As someone who grew up in the former Soviet Union, I am always interested in what’s happening in the republics since they became independent. As a woman, I’m particularly interested in what life is like for girls in these countries, now the Internet and international media have arrived and completely changed the lay of the land.
A Day in the Life of a Typical Tajik Girl
Tajikistan is the poorest of the former Soviet republics – According to UNICEF, in 2006, 76% of Tajik girls and boys were living under the poverty line of $2.15 a day. 1 in 5 girls didn’t go to school, and stayed home to help their mothers or took on seasonal agricultural work.
School fees, plus the price of textbooks and shoes etc made it virtually impossible for many Tajik families to educate both their sons and daughters.
With unemployment and poverty rife, the priority was to school boys and hope girls would marry well. In ’06, UNICEF set up a programme to attract girls back to school with support of their families, in collaboration with the Tajikistan Ministry of Education and NGOs in the country.
Learning Life Lessons
Together, these organizations launched a life-skills based education programme in 50 selected Tajik schools where girls’ attendance was low. Over the past 3 and half years, Tajik girls have been encouraged to come to school to learn practical household skills. Once there, they also receive formal education.
The idea behind life skills-based education “is to demonstrate that school is valuable,” said UNICEF Child Development Officer Ikram Davronov. “This brings girls back to school and shows them that it gives them something for future life.”
Programming a Better Future
Tajik parents have warmed to the idea of allowing their daughters to return to school because the girls can learn practical skills that prove helpful at home. Once there, the girls learn reading, writing maths, and about HIV/AIDS prevention, conflict resolution and negotiation.
In Isfara, before the programme was implemented more than 300 schoolgirls were considered at risk of not completing compulsory primary education because of poverty. UNICEF jumped in to support life skills-based education in 10 schools in this district and in 40 other schools in five other districts around the country. By the end of 2006, 850 Tajik girls were benefiting from the life-skills education project.
Tajik Girls Speak Up
One of the best things about programmes such as these is that girls gain confidence and learn to think and speak for themselves. Let’s look at a case in point:
In August 2007 The Tajikistan Ministry of Education banned the hijab for school and university students.
In 2008, Davlatmoh Ismoilova, a Tajik student sued the Education Ministry over the ban. Despite having two appeals rejected, Daylatmoh captured her nation, and the world’s attention with her determination. Before the verdict was announced, she told RFE/ERL’s Tajik Service:
“I only want my freedom; I want to be free. No one should tell me, ‘Don’t wear a head scarf,’ or, ‘Don’t wear this or that.’ I have to able to make my own choices.”