21 Jul 2022
By: Abdulfattoh Shafiev

Migrant workers don’t always return home with pockets full of money and sweets for the family. Sometimes, what is brought home is depression, a disability, even a dead body.  

In Tajikistan, with a population of ten million and a country known as a top-three remittance-dependent country, migrant workers get disabled, imprisoned, killed or even disappear abroad. 

Nigora is 10 but has never seen her father. Shortly before birth, he was imprisoned while working abroad as a labour migrant. To this day, the only question she asks on rare phone calls with him is when he will ever return home. 

In a neighbouring village, Robiya’s husband recently returned from abroad. Along with the happiness of his return came new challenges to the life of his family. While he was away, on a cold winter's night he faced a group of local bandits and was stabbed 25 times. A miracle saved him, but not his ability to walk and to work. 

Dodarbek Khayrov with his wife. The father of two struggles to make ends meet for the family after losing his legs in an incident abroad. IOM aims to empower them on becoming financially independent. Dusti district, Khatlon province, Tajikistan.

“When my husband returned in this condition my youngest out of four children was just a year old. I had to accept a cleaning job offer to take care of my family. I rushed to work, took care of four small children and a frustrated husband, who was not able to move anymore” says Robiya. 

Dodarbek was a teenager when he migrated. On his way back he was robbed on the train, beaten, thrown into the snowy wilderness and tragically lost his feet to injury and frostbite.

Different life situations have forced Tajik migrants to stop their work abroad, interrupting the flow of remittances.  

This has led to the existence of an extremely vulnerable and marginalized group in Tajik society, the so-called “Abandoned Families”. Parents, wives, children are left alone to deal with their loss, grief, and financial challenges back home. 

Limited support from communities and relatives is not enough to help them re-establish their lives. This is when the international community backed up by the Government of Tajikistan can help.   

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) alongside four other UN agencies: UN Women, UNICEF, and FAO jointly initiated a project to help families left behind by migrant breadwinners.  The Central Asian republic is supported by the Migration Multi-Partner Trust Fund, a joint UN mechanism to address migrants’ needs globally. 

Robiya shares her experience after her husband lost his ability to walk. Working hard, she raised four children whilst taking care of her husband. Dusti district, Khatlon province, Tajikistan. IOM/Abdulfattoh Shafiev

This initiative aims to empower the women left behind, most of whom have limited education, are financially dependent, and suffer social stigma, psychological stress, and poverty.  

In line with national and international global frameworks to reduce vulnerabilities of migrant families, provision of jobs and advancing the role of women in society is a priority.  

Specifically, it will work with selected families to provide them better access to psycho-social, legal, and financial services, whilst the UN will train them and help them to generate income.  

Cristina Tranca, IOM Chief of Mission in Tajikistan, says: “Migrants indeed have to undergo a great deal. Sometimes, returning breadwinners are victims of unfortunate circumstances which can bring home hardships to the family. Our aim with this joint initiative is to empower families to get back on their feet by supporting their independence and the journey to rebuilding their lives.”  

SDG 1 - No Poverty
SDG 5 - Gender Equality
SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals