Central Asia, comprising five independent republics, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, is strategically positioned, acting as a bridge between Europe and Asia. Historically, Central Asia has been at the crossroads between different civilizations, largely because of the Silk Route which passed through this region, connecting Europe, West, South and East Asia. In Central Asia, issues of rural poverty and food security are prominent and social and economic deprivation persists. While many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Bangladesh try to generate employment for the poor through microcredit, Hathay Bunano Proshikhan Samity (HBPS) chose to provide direct employment opportunities for poor women in rural areas, with special preference given to disadvantaged groups. HBPS relies on local leaders to obtain information about the local workforce and infrastructure, and to raise awareness. Women's participation and leadership in social sectors is also being encouraged by the Japanese government.