Alumni Interview #7: Meerim Osmonalieva

Impressions and thoughts from SPS alumni on their experiences with the Schools of Political Studies

 Meerim Osmonalieva (Kyrgyzstan)

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1) Tell us about yourself, your professional and academic interests, education, work experiences or other things you believe are important to know you better.

My name is Meerim Osmonalieva, I am a member of the Civic Education Academy in Kyrgyzstan. Since 2017 I am a country director of ‘Oasis Kyrgyzstan’ foundation that supports vulnerable and marginalised groups: children without parental care, care leavers (graduates of orphanages and boarding schools), victims of violence and human-trafficking, street children and single mothers in crisis.

For two years, my team and I have been working on lobbying the law on post-institutional support for graduates of residential institutions in Kyrgyzstan (orphanages, boarding schools). We are also working with the Ministry of Education to develop, for the first time, a whole programme on social adaptation and integration of vulnerable children, young people into society through formal and informal education.
Even if our government does not yet put enough attention to the most vulnerable groups of society, it is very important for civil society activists to promote inclusion, human rights and social justice. Those actions are necessary for a healthy society and democracy because marginalised and excluded communities can become a threat or a risk in the future if we ignore them. Therefore, I made several presentations for participants and experts of the Academy of Civic Education focused on social justice and social responsibility.

2) Which SPS did you attend and in which year did you graduate?

I am a graduate of the Academy of Civic Education in 2016, a one-year program that consisted of four sessions in different regions of Kyrgyzstan. Some of the active participants also had the opportunity to go to the World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg.
The Academy of Civic Education is one of the few platforms in Central Asia and Kyrgyzstan that offers a non-formal education and is creating a community of strong leaders that have an influence on many areas and processes and can carry out reforms. We regularly cooperate with each other, we help implement our projects and strengthen each other.

3) What was your most memorable experience during the training cycle?

I have two of the most memorable moments. One of them is our third session that was organised in a geographically remote region that is complex not only for Kyrgyzstan but for Central Asia as well: Batken region. The region consists of six enclaves of neighboring States (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan) and 3/4 of the territory is considered as international. The borders between the three States are overlapping between the houses, which is creating a lot of conflicts and misunderstandings between residents and representatives of different ethnic groups. For this reason, this area is always on the verge of military mobilization. We visited several enclaves and met with local military members, leaders of different ethnic communities and community leaders. Almost all members of the Academy had never been to Batken region and did not know how fragile the peace and stability of this area is.
The second most memorable moment was when I was actively involved in the development of the Manifesto document "Bashtan Basta!" in which the civic activists from our Academy offered their own independent vision of Kyrgyzstan's development. The core of my contribution was the call for civil society to participate actively in decision-making processes and governance through social partnership. This document was presented to more than 200 politicians, civil activists, experts and journalists and aimed at encouraging society to be actively involved in reading political programs and strategic documents before voting.

4) What were your impressions of World Forum for Democracy?

Since I am interested in a non-formal civic education and work with the vulnerable and marginalized youth, children (graduates of orphanages, victims of human-trafficking and violence), it was very exciting for me to take part in the World Forum for Democracy in 2016 that was devoted to the role of education in promoting democracy. I participated in several panel discussions on the topic of recognition, validation and evaluation of non-formal education, where experts and leaders of various civic movements from different countries shared their experiences of the development of civic communities, the organisation of legitimate protests in defense of human rights, methods of assessing the development and recognition of non-formal education. It was interesting to see in how many countries it is still difficult to assess and recognize the results of non-formal education.
We also attended the debate by French politicians who discussed the problems of populism. Later we took part in the discussion of leaders of Schools of Political Studies, this was when I got to know more about the work of other Schools.

5) You also took part of the Civic Roundtable in Thessaloniki on the theme “Crisis of Multilateralism”. What were your impressions of the event?

In my professional activity I regurarly cooperate with international organisations working in Kyrgyzstan. Many of them focus their development programmes on developing countries like Kyrgyzstan and the slightest change in the international arena has a momentary impact on aid policy, programmes in my country. I see positive and negative changes in the policies of organisations such as the European Commission, UNICEF, UNDP and others, however it is very difficult to trace the chain of why these changes occur. That is why the participation in the Civic Roundtable was very informative and help me understand the international trends and problems faced by international multilateral organisations.
Better understanding of dynamics within international organizations and aid policies is important for the work of my organisation. We can adjust the behavior and develop new methods of work for cooperation with multilateral organisations.

6) If you could think of a theme for the new training cycle what would it be?

Methods of monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of political programs in various spheres of state institutions, political parties. How to ensure transparency during political decision-making process?

7) What are you up to nowadays?

After nine years of work experience, I am planning to continue my education and get a master degree in social policy/public policy in the UK. I have already received offers from several universities, so I am now in the process of making my decision.
In addition, as a co-founder of the Chess Academy, which is the only affiliated training center of the World Chess Federation FIDE in Central Asia, I continue to support professional chess players and invest in the development of the young generation of chess players.