24 years.

The Response

The National Federation of Women’s Communities of Kyrgyzstan (NFFCK) was set up by a group of 12 to 14-year-old girls to fight against child marriage, bride kidnapping and
gender-based violence.

Today, the organisation works to help women and girls aged 10-19 acquire the skills for a healthy, active and independent life. NFFCK has strong girl leadership. Girls are represented on the Board and in the governance structure and the organisation's members are involved in strategic and organisational decisions.

NFFCK promotes activism and engagement by providing girls with the leadership skills needed to enhance their decision-making powers. It raises awareness among schoolgirls on topics from HIV, STIs, drug abuse, smoking and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). It advocates to government and works for change to the harmful practices and traditions in the country via media campaigns and social networking.

NFFCK is a grassroots organisation whose clear vision has impacted thousands of girls in the country. In the last two years, NFFCK has helped 41 girls avoid child marriage and provided 482 girls with practical support. It has supported 1,648 girls with consultations on child marriage and bride kidnapping. Thanks to NFFCK’s work, more than 12,000 girls have increased their knowledge of girls’ rights.