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February 26, 2015
Now I Exist
“If a person has a passport, he exists. No passport, no person.”
This saying could be about me…
This year, autumn has been extraordinary. The sun is shining brighter than usual, and everything has a new glow. Today I received my identification from the government of Kazakhstan. There’s nothing unique about this – every citizen of Kazakhstan receives an ID on reaching 16 years of age. But I’m 31 and I’ve just received my ID for the first time!
It used to be that I simply didn’t exist in this world. I never participated in elections, I couldn’t get a job, I couldn’t register my address, and my three children couldn’t get birth certificates. I wasn’t able to enroll them in kindergarten, or, when they got older, in school!
I don’t know what the future would have been like, if workers from the public association “Orken” hadn’t come to Kainar-Bulak. As part of an EFCA program, they were conducting research on the psycho-social status of women with HIV. During the interview with the director of Orken, I talked about the challenges I faced. How I tried many times to apply for new documents, and how I begged and paid, and how nothing ever came of it.
They invited me to the “Orken” office, where I met with their staff members and learned more about their work. That very day they started to work with me to solve this issue that was so important to me. Nura Kokumbayevna Isseniyazova (director of the organization) was with me at every step of the way to find a solution. It turns out the process is not a simple one. Day by day, month by month, we gradually met all of the requirements. Now I know that there is a specific list of conditions which must be met for documents to be issued, that there is a law that gives me the right to an ID, and that it is crucial for people to be informed about their rights.
Today it is easy for me to describe how I received my ID, as if there had never been anger or frustration from my powerlessness. And there was plenty to be angry about – when I was young I wound up in prison, where I contracted HIV. When I got out, I didn’t have a home, a job, or an education…
Fortunately, I met the man of my life, and we live together. We have three children and they are all healthy. I have already started to apply for birth certifications for my children, and eventually I will apply for public benefits. I already know how to do it.
Now I work at public association “Orken”. Recently I was invited to attend a training in Almaty. It was the first time in my life I bought a plane ticket, the first time I stayed in a hotel, the first time I left Shymkent, and the first I time I saw Almaty. As I walked through the city I couldn’t believe it was me. Where did my fear go? I know where: it hid behind my ID. The writer Bulgakov was right – “If a person has a passport, he exists.” Now I exist, as a citizen of Kazakhstan.
I am very proud of my work at the organization. I want to help others like me. I can’t say with words how much EFCA and “Orken” have changed my life – so I’ll say it with my actions!
With the utmost respect, Vera