There you are, mother!

Ahadjon was born in 2008 in Novosibirsk, Russian Federation where his parents had migrated in search of work. Soon after his birth, his father left them.

A mother and a son walk hand in hand down the narrow street of Termez in Southern Region of Uzbekistan. It is only the first day since Shoira has taken back her son Ahadjon from ‘Mehribonlik’ home, an orphanage. She looks at him with teary eyes as she worries about his future. Yet, she must overcome a lot of challenges to ensure that her son will not be placed in a residential institution again.

“According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child all boys and girls have the right to grow up in a family,” says Dilbar Suvonova, Director of ‘Mehribonlik’ home #12 in Termez, Surkhandarya region of Uzbekistan. “Unfortunately, not all children enjoy this right even when they have both parents or other relatives,” she adds.

Dilbar Suvonova has been working as a director of ‘Mehribonlik’ home for 8 years now and believes that the best place for a child is in his or her family.

“Some children left behind by migrant parents end up in our institution. Despite excellent conditions here, all of them dream to be with their families again. When children are separated from their parents, they feel anxiety and tend to avoid any communication with their peers and adults. Ahadjon was just like that when I met him.”

Teachers, doctors and psychologists made a lot of effort to help Ahadjon to go to school, make friends and enjoy his childhood. Dilbar says that she found UNICEF’s training in social work and case-management approach very useful for her staff to deal with kids like Ahadjon.

Ahadjon was born in 2008 in Novosibirsk, Russian Federation where his parents had migrated in search of work. Soon after his birth, his father left them.

“In Novosibirsk, I could not get a birth certificate for Ahadjon,” says Shoira. “I only had a note from maternity hospital about his birth. That is why in 2009, when our house in Novosibirsk burnt down, local authorities took my son to an orphanage.”

When Ahadjon turned 3, Shoira returned to Uzbekistan to get a birth certificate for him. Finally, his birth was officially registered in Uzbekistan, and she was able to bring him back from the orphanage. They continued to live in different houses in Russia.

Shoira worked as a laborer at a construction site for their survival. Ahadjon was not enrolled in school. Their living conditions worsened, and soon he found himself in a transit centre in May 2018, awaiting deportation from Russia. He spent about a month there.

“In June 2018, Ministry of Interior of Uzbekistan brought Ahadjon back to Tashkent, then to Termez. For some time, he stayed in the Center for Social and Legal Aid to Minors,” tells Shakhlo Farmonova, psychologist from NGO ‘Barkaror Hayot’. This Centre is a temporary shelter for children managed by the local authorities before the decision is taken about their wellbeing.

Shakhlo Farmonova is a social worker of the project jointly implemented by UNICEF and the Women’s Committee of Uzbekistan. Funded by the European Union, the initiative aims to improve the situation of children left behind by migrating parents.

Shoira returned to Termez to take her son back from the Center. “We did not have a place to stay. I did not have any job. None of my relatives helped me. I wanted to be with my son but couldn’t meet his basic needs. For two months we lived in the cemetery where my mother is buried,” she cannot stop her tears rolling down. After that, Shoira had to take the difficult decision of leaving Ahadjon in a ‘Mehribonlik’ home.

“I was sure it was a temporary measure, and I told Ahadjon that I will take him back soon,” says Shoira. “I visited him every day. I was happy that my son could go to school, and unlike me, he was well fed, well dressed, and had a warm bed to sleep in.”

More than a year passed before she took her son back from the orphanage. Through support of the local khokimiyat (government authorities), Shakhlo helped Shoira get adequate accommodation and the necessary amenities.

“Now Ahadjon studies in the second grade. He performs well, is fluent in Russian and Uzbek, and writes poems,” Shoira says proudly. “But he is already 11, so I want him to complete additional courses, pass the tests and catch up with his peers.”

“We continue to monitor the situation of this family,” says Shakhlo. “Their living conditions are still poor. There is no proper kitchen and adequate sanitary facilities. We need more professional social workers and resources to support Shoira and other families in similar situations.”

Ahadjon does not speak much. His sad eyes speak for him. After traveling a long distance from Russia to his home in Termez, his only thoughts were about mother. In all his poems, there is a phrase that is repeated many times - “there you are, mother!” And he still says this very often putting his arms around her.

Ahadjon dreams of becoming a businessman.  “I want to support my mother in every possible way. I also want to help children with disabilities and those without parents,” he says.

UNICEF’s recent study shows that the child protection system in Uzbekistan lacks specialized family support services by professional social workers. Families in difficult situations do not receive appropriate long-term support.

Action plan on de-institutionalization (Resolutions # 4185 and # 824) adopted by the Government of Uzbekistan is the key framework for modeling family support services and prevent unnecessary separation of children and families.

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that 'the family, as the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children, should be afforded the necessary protection and assistance so that it can fully assume its responsibilities within the community.' 

 

UN entities involved in this initiative
UNICEF
United Nations Children’s Fund