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Visible Voice: researching community health in Kyrgyzstan
Researching Community HealthVisible Voice in Rural Kyrgyzstan 1
Traditionally a nomadic people, many people living in rural areas remain dependent on herding and each year seasonal migrations take them to the summer pastures in the high mountain valleys.
Tolok village lies at an altitude of 2,600m in the Kochgor Valley close to the Son Kul lake. The village is home to about 800 people. The climate is dry, cold and windy. Few crops can be grown in these conditions.
Children play an important role in the everyday life of the village, Collecting water, looking after animals and younger children in the family. The water supply comes from a natural underground reservoir.
Each household requires around 40 litres of water each day and all of this has top be carried form the water pumps to the houses.
If you can get a friend to help you out that makes the job a lot easier. Mutual support isimportant in these remote mountain communities but increasing competition for pasture following the privatisation of land ownership is raising some challenges in the post soviet period.
Village diets are generally basic consisting of dairy products, tea and bread. Although thevillagers have animals, meat is usually reserved for special occasions. Few vegetables grow in this village.
With few jobs available in the villages these days social inequalities have increased with a fewfamilies owning large herds and ﬂocks while many others live a subsistence lifestyle herding for their rich neighbours.
We normally start our ﬁeld work with a village meeting where we explain the project, answer questions and discuss possible topics for ﬁlms and photo galleries.
Our research methods include: Conversational Interviews, Photo Observations, ParticipatoryVideo and Photography Workshops,Village Screenings and Collaborative Review Meetings.
Villagers decide on a topic, plan, photograph, ﬁlm and edit the material. In Kyrgyzstan stories often focus on the everyday working lives of men and women in the villages. Livestock breeding, not surprisingly, is a common topic.
Although the village administration is dominated by older men the participants in theworkshops are predominantly women and younger men. The ﬁlms are then presented to therest of the village for discussion of issues raised.
Taking part in a Visible Voice project doesn’t feel like being a participant in a research project. It’s more like working together to show the world what your life is like.