In her previous job at a local bank, one of Mahri Rejepova’s responsibilities was to provide support to people who were struggling with banking.
She remembered how she used to keep a glass for water and a chair next to her table for the elderly people to whom she provided assistance, in order to comfort them with their problems.
“Being overwhelmed with their concerns, these people would sometimes be aggressive, and they would not accept any advice until they calm down” recalls Mahri.
Mahri tirelessly helped elderly people by explaining to them how the banking system works. This motivated her to pursue a profession where she could help her community and led her to go through the training in pedagogy and psychology despite her tertiary education in business-information and professional experience as a chief specialist at an accounting department of a local bank. She was delighted to learn from the job announcement of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of Population of Turkmenistan that she could join a group of people discovering a new profession – a specialist of social work. This group consists of 45 specialists who started to work within the framework of the UN-Turkmenistan Joint Programme on inclusive, quality and community-based social services. Along with many other successful candidates, Mahri was also recruited to contribute to the transformation of the social service provision system.
Being recruited as a specialist of social work created an opportunity for Mahri and her colleagues who wanted to build their future careers in social work to benefit from capacity building trainings within the framework of the Joint Programme. The first 10 days of Foundational training in social work were held in all regional centers of Turkmenistan by national trainers, who successfully completed online training in social work provided by the Bulgarian Institute of Social Activities and Practice.
Mahri said: “I thought I was tolerant, but these training increased my potential of acquiring informed tolerance, that is understanding issues of vulnerable people and improving my professional competency of working with them.”
Another specialist of social work, Aybolek Hudayberdiyeva, said that along with learning theoretical aspects of social work, she improved her communication skills required for working with vulnerable people and became more aware of her role in improving lives of others.
She said: “It is important to make our society inclusive, so that vulnerable people will have more opportunity to participate in life of their communities.”
It is interesting that the profession of social work is not only popular only among women, as it is commonly perceived. 27 of 45 specialist were men, and one of them, Seydylla Mustapayev, confidently said:
“I know how to conduct need assessments of people in difficult life situations that we will further use for creating individual support plans. It is very important to take an individual approach in social work.”
During the first stage of trainings, specialists in social work enhanced their knowledge by learning fundamental social work theories, and legislation regarding social protection in order to increase their competencies to provide help to people with different types of disabilities and people in difficult life situations. Moreover, they learnt the principles and ethics of social work, and the different types of assessment to be used in individual approaches to providing community-based social services.
UN-Turkmenistan Joint Programme on inclusive, quality and community-based social services aims to transform the social service provision system in Turkmenistan by building social workforce capacity, piloting a new model of social services, and creating legislative and regulatory framework to make changes sustainable.