Thu, Oct 25, 2018 - Page 9 News List

Putting an end to abuse against women in Tajikistan

Rano Mahmurodova was regularly, and violently, beaten by her husband, until a groundbreaking project changed everything

By Liz Ford  /  The Guardian, PENJIKENT and JOMI, Tajikistan

Illustration: Mountain People

The change in behavior of Rano Mahmurodova’s husband was nothing short of a “miracle.”

Married at 18, the 42-year-old had spent more than two decades being physically and verbally assaulted by her husband, who was fueled by drink, drugs and unemployment.

Her five children would flinch and cower when their father was in the house, flying into violent rages. Their only respite was when he traveled to Russia for work.

However, then came Mahmurodova’s miracle. Her village, in the southern plains of Jomi, was selected for a pilot project aimed at reducing Tajikistan’s appalling levels of violence against women.

Mahmurodova’s family was selected by community elders to take part. Not only did her husband agree to participate when he returned from his latest stint in Russia, he gradually stopped drinking, stopped the abuse and apologized for causing her 22 years of pain.

“My husband is very grateful towards me,” Mahmurodova said, sitting on a patterned rug on the floor of her neat, one-story home, a white ceiling fan offering a slight cooling breeze on a stifling day.

“He said: ‘Thank you for tolerating me. I didn’t recognize how difficult it was to live with me.’ There were several attempts before from the community to talk to him and try to persuade him [to stop the abuse], but it didn’t work. But this time, I wonder how, it happened. It’s a miracle. I’m very happy that he changed,” she said.

Villages in Jomi and in the northern district of Penjikent were targeted for the Zindagii Shoista (Living with Dignity) project, implemented by five organizations — International Alert and Cesvi, together with local partners Farodis, Women of the Orient and Action, Development and Prosperity.

It was funded through the British government’s What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls initiative, a £25 million (US$32.38 million) global project launched in 2014 to collect evidence about the scale and impact of violence against women and girls, as well as potential ways to stop it.

Fourteen projects across Africa and Asia — ranging from couples’ counseling in Rwanda, to introducing school play time in Pakistan — are being funded through the What Works program, as well as research into the drivers, prevalence, and social and economic costs of violence.

The British Department for International Development wants the research to inform global projects and drive more money toward tackling the global pandemic.

The WHO estimates that one in three women worldwide — nearly 1 billion in all — will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, mostly from an intimate partner.

While men are not immune from abuse, globally women are more likely to be killed by a partner than men.

According to Tajik government figures, about one in five Tajik women who are in a partnership will experience some form of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

However, rights groups say that, if all women and incidences outside the home were included, the figure would be much higher.

Shame and stigma prevent women from reporting abuse.

A mountainous country wedged between Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China, Tajikistan is the poorest of the former Soviet Union republics.

Its high unemployment rates mean many men tread the well-worn path to Russia in search of work. The country is heavily dependent on remittances, which contributed almost one-third of Tajikistan’s GDP last year.

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