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Tajikistan: Religion Is Not an Obstacle to Women’s Personal Development

Stereotypes about religious woman being limited in some rights and opportunities are still widespread. However, our heroines break them by their experience and professional activity.

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Photo: ozodi.org
Photo: ozodi.org

In Tajik society, there are popular stereotypes of women not being able to succeed. This is especially true for religious women. However, women bear all the burdens of life and cope with them often more successfully than men. According to women, religion, which plays an important role in their lives, does not impede their personal development.

There are few representatives of other [besides Islam – Tr.] religions in Tajikistan. According to various sources, from 96% to 99% of the country’s population are representatives of the Muslim community. Most of them are Sunnis of the Hanafi madhhab; about 3% are Ismailis. In addition, there is a small number of the Russian Orthodox Church followers in the country, as well as Seventh-day Adventists, Baptists, Baha’ists and Catholics.

Lola Nasriddinova, the Head of the IRODA Public Organization. Photo: CABAR.asia
Lola Nasriddinova, the Head of the IRODA Public Organization. Photo: CABAR.asia

Lola Nasriddinova is one of the few women who, despite many obstacles, managed to break the stereotype; despite wearing a religious veil, she is recognized as a successful woman in the society. According to Lola, her dressing caused many problems on her path to success.

The Tajik authorities do not welcome hijab wearing by women. The hijab is considered as a female headwear alien to Tajiks and supposedly contributes to the radicalization of society. Wearing hijab is prohibited for women working in state institutions and banks; representatives of the Committee for Women and Family Affairs under the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan occasionally conduct raids and preventive conversations with women on the markets and streets of cities and regions of the country. Therefore, it is very difficult to build a career for a woman in a hijab in Tajikistan.

“Sure, it was difficult to achieve success under the popular stereotypes in the society, but I managed to overcome them. Regardless of your beliefs and religion, first you must be a human,” she says.

Today, difficulties are over and Lola Nasriddinova heads the IRODA Public Organization, which takes care of hundreds of children with autism. Nasriddinova was among the first in Tajikistan to offer a help to dozens of parents of children with special developmental needs, so that their children could also learn and develop. Lola’s father was Muslim, her mother – Orthodox Christian.

According to her, she never judged people who sought her help by their beliefs or religion. The most important thing to her is humanity, the capability to help those who need it. For her achievements, Lola won the prestigious prize for the human rights protection.

Lola’s husband Fazliddin Nasriddinov played a significant role in her success. He recalls the days when his wife took her first steps on the path to success:

“Of course, it was not easy, but I always told that she should progress ahead. Every time an obstacle appeared, I told her to be patient.”

Many women in Tajikistan, despite the problems, stereotypes, society’s pressure and difficult living conditions have become successful in small and medium-sized enterprises. Women like Lola are an example of the fact that following religious doctrines does not create obstacles for their development and work. On the contrary, they feel strong, smart, loving and proactive.

Nafisa Imranova. Photo from a personal Facebook page
Nafisa Imranova. Photo from a personal Facebook page

Nafisa Imranova professes Ismaili persuasion of Islam. Her religious affiliation never prevented her from achieving success in her professional career in the fashion industry.

“In our society, it is difficult to be a successful woman or a business lady, but you can credibly present yourself abroad. Some say that a woman must be successful, others say that she must stay at home, but it is the woman who should decide,” she says.

In early spring, Nafisa had a busy schedule. Before the spring holidays, national clothing designed by her is in great demand. Her main customers are representatives of government agencies, diplomatic institutions and guests from abroad.

Despite her young age, (she is 29), she is one of the most successful fashion designers in Tajikistan. At the beginning of 2020, in Paris, she received the UNESCO Prize for innovations in suzani and zarduzi (traditional Tajik embroidery) technologies.

Along with 35 competitors from Europe, Asia and Arab countries, she presented her designer clothes from the Navruz collection. Nafisa hopes that during the spring holidays she will see every successful woman wearing her works.

Conversations with our heroines showed that religious commitment cannot be an obstacle for women on their path to self-development and professional growth. It may even be an advantage, because at times of hardships, they always have strong support besides their families, and this is faith.

This article was prepared under IWPR project “Stability in Central Asia via Open Dialogue”.

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