14-year-old Batma Leaves the Fields and Returns to School

BatmaBatma Kubanichbek is a 14-year-old girl living in Kyrgyzstan. She is one of five siblings: Her older brother, Nursultan, is 17-years-old. Her twin sister, Zuura, suffers mental and physical development problems as a result of an accident in her childhood. Her younger brother and sister, 12-year-olds Apal and Usen, are twins too.

Their father died a few years ago and they are being brought up by their single mother. They live in a three-bedroom house that is in poor condition as it was built in the 1960s. Batma shares a room with her sisters.

The house is heated by only one central wood and coal stove. Because coal is expensive in Kyrgyzstan, Batma’s family heats only one room in the house in winter. Batma’s family has 0.36 hectares of land on which they grow tobacco and 0.16 hectares on which they grow potatoes, onions, and cabbage for their own consumption.

Due to the low family income, poor housing, and living conditions, Batma had been required to help her family in the tobacco growing so they would not have to hire adult labour. Since the age of five, Batma had worked every year from February to November to help her family in various tasks related to tobacco agriculture. During peak tobacco seasons, she would work nine hours a day. She never received a salary for her help.

Because of the amount of time spent working in the field, Batma had not been able to keep up with school and had fallen behind children of her age. She is currently in the 8th form in the secondary school, Kok-Jar, in Nookat District, Osh Province.

In 2011, Batma’s mother found assistance through the ECLT Foundation.

First she accessed a microcredit loan through one of the ECLT Foundation’s funded projects. In the first year, Batma’s mother used her loan to purchase a young cow that a year later calved twins. Today, the cows are on a summer pasture, and Batma’s mother is happy to have two pairs of twins and twins of cows too.

The loan came with membership to a farmers’ group that uses mutual help on a rotating basis as an alternative to employing children. Through this “Ashar” method, Batma, her siblings, and children of other members of the group are stopped from doing any tasks in tobacco. The work is now done by parent and adult members of the group, who are aware that if someone in the group involves children in their fields, all the members of the group will have to return their loans. Thus, the members of the group monitor each other. Batma’s mother’s group is well united and friendly. They meet periodically and solve not only any problems concerning repayment of the loan, but also personal issues.

Thanks to the project, Batma has been able to catch up with school and has good grades. She prioritizes studying and reading books, and in her spare time she helps her mother at home, doing regular chores, and nothing involving child labour. 

Learn more about the ECLT Foundation’s work to alleviate poverty.

Learn more about our work in Kyrgyzstan.