UNDP Azerbaijan

As prepared for delivery

Zaqatala, Azerbaijan

Date: 12 June 2019

Venue: Heydar Aliyev Centre

HORMETLI TOFIG MUELLIM! (Mr. Tofig Ahmadov, First Deputy Head of Zagatala Executive Authority)

Dear Mrs. Hijran Huseynova (Chairperson of the State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs)

Your Excellency Mr. Lee Litzenberger  (U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan)

Dear Mr. Jaidev Singh (Mission Director for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Azerbaijan)

Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

HAMINIZI UREKDEN SALAMLAYIRAM! (English translation: My warmest greetings to all of you!)

It is a great honour to be here today, in Zaqatala, for the opening of the Women’s Resource Centre and the Youth Employment & Training (“Syslab”) Centre. Being one of the three sites of UNDP-USAID joint project on “Economic Empowerment for Entrepreneurship and Employment”, the Zaqatala district remains an important premise for the UNDP’s development work to support and promote women’s and youth economic engagement, employment and entrepreneurship.  

Empowering women and young people is what facilitates inclusive growth. As UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner once said: “We need women’s ideas, insights, and experiences to inform the design and implementation of these innovations so they meet women’s needs and truly leave no one behind.”

By UN estimates, gender inequities and gender based discrimination limits women's economic potential and excludes women from shaping our future. The United Nations Development Programme sees the empowerment of women and youth as a key element for successful implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that accompany the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This is our collective responsibility and as such, UNDP in Azerbaijan, in collaboration with all of you, decided to take action to realise this goal.

The establishment of the two new Centres today marks an important milestone for our joint project in the Zaqatala region, as well as a new successful step within the broader initiative led by the UNDP and our distinguished partners to empower the most vulnerable and to ensure that our development work benefits all.

As the new chapter begins, it is with great pleasure that I can remark that the project has already achieved all of the targets it has set during its first phase of implementation for 2018-2019. Today, 10 women already are leading their own businesses in Zaqatala and –what’s most important –they also provide employment for 4 more previously unemployed women.

Up to date, 134 women and girls have benefited from various training programmes and networking events offered within the project. More than 150 women in Zaqatala have joined various awareness raising campaigns on women’s economic and social rights and gender mainstreaming. Although very new itself, the Zaqatala Women’s Resource Centre has an impressive network of more than 160 members.

Our Syslab Centres in Ganja, Masalli and Zaqatala have provided over 300 youth –more than half of them women –a series of training programmes to help these young hopefuls improve their employability and professional skills in the local labour market. The fascinating news is that 66% of these graduates were able to find employment with local businesses and organizations during or immediately after their Syslab trainings.

Currently, UNDP is working in 8 regions of the country to support women and youth in partnership with the central and local authorities and International donors, including the USAID, the European Union, and the Coca Cola Foundation.

It is important to emphasise that these accomplishments are not the fruits of UNDP’s labour alone – none of these notable results, success stories and changes in human condition could have been made possible without the commitment and joint efforts of all of our partners involved.

I would like to specifically thank one of our closest government partners, Ms. Hijran Huseynova and the State Committee for Family, Women and Children’s Affairs, for taking the lead in our joint mission. Thanks to the Committee’s motherly care, the project on promoting rural women’s participation in economic and social life has grown within the span of just a few years from its first baby steps in Sabirabad to confident presence in 8 regions with strong Women Resource Centres and hundreds of women beneficiaries served.

I would like to express my gratitude to the much-valued collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of Population that the UNDP has enjoyed for the past 15 years. This period has been marked with many combined efforts that enhanced the national social protection system, varying from the national employment strategy to pension fund reform, and from youth employment to serving different vulnerable social groups, including our recently launched 2 exciting programmes on disability employment and support to veterans of the Nagorno-Karabakh war.

Going further, I would like to thank Mr. Fuad Musayev for his strong interest and support for collaboration between the State Employment Service and UNDP. During the short time of his tenure, Mr. Musayev has made a reputation for strong leadership by spearheading the culture of reformation in his agency. We know that he has many refreshing ideas for making our existing collaboration even more dynamic and fruitful, so we look forward to working with him and his team closely in coming years.

Your Excellency Mr. Lee Litzenberger, I would like to specifically thank you for extending your support to our programmes advancing the potential and capabilities of youth and women in this country. Your active stance in promoting the US assistance to community initiatives in Azerbaijan means a lot to this country and to UNDP’s development work in the regions. From Ganja in the west to Masalli down south and now to Zaqatala in the northwest, the Women’s Resource Centres and Youth Employment and Training Centres known as SYSLABs – all of these these Centres and their success stories are made possible with the generous support of the Government and the people of the United States. Today’s event and Mr. Ambassador’s presence bear witness for the shared vision and friendship of American and Azerbaijan Governments towards international peace, dialogue and harmony, all being the ulterior hopes of the United Nations as well.

Finally, I would also like to thank Mr. Jaidev Singh for fostering the spirit of partnership not only between the Governments of the United States and Azerbaijan, but between USAID and its counterpart agencies and projects. Mr. Singh has emphasized consistently that USAID is not merely a donor agency that perceives its beneficiary communities as recipients – USAID is rather a “partner in development” where communities and peer organizations bear equal roles and responsibilities for economic flourishment of Azerbaijan. Such rhetoric is very close to the UNDP’s heart and makes it truly motivating to work together towards the joint mission of economic empowerment for entrepreneurship and employment in the regions of Azerbaijan.

At UNDP, we believe that The Global Goals can only be met through the strong partnerships and collaboration between the state, the people, the private sector and international institutions. To build a better world, we need to remain supportive, empathetic, inventive, passionate, and above all, cooperative in our mission. In this regard, the UNDP relies on support of Zagatala Authorities and USAID during the project implementation in 2019-2022 and we hope that this cooperation will be expanded in the future.

Thank you! CHOKH SAG OLUN! 

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