“You are more than these tears in your eyes and the blues in your hearts. You are stronger than you think, stronger than anyone thinks. Stop sobbing and start a new life here and now!”
About fifty rural women; widows, who lost migrant husbands, and wives, whose migrant husbands stopped supporting and contacting them, listen intently to the young lady giving them a motivational speech. Her story sounds like a fairytale and her audience can scarcely believe this young woman once was once in their situation but now is now a successful entrepreneur in her district.
Salima (name changed), 25 years, shared her personal story to groups of women at a series of motivational events under the United Nations’ #HeForShe campaign in Tajikistan’s south, a densely populated areas, prone to climate change and labour migration.
Once an IOM project beneficiary, Salima now runs a confectionary business, employs several local women, oozes confidence, and plans big for the future of her family and community.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UN Women jointly initiated this series of meetings as part of preparatory activities for a project to help families left behind by the migrant breadwinner in the Central Asian republic.
The project is supported by the Migration Multi-Partner Trust Fund, a joint UN mechanism to address migrants’ needs globally. This project, implemented in Tajikistan by four UN agencies – IOM, UN Women, UNICEF, and FAO, aims to empower the women left behind, most of whom are not well educated, are not financially independent, and suffer social stigma, psychological stresses, and poverty.
It is in line with national and international global frameworks to reduce vulnerabilities of migrant families, provide with jobs and advance the role of women in society.
Salima told the women at the meetings: “I am one of nine children. I did not complete my high school, as we could not afford it. I was married away at young age to a man I’d never seen before. I suffered a lot of abuse by my husband and his family, with which I used to be left alone when my husband was in Russia for work. I forced to leave this house of sorrow when I gave birth to a disabled child”.
The women in the rooms wipe the tears from their cheeks. Many lines of this story are well familiar for them - incomplete education, unhappy marriage, migrant husband, abusive relationships, harassment, and worst of all for them - hungry children. These are miseries many of the women are going through these days.
Tajikistan (population ten million) is a source of hundreds of thousands migrant workers, who mostly work in the Russian Federation. About 85% of them are male and less than a quarter of them migrate with their wives. Different life situations force some Tajik men working abroad to cease contact with their families and stop sending remittances. This has led to the existence of an extremely vulnerable and marginalized group in Tajik society, the so-called ‘abandoned families’ of migrant workers.
This project has selected some 700 most vulnerable women left behind in Tajikistan and will work to provide them better access to psycho-social, legal, and financial services. The UN will train them and help them to generate income. The final aim is to help these women to be the type of person Salima is now – happy and successful.
After leaving her husband’s family she studied study baking, launched a start-up, learnt marketing, and now she dominates the local sweet market. The local government praises her, she attends fairs, wins contests, and tours nearby communities motivating other women to follow her path, where she tells them:
“If anyone thought that a young, uneducated girl from a remote village with no money and no connections, with a disabled child and unsupportive community around her, cannot build a new, happy life, I am a living example that this type of thinking is wrong. I know that I am not the first to succeed and I believe, I will not be the last. The road is paved; run, ladies!”