Sevara Ulfanova is a young teacher whose family left Uzbekistan as refugees in 1989 to settle in Ahmedabad village in Sabirabad. She grew up warmly accepted as a member of the village. Sevara’s love for her adopted village compelled her to become a teacher in the same secondary school from which she graduated.
When Socio-Economic Development Activities (SEDA) in Azerbaijan facilitated Community Development Council (CDC) elections in Ahmedabad in July 2012, Sevara was the first to arrive. She was excited to learn about the new opportunities that SEDA offered citizens. “I had never participated in solving any problem in our village, or in any elections,” she said. “I always refrained from sharing my thoughts with others. I never thought that they would be important.”
Although she was nervous, Sevara summoned her confidence and courage, requesting to be nominated to the CDC.
“Surely, you will succeed,” the other women encouraged her. “You are energetic and active.” Men agreed that Sevara’s name should be on the candidate list.
When a majority of community members raised their hands, voting for Sevara, her heart swelled with pride. “SEDA gave me hope, and I am grateful,” she said. “They also raised my self-confidence and enabled me to be part of this open and transparent election process in Ahmedabad.”
Sevara is among 75 women and 95 men elected to serve voluntarily on 18 CDCs. SEDA has provided the opportunity for 3,571 citizens, including women, men, youth and the elderly, to come together in a participatory process to identify community socio-economic development priorities and propose solutions to address them.
“I keep thinking about the problems in our village and identifying ways to resolve them,” Sevara said.
In close collaboration with the Ministry of Economic Development’s local offices and local ExComs, SEDA selected 25 communities. Project Evaluation Commissions have identified the first five community socio-economic projects that will receive SEDA support. SEDA plans to support 150 community socio-economic projects in the next four years and 12 cluster community projects that affect several communities.