Joint Programme on introducing inclusive quality community-based social services to the social protection system of Turkmenistan was branded as “a very ambitious” when it was presented to the Joint SDG Fund donor community on August 20, 2020. It aims to transform the whole system of social service delivery in the country to reach out to the most vulnerable populations: piloting a new model of social service delivery, building social service workforce capacity, and creating legislative and regulatory framework to make sure that changes are sustainable. Overall, a new perception of social work and social workers are to be created as a result of these joint endeavors.
So, what is social work and who is a social worker? Why most of us imagine social worker as a person bringing food to a senior person living alone?
Social work can change people’s lives. It is not about charity, as many people think. It is about professionals who have special skills, knowledge and expertise to support people “so that they can achieve individual and collective wellbeing”. In the last decades, many countries reformed their social protection systems, going through deinstitutionalization and enhancing social work to change lives of thousands. Further, some international organizations that have consultative status with the United Nations initiated movements and alliances to reshape the significance of social work. They started the Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development, which is in line with the vision of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in creating just, equitable, tolerant and socially inclusive world where the needs of the most vulnerable people are met.
Within the framework of the Joint Programme, Turkmenistan is also taking important steps on enhancing education for social workers because as in any other helping profession, working with people who need social support requires special skills and professional competencies. There will be trainings for different stakeholders of the social service delivery system of the country. An experienced international company was contracted by the Joint Programme to hold online trainings for national trainers, who will consequently conduct face-to-face local trainings to social workers and social service workforce. About 400 people will be trained in social work, including 45 specialists of social work recruited within the framework of Joint Programme by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of Population of Turkmenistan. While social workers will cover theoretical and practical aspects of their profession, allies workforce will be trained on how to better support social work, social work managers will master relative managerial skills and knowledge in social work and social service providers will learn international practices and norms in providing inclusive community-based social services. It is expected that Turkmenistan social workers will become specialists equipped with necessary skills and tools to assess people’s needs and provide professional support to the most left behind guiding them through their journey to self-realization. Thus, enormous progress should be made to adhere to the international standards and keep up with global agendas in building up a more healthy and inclusive society through the new profession – a specialist of social work.
By the end of the Joint programme, we hope that people in Turkmenistan would see a social worker as a specialist holding a meeting with a family or individually, discussing their problems, assessing their needs, referring them to specialists, providing guidance in overcoming life challenges and becoming an active member of the community.
Joint Programme “Improving the system of social protection through the introduction of inclusive quality community-based social services in Turkmenistan” is implemented jointly by several UN agencies (UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC) and the Government of Turkmenistan. Key national partners are Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of Population of Turkmenistan, Ministry of Education of Turkmenistan and Ministry of Health and Medical Industries of Turkmenistan.