Breaking Stereotypes in Southern Tajikistan - Supporting Women in Agriculture
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A women on a tractor is not a common sight in Tudaboyon village, a village which lies by the border with Afghanistan. Despite women in Tajikistan increasingly taking on agricultural responsibilities and working the fields whilst their husbands and sons have migrated to Russia for work; there are still some things that are not considered normal or appropriate for women to do.
Gulshanbi Zardova has never cared much for conforming to these stereotypes. When in High School during Soviet times she was offered to learn how to use a tractor, she eagerly took the chance, even if only one other young woman was interested. Since then she has always had an interest in agricultural machinery and driving tractors.
Gulshanbi never owned her own tractor until April 2017 when she applied and succeeded in becoming an IOM in-kind business grant beneficiary and received the mini-tractor she requested. Applying for the grant, Gulshanbi was not confident she would be selected as she knew the process is very competitive, however she could hardly believe when she was given the news that her application was successful.
Since marrying over 30 years ago, Gulshanbi has had to contribute more to her household than women in other families nearby. Her husband is one of the several thousand Tajiks who were sent to Chernobyl to clean up after the nuclear disaster in 1986 and suffers from debilitating health problems, making it hard for him to work. Alarmingly the couple have also noticed health problems in some of their children which may be due to genetic mutations from the radiation. Gulshanbi’s son has been in the Russian Federation for many years as a labour migrant to help support the family and contribute to their medical care.
With her tractor she not only provides agricultural services for members of her own community but recently she has also received requests from three neighbouring villages. In the past the community had to cultivate their land manually which requires a lot of time and effort, with Gulshanbi’s services they save time which can be spent on other tasks.
The grant created a job for Gulshanbi as well as for her whole family. She has taught her son how to use the mini-tractor so now they both use it and the grant has provided him with an opportunity to come back from the Russian Federation. As to her husband, he is involved in the business as an administrator who registers orders and is responsible for record keeping and accountancy.
Using the income generated from the tractor the family has managed to buy a mower which can be attached to the tractor and can now offer that service to the community as well. Savings made from the tractor also helped them manage to pay for costs related to their son’s recent wedding.
Gulshanbi dreams about extending her business and next on the list would be buying a trailer to attach to the mini-tractor. That set up would be used to transport the fruits and vegetables produced in the community to local markets. This would give the tractor fanatic Gulshanbi even more business opportunities.
IOM’s in-kind grants program is a part of the Tajik-Afghan Integration, Resilience and Reform Building Programme, generously supported by the Government of the United Kingdom.