|Workshop participants in a planning session|
How many of our readers can locate Tajikistan on a map? It is strategically placed in the heart of Central Asia, and shares a 1400 km border with Afghanistan, a volatile border with Uzbekistan pocked by landmines, and a border with Kyrgyzstan which is not demarcated for stretches on end. Unemployment rates are as high as 80% in some regions, leading over two million Tajiks to search for work in Russia. Many here do not have electricity at home. We met an impressive young Tajik woman whose mother was a math teacher in Tajikistan, but found she could earn more money scrubbing toilets in Russia. She and her husband migrated to Russia to put her eldest daughter through university, which also meant that the eldest daughter suddenly had to raise her two sisters on her own. Last year, five young women killed themselves in a village in Gafurov within the span of one week, due to unhappy forced marriages and desperation resulting from their financial situation. Married women commit suicide to flee violent relationships, although this topic of conversation is taboo, meaning that many women have nowhere to turn to discuss their issues.
The young generation is particularly affected by the lack of employment opportunities, and there are few ways in which to spend their free time. Boredom and lack of perspective seem to increase their vulnerability to radical forces, which offer the youth a sense of brotherhood/sisterhood, financial support, and promises that the afterlife will be better than their present fate.
|A view up to the mountains of Tajikistan|
Twenty-two female community mobilizers and teachers came together to attend a five-day SAVE Mothers for Change! teamshaping workshop in Khujand, where they gained a strong group identity and announced their commitment to sensitize mothers to their role in combating violent extremism. They reached the joint conclusion to launch “Mothers Schools” in villages in two regions in northern Tajikistan, to provide courses on combating radicalization and to offer classes on a range of other topics of interest, from how to raise children to agricultural techniques. The Mothers Schools will break new ground concerning women’s role in combating violent extremism.
|The Panjshanbe Market in Khujand|
The women’s dedication and passion for improving their communities was striking; although many of these women never received higher education, their ability to analytically assess their needs and develop potential best practices for implementation holds significant promise for women-driven change in Tajikistan.
In this desperate situation, the youth we are meeting in Dushanbe—young men and women who were educated abroad but have returned to build a new future for their country—provide a ray of hope.