2018 News

Leader speaks about family policies in former Soviet republic

The head of the Republic of Azerbaijan’s Office of the State Committee on Family, Women and Children Affairs was the Center for Social Development’s guest recently.

On August 1, Jeyran Rahmatullayeva presented “Family and Child Policies of Azerbaijan: From the Soviet Period to Today” at the Brown School.

The government ministry she leads designs policies affecting families, children and women in the former Soviet republic next to the Caspian Sea. She also supervises 11 family support centers nationwide.

“Charitable activity was prohibited under the Soviets,” she said. Something like social work existed in Azerbaijan until the 1920s through charity organizations set up by the local elite, including oil barons. When the Soviets took over in 1920, however, they abolished those programs.

The Soviets institutionalized many children, placing them in orphanages, boarding schools and facilities for children with disabilities. They also closed social service organizations and exiled or executed most of those organizations’ leaders, Rahmatullayeva said.

Azerbaijan broke free of Soviet rule in 1991. Today, the oil-rich republic’s population is about 10 million, including about 2 million refugees, with about 200,000 refugee children, she said. In 2011, Azerbaijan adopted a law requiring annual medical checkups of children under 18. In addition, the practice of institutionalizing children diminished, and the government set up family support centers, shelters and rehabilitation centers for people with disabilities.

Today, social work is a profession in Azerbaijan, and social workers assist at-risk families. They also identify children and women in need of special care, especially refugees, Rahmatullayeva said.

Before she started working for the Committee on Family, Women and Children Affairs, Rahmatullayeva worked in the civil sector building community-level services in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan’s president awarded her the Medal of Progress in 2016 for that work and her advocacy work in Azerbaijan.