The Great Tajik Bake-Off!

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Khursheda Ilchibekova has dreamed of having her own bakery since she was ten years old.

She grew up in the beautiful but troubled Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region in eastern Tajikistan, which was stricken by civil war and extreme poverty.

Life was especially hard for families with many small children, as was the case of Khursheda’s family of eight. The income from the little business which Khursheda’s parents operated was too small to put enough food on the table.

Seeing how difficult it was for her parents to make ends meet, the enterprising girl started her own business selling sunflower seed snacks after school.

She started learning about the market and began thinking of new products and services. She was able to help her parents with the family business by selling homemade pastry and this activity supported her through university. After graduation, she continued working on her business.

"With a growing number of happy customers, I decided to open the bakery I had always dreamed of. However, this was the point when I realized I needed to work more on my business skills, so I enrolled in management training at the University of Central Asia", said Khursheda.

The next step for her was when she heard of the IOM programme providing grants for small and medium enterprises. She applied right away, and her proposal was successful. She now has five employees including female migrants who returned to Tajikistan with little access to employment. Khursheda is planning to recruit and train more women to further develop her business.

Large numbers of people migrate out of Gorno-Badakshan every year, weakening this unique mountain community. Supporting local businesses is key to IOM’s work in the country, allowing people to stay close to their homes and families. 

“Life in Eastern Tajikistan is a daily struggle and earning an income is difficult, particularly for returning migrants," noted Cristina Gheorghe, IOM's chief of mission in Tajikistan. IOM is investing in the skills and knowledge of people like Khursheda, to build a stronger economy, where anyone, including migrants - men and women - can find dignified work.”