In eight days Pre-Service Training will be over and I will be sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I will pack my suitcases, say goodbye to my training host family and the next day I will be on a plane heading towards my permanent site and only then will my two years of service will begin. Training has been hard and very trying, but I have learned a lot and am better prepared to work with my NGO and within the community thanks to it. Although I will miss having all the volunteers within a twenty minute marshuka ride and I will hate saying goodbye to my first host family, I have a beautiful city that I will be moving to and a NGO which I am really excited to be working with.
Just last week I had the opportunity to spend a day working with them, it was an interesting, inspiring and motivating day all at once. It began when my director picked me up that morning, she pulled up in her sedan with her youngest son in the back who needed to be dropped off at school, the radio was blaring Russian pop music and as soon as I sat down we sped off to the office. The office is actually an apartment where the NGO is based, there are three computers, a television and internet (when there is electricity.) From what I have heard, this is a pretty badass set up for a local NGO! The first thing that I did when I arrived was flip through a photo album that was filled with pictures of previous events and seminars, as I flipped through the book I had another woman sitting next to me explaining all the pictures to me in Russian, she spoke really quickly and every now and then I would catch what she was trying to get across to me, regardless I smiled and nodded as we looked through the pictures. After lunch a translator was brought in, it was a young woman in her twenties who spoke beautiful English. Her husband was at the dentist and she had not been able to find a babysitter in time so she brought her new baby with her. As she translated what the organization was about and what my role would be, she juggled her baby who was bored and starting to get testy. At one point she pulled her shirt up and started nursing the baby but did not miss a beat and continued translating! As the initial shock wore off I had to smile, this scenario would never happen in America!
Regardless of the unintential flashing, thanks to her I learned that the organization had three main categories of work; shaping and guiding women leaders, domestic violence and human trafficking. They have initiated many seminars and events in the community and throughout
Another very difficult subject that the organization does some work with is bride kidnapping. This is a Kyrgyz tradition where a man who wants to get married will kidnap a young woman who he believes will make a good wife. Sometimes he will know her and sometimes he won’t. These kidnappings have been divided into two categories; consensual and non consensual. Consensual kidnapping is when the man and women discuss and agree that he will kidnap her. Couples will do this to avoid dowry expenses or if one of the families doesn’t approve of the marriage, by kidnapping her they are avoiding some barriers that they would face otherwise. But the non consensual kidnapping is exactly what it sounds like. After he kidnaps this girl he brings her back to his parents house and the family must try to convince the girl to stay by telling her what a great guy the kidnapper is and how if she were to go back to her family now it would be shameful for both her and her family because everyone would assume that she is no longer a virgin. If she stays, which she usually will because she doesn’t want to embarrass her family, then she lives there for forty days till the wedding. Of course not all marriages happen like this, but it does happen and is very present in Kyrgyz culture
Right now it is illegal and it is very negatively viewed. I am hoping that through this NGO I will learn more about it and have opportunities to work on educating men and women about alternative options to bride kidnapping. Here's hoping for a great experience in Jalal Abad!