Gender survey in Kuva District of Fergana Province, Uzbekistan

Study areas

Kuva District of Fergana Province was selected for this gender survey. Kuva District is located in the southeastern portion of Fergana Province 40 km northeast of Fergana City, which is the province administrative center. The district is bordered on the west and southwest by Fergana District, on the northwest by Tashkak District of Fergana Province, on the north by Boz District, on the east by Markhamat District of Andijan Province, and on the south and southeast by Osh Province of Kyrgyzstan. The summer here is hot and dry; precipitation is not more than 100 mm, frequent hot winds (garmsil) dry up soils; the winter is mild. Rivers Isfayram and Chakhimardan are important for water supply and, in addition, such canals as the South Fergana Canal, irrigation canal named after Akhunbabaev, and Big Fergana Canal (on the north of the district) run through the district; moreover, the Karkidon Reservoir was built here. Natural conditions in Kuva District are favorable for growing cotton and other heat-loving crops, however, due to soil conditions proper land treatment is necessary.

Historical Information

This administrative district was established on September 29, 1926. Its total area amounts to 437 sq km. The Administrative center is Kuva Town (since 1939) that has the remarkable history according to evidences of archeological finds and numerous historical documents.


At present, the number of residents is about 186,400 people, and, on average, the population growth makes up 1.1 percent per year.


The basic industrial enterprises (gin, flourmill, tinned food factory, bread-baking plant, furniture plant etc.) are mainly concentrated in the district administrative center (Kuva) and based on processing agricultural output of cotton growing, grain farming and other farming productions; in addition, there are haulage contractors, public service establishments, and two joint ventures in the district. There is the quite developed network of highways with asphalt paving in the district. Irrigated and partly rain-fed farming with specialization in cotton growing and silkworm breeding mainly present the agricultural sector. More than half land resources are available for agricultural activity. As of July 1, 2004, the total area under crop amounts to 14,746 hectare. Increase in crop productivity, improvement of the irrigation network, and land reclamation contribute to developing the agricultural sector. An area under cotton makes up 65 percent of the total sown area in the district. Within the crop rotation pattern, cotton alternates with alfalfa, wheat, and corn. The natural conditions are favorable for viticulture and horticulture. Taste properties of some particular varieties of grape, Kuva’s pomegranates, fig, and apricot won international recognition. Annual income of some fruit-growers ranges from US$ 20,000 to 40,000. By the time of this survey, most private farms, dekhkan farms , and private entrepreneurs engaged in viticulture and horticulture had lost their profits due to land productivity deterioration (due to salinity, waterlogging, and high salinity of irrigated water). The scantiness of natural grazing lands and lack of highly productive fodder hinder from intensive developing cattle breeding and, therefore, sheep breeding is developed here in a larger extent as well as goats breeding for production of meat and wool. In addition, farms of the district produce silk cocoons.

The Karkidon Reservoir is under operation since 1966 and promotes improving water availability and agricultural productivity in the district. Unfortunately, the land productivity is gradually decreasing in the southern portion of the district owing to rise in groundwater table (according to water professionals, groundwater table is at a depth of 0.50 m below the land surface on some fields from year to year).

Decline in crop yields is observed in the district. Orchards are drying up, and local inhabitants are losing their main source of livelihood. Most analysts who surveyed these villages have specified this situation as the key problem for local families. In the process of the survey, it was determined that the administration of Kuva District considers this problem as one of key issues under planning social and economic development of the district.

Households and their owners

About 20 percent of women are actually heads of their households; in general, these are widows, unwed mothers, and divorcees. In addition, the paradoxical situation was disclosed during face-to-face interviews with women, it was discovered that men are often formally considered as heads of households, at the same time, women manage actually all financial and economic issues, but nobody speaks about their real status. An amount of single women who manage their households is relatively low; usually relatives assist them, therefore, in most cases, women recognize older sun, sun in law or brothers as heads of their families. In complete families, all members recognize unconditionally the oldest man, who is most trustworthy and competent in financial and business issues, as head of their household.

General characteristics of households and their sizes

The gender survey has revealed that an average size of household plot (yard) makes up 0.05 to 0.06 ha, which are occupied by buildings (house, sheds, cowshed or sheepfold), a little orchard consisting of 4 to 5 fruit trees and vineyard, and plus 0.10 to 0.12 ha allocated for vegetables growing. Thus, the net area, from which the rural family can generate real income, is over the range of 0.12 to 0.15 ha, i.e. 0.02 to 0.03 ha per one member of the family.

The rural residents are basically growing the following crops (Table 1) on their garden plots for sale.

Composition of a rural family

An average size of the family in the district varies over the range of 4 to 7 people. Usually, the rural family consists of two spouses, 2 to 3 children (rarely four children), and aged parents who live together with them (in general, with the family of the youngest son). In the common family, there are two or three members able to work; other members being young (children) or old age are of limited ability to work.


The resident population growth, on average, amounts to 1.1 percent per year, and at present, the population makes up 186,400 people (Figure 1).

Fig. 1

Table 2 shows that the population is properly balanced in the district with respect to the gender aspect. The percentage of the children's population is high due to the higher birth rate that results, in turn, in redistribution of expenses of households.

Respondents consider that the optimal amount of children in the family should not exceed four children; at the same time, the younger women (the age below 30) mentioned 2 to 4 children and older women – 2 to 6 children. Most female respondents informed that in overwhelming majority of cases their wish to give birth coincide with wish of their husbands (63%). In 24 percent of cases, husbands are in opposition, and in 13 percent of cases, they find difficulty in answering. Above-mentioned figures confirm that women of the reproductive age have enough freedom in planning their family. Respondents consider financial problems, lack of dwelling, and presence of a little child as key causes impeding childbirth. Such reasons as fear to have problems on job or unfavorable circumstances in the family exert the least influence on decision-making to give birth.

Marriage age (nubility)

In the district, an average marriage age makes up 17 to 20 for women and 18 to 25 for men. In recent years, lowering of the marriage age level for women is observed, and in our view, this is related to strengthening the traditional views concerning marriage issues. The gender survey shows that the key factor that characterizes marriage aspects is the satisfaction of both spouses by existing distribution of workload in housekeeping and care for children. In the district, the actual distribution of workload between men and women is extremely patriarchal for the time being: men dominate in professional activity while women in housekeeping. Upbringing of children is actually the duty of women.

Economic aspects

Forming the rural family’s budget

According to collected data, main sources of households’ income (Figure 2) are the following:

  • labor at a permanent place of employment or temporary work for a wage, by one or all capable members of a family (28 percent of respondents);
  • personal garden plots including consumable produce (36 percent of respondents)
  • state funds allocated to specific social groups of the population in the form of pensions, benefits, grants etc. (children benefits, pensions, benefits to low-income families) (15 percent of respondents)
  • secondary employment, which provides 18 percent of incomes (some families have additional job, more often this is casual, seasonal or day-work); and
  • financial aid of relatives (13 percent of respondents).

Other sources of income do not play an essential role in the family budget including entrepreneur activity and property pointing on insufficient mastering of new marketable categories of economic activity. 76 percent of women and 71 percent of men mentioned the value of their garden plots as vitally necessary reality («we could not survive without it»).

Fig. 2

At the same time, the respondents pointed that input of women into revenues of the budget makes up less than 30 to 40 percent. As a whole, negligible amount of rural women has permanent wage, including employees in the State institutions in such sectors as consumers’ services, public health, and education. Incomes of these women do not differ from those of men working in the same sectors. Women who are engaged in the agricultural sector, i.e. in collective or private farms, have rather small wages (no more than Uzbek Soms 5,000 to 6,000 per month). Access to the land resources, irrigated water, fodders, fuel (guza-paya – dry stems after picking cotton) etc is more attractive for them. In particular, they use the possibility to cultivate a land plot free after harvesting main crops and to harvest their own yield.

At present, women work in the economic sectors with the low level of wages, which do not generate direct profit but vitally important for society – education, public health, and culture.

Income per capita can be used as an indicator of the standard of living. It amounts to US$ 11.8 per month in Uzbekistan. 90 percent of respondents gave the positive answer to the question: «Does current family income satisfy you?».

Expenses of rural families

The expenses structure of an average rural family in the district is given in Table 3.

Data on expenses of households reveal that rural residents spend for food almost the lion's share of their incomes. A share of earnings in kind, which consists of foodstuff grown on garden plots, of payment in kind made by cooperative farms and other employers, and of food aid granted by relatives makes up 34 percent. This rather low indicator is evidence of the marketable value of the most part of output grown on garden plots; and data on sales of output by households confirm this fact as well. Almost 60 percent of households were producing and selling their agricultural output. Somehow or other, data collected in the course of gender surveys do not corroborate the idea that rural households completely meet their needs in foodstuff at the expense of their garden plots. At the same time, expenses of rural households for purchasing various agricultural inputs (fodder, seeds, seedlings, implements etc.) are less 3 times than for food purchase. Female respondents included their own expenses for personal needs (including expenses for hygienic materials) into general expenses. It is necessary to point the extremely low level of this kind of expenses (0.1 to 0.5 percent of the total family budget). Thus, women should hunt up some money from the very limited budget for themselves, attempting to minimize “losses” for the family budget.

Foodstuff consumption

According to data of the gender survey, such foodstuff as flour, macaroni, potato, groats (primarily, rice), cotton-seed oil, sugar, and tea dominate within the food consumption structure of the rural family. Vegetables and fruits, meat and eggs, and dairy products are insufficiently consumed, although they are produced on the garden plots. Figure 3 shows that carbohydrates dominate in the diet of rural inhabitants, but consumption of proteins and fats is obviously insufficient.

Fig. 3

Gender status in a family

According to respondents, it is possible to draw conclusion that the level of understanding of gender issues is not high, and, first of all, because women have always contented themselves with the auxiliary and subordinated role in the family. In the process of survey, more than half women expressed their opinion that a policy and even learning a policy are not an occupation for women. Respondents have considered that motherhood, family issues, childhood protection, and problems of pensioners are the key fields of public activity for women.

Rural women, in their behavioral orientation and motion towards recognition of their social importance, have to base on generally accepted patterns, social norms and standards according to which the position of socially active woman and her aspiration for leadership are considered as out of line with the traditional ideal. Nevertheless, it was pleasant to see that most respondents understand the necessity for strengthening the role of rural women in solving social problems in rural regions, especially such issues as developing social infrastructure in villages.

In the process of discussions, it was discovered that rural residents well understand that arranging the local community’s activity (children festivals, traditional solemnity, meetings in schools with veterans etc.) require collective efforts. This activity is very important for spiritual and cultural development of society but requires a lot time spent by volunteers. Both men and women are usually involved in this activity. At the same time, if this activity envisages a routine work, which is free of charge then, as a rule, it is performed by women; however, if this activity is payable or provides advancement in the social status (for example, when an opportunity offers to become a chairperson of the community’s assembly) then it is performed by men. This is evidence of presence of two different ideologies with respect to the social status of women. The first one is the ideology of equality based on legislative acts and normative documents, and another one is the patriarchal ideology that dominates in the real life. In accordance with this situation, there are two contradictory tendencies. On the one hand, democratic reforms create wide opportunities for self-actualization of women that are supported by different initiatives, and on the other hand, realization of these opportunities that is accompanied by new problems related to traditions, stereotypes, and the lower competitive capability of rural women at the labor-market. Objectively, opportunities are rising, but, at the same time, difficulties are growing up for both women and men. At present, patriarchal attitudes (such as a woman has to perform the traditional roles of a wife, mother, and homemaker) dominate in national consciousness. As a result, there is doubleness in rural inhabitants’ thinking concerning gender problems and the status of women as a whole. According to the gender survey, the final decision regarding allocation of the family budget is made by men in overwhelming majority of households (71 percent of respondents), and this is related to deep-rooted traditions and views that a man is a major “bread-winner”, however, a women draws up “a draft decision” almost in all families (Figure 4).

Fig. 4 Based on answers of respondents it is possible to present views concerning the status of women in society are distributed as follows:

Fig. 5

Communication with rural women in the process of the gender survey has shown that they prefer the following duties (in descending order) among many others:

  1. maintaining peaceful environment and well-being in the family;
  2. cooking and cleaning their house;
  3. spending family’s money economically;
  4. caring for children;
  5. earning money;
  6. caring for their own appearance to be attractive for their husband;
  7. making purchases for the family;
  8. improving their education;
  9. participating in the social life of their community; and
  10. performing devotions and traditional rites.

Labor and employment

Employment of rural men and women

We asked respondents to describe their daily routine in order to have more detailed information on the division of labor between men and women in the rural area regarding both income-generating activity and housekeeping. It was specified that a woman spend for unpaid homework 36.6 percent of her life cycle, for wage work – 22.7 percent, for leisure and entertainment – 10.7 percent, for social life -1.2 percent, and for sleep – 28.8 percent correspondingly (Figure 6). Findings of this survey show that in the rural family both spouses are actual and necessary “bread-winners” and this enables us to speak about gradual moving towards redistribution of responsibilities and about shift in male and female roles. The analysis performed enables us to draw an indirect conclusion that extreme time deficit limits the women’s possibilities to participate in profitable production of agricultural output. Under conditions of the lack of necessary machinery, sufficient funds, and the established system of marketing, the work on the garden plot does not practically generate incomes. It means that women receive low proceeds of their activity, i.e. a rural woman is engaged in production of non-market output.

Analyzing distribution of responsibilities, we have drawn a conclusion about existence of two stages in gender relations in the rural family: if prior to the birth of child there were some features of a marriage equal in rights, then after the birth of child the distribution of rights and duties occur according to the traditional scenario. If after the birth of child, women play more various roles then men focus their energies on professional and social activity.

Fig. 6

Higher workload on women, their duties related to housekeeping, and less access to information and other services are indirectly evidence of domination of men in decision-making. Gender distribution of labor at the levels of households and communities results in different strategic and practical requirements and interests of men and women. Social relations, existing at the level of household, transfer onto the level of the community where increase in the load of voluntary works on women and strengthening of the leading role of men take place.

Education and cultural aspects

As a whole, the district is provided by enough seats for pupils in schools, and there are schools practically in each village. However, in the winter period, many schools are ill heated due to irregularities in gas supply. For instance, respondents informed us that in Moy Village during bad weather (rains or snow), many parents do not allow their children to go to the school because they should cross over the irrigation canal at the ill-equipped place, and there were accidents with children (traumatism). Schools are technically ill equipped; there are not computers in many schools, and if they are available then they are out-of-date or inoperable. Many parents complained that textbooks and school uniform are very expensive; therefore, a share of expenses for pupils in the family budget is quite high. The gender survey has shown that the level of attendance at schools directly depends on welfare of rural families. We defined that the level of attendance at schools remains rather high for pupils younger than 15 years old (99%), but for pupils above this age, its decline is observed. Respondents explained that older children have more responsibilities and should earn money for the family. There are not any differences in the level of attendance owing to the gender identification: on average, the level of attendance of pupils above 15 years old amounts to 92 percent for girls and 94 percent for boys. Everywhere, during spring and autumn periods, pupils are diverted from teaching for participating in weeding or harvesting cotton.

Despite availability of cultural institutions (clubs, cinemas) in the rural area, many respondents complained on quite limited opportunities for valuable leisure and entertainment. Most inhabitants prefer to watch TV. With respect to newspapers and magazines, the good example may be the fact that in the Sultonobod rural settlement where 675 families reside and the population amounts to 2,735 people, only one family has subscribed for the newspaper “Fargona Khakikaty”, one more family has subscribed for the newspaper “Makhala”, and seven families have subscribed for the district newspaper “Kuva Khaety”. In general, the rural population meets its cultural needs during rare trips together with children to the district administrative center or to Fergana City. In addition, they arrange festivals, weddings, and other traditional amusements.

Fig. 7

Medical care

The gender survey has shown that the district is provided with public health institutions. For example, four medical institutions operate in the surveyed area. There is the well-equipped Mother & Child Center in the district administrative center, which can be the envy of inhabitants from neighbor regions and big cities. It may be noted that in Kuva District, medical care is at the quite high level in comparing with other districts of Fergana Province.

Priority goals and personal features necessary for achieving success

Data of the gender survey shows that family’s happiness and welfare are the leading goal for rural women, and active participation in the social life is the secondary aspect of their life.

Women specified intellect, diligence, to be well-bred, honesty, and adherence to principle as chief personal features necessary for achieving success. They consider such features as education, strength of character, perseverance, selflessness i.e. those features that promote to be an active member of society as secondary features (Figure 8).

Fig. 8

Water use

The district water supply organization “Suvokava” (former Rayvodocanal) renders services on domestic-potable water supply to the population, institutions, and organizations in the district, and in addition, most drainage and artesian wells belong to local cooperative farms. At the same time, the District Irrigation Scheme Management distributes water for irrigation at the level of main irrigation canals, and land reclamation services (irrigators) manage on-farm water distribution. According to respondents, water supply services are not always accessible, and existing water supply systems do not operate on the regular basis. For example, the water supply system in Dekhkonobod Village was built in 1980, and today it is out of operation. In this rural administrative area where 3,242 people reside the water supply covers only 38 percent of the population; and water is hauled from the water sources located more than one-kilometer aside.

The level of water supply is directly related to the seasonality, for example, in the autumn-winter period, pumps in artesian wells do not operate due to frequent interruptions in power supply. As a whole, it is possible to assert that water supply is not always even and regular. Only some households have the possibility to use the water-supply systems regularly. However, these water-supply systems are in ill-being technical conditions due to the lack of funds and spare parts for their rehabilitation. The local communities cannot provide the timely repair of water-supply systems. Therefore, the joint measures of the State and local communities are necessary to replace water pumps and another equipment that now are out of operation in order to improve water supply.

There are not practically the sources of potable water in villages Urokboshi, Dekhkonobod, Moy, Kakyr, Turk, and Salim. Inhabitants of these villages the population of which exceed 16,000 people deliver water using various means including cars, cartage, bicycles, and specially equipped handcarts. A distance to the nearest water sources varies from 1 to 3 km. According to local women, they spend from 1.5 to 2 hours every day for water delivery.

Figure 9 shows that, under availability of water supply systems, a considerable part of the population (23 percent) need to use water from open sources or drainage wells.

Fig. 9

During our visits to rural households, we have seen water-storing tanks made of standard reinforced concrete pipes installed vertically on the ground surface. Only prosperous families that can pay for water delivery by water-carriers install such water-storing tanks. Most rural inhabitants keep water in 50-liter aluminum flasks, buckets or other available tanks. As we ascertained, women are mainly responsible for distribution, control, and regulation of water consumption for drinking and domestic needs, at the same time, men are engaged in water delivery using cars, cartages, or bicycles. The process water delivery itself and water storing do not meet due sanitary standards. Water delivery in the autumn-winter season at the time of snowfall or rains is dangerous for life of women and especially children since most of streets in villages are not lighted and have not asphalt pavement.

After generalization of respondents’ answers concerning issues of water delivery, distribution, and consumption in rural households, we have received the following findings (Figure 10):

Fig. 10

At the same time, women consume more water for domestic needs (washing, laundering, cleaning, and cooking), and men for irrigation that is seasonal activity. Although, most respondents (78%) consider that it is necessary to put the water-saving technologies into practice of household water supply and irrigation, however, nobody can answer clear what measures should be employed for proposed water saving. Rural residents have some information about water-meters for households and flow-measuring structures for irrigation; however, this information is insufficient. Thus, the necessity in popularization of the water-saving technologies was revealed; at the same time, rural inhabitants will be interested by approaches, which can provide the practical profit for them in the form of decreasing expenses for water supply. This activity can be organized by means of conducting a number of training courses in communities with involving female activists and paying special attention to aspects of public participation, of strengthening the positions of women, young people, and local communities.

The gender survey has shown that in rural areas sanitary facilities for men and women are ill provided. According to respondents, the main problem in villages is the lack of public bathhouses or their non-functioning. Basic causes are insufficient water head in the water-supply network and problems with gas-supply. Owing to the same causes, bathhouses or stationary shower cabinets are practically absent in all households. For instance, according to our estimates, only 10 percent of families have water heaters or boilers. In summer, people takes a shower using water heated by the sun but even this simple appliance is absent in many households and people heats water in buckets to use it for washing. In winter, rural residents go to public bathhouses in the administrative center or to the nearest settlements where public bathhouses are operable. This problem especially negatively affects women because men can wash themselves in irrigation canals, but rural women do not have access to this “luxury” owing to traditional prejudices.

Rather shallow cesspools in rural households are equipped with an adobe building or a shed made of tar paper or plywood with a reed roof. According to interviewers, men clean off cesspools and often use excrements as fertilizers. In some cases, cesspool is simply covered over with earth, and a new cesspool is dug in another place. With respect to removal of household rubbish, it was mentioned that this is also the problem. Although in the rural areas, household rubbish mainly consists of organic mixtures, which are easily utilized as fertilizers, the part of household rubbish, especially construction waste, is removed to be filled into holes. Sometimes, household rubbish is disposed into irrigation canals. Communities’ activists attempt to monitor and prevent these cases, but this problem is topical yet due to low ecological and sanitary culture of the population.

Land use

A little amount of women, as landowners, has access to the land resources through establishing private farms (only 10 to 12 percent of private farms in the district).

95 percent of respondents consider that only a man:

  • allocates land plots for vegetable gardens;
  • has access to agricultural machinery;
  • has access to a market;
  • has the priority in receiving credits;
  • posses land and water use rights;
  • makes decisions in regard with a crop pattern in a farm; and
  • has real access to a ready sale