Supporting Survivors of Domestic Violence in Tajikistan

December 5, 2023
A woman and two men in professional clothing look to the camera.

Content warning: This story discusses gender-based and intimate partner violence.

For decades, Firuza’s (name changed) marriage was characterized by violence. “We had problems in our family, [such as] beatings,” Firuza shares. “[My husband] had a habit of raising his hand against me, making the whole family and myself utterly desolate.” Fearful of the societal implications of leaving, for both herself and her children, Firuza tolerated this abuse for more than thirty years. Yet, in 2022, when Firuza discovered her husband had struck their 23-year-old daughter, she decided to file for divorce, even if it meant fighting for her case against all odds.

“At the time, my daughter, Mariyam (name changed), was very depressed,” reflects Firuza. “We began searching for clinics and psychologists who would help her—and myself—find mental strength and peace.”

Fortunately, as Firuza started searching for professionals, her lawyer suggested exploring free counseling services provided by Femida, an NGO supporting survivors of domestic violence, trafficking, and vulnerable migrants. That’s how Firuza and her daughter met Shahlo Rakhimova, a psychologist at Femida who became their therapist, friend, and champion. “Ever since my daughter and I began attending Shahlo’s sessions, our outlook on life has started to shift. After a few sessions, I could sense something hard and rigid within me begin to thaw,” Firuza shares.

The counseling  Firuza and Mariyam received through Femida helped them during the challenges of the divorce. Having moved out of the family apartment, they had to figure out how to maintain sufficient income to meet rent.  It was during one of the counseling sessions that Shahlo advised Firuza to enroll in computer literacy courses provided by Femida. Femida offers these courses with backing from Eurasia Foundation’s Social Innovation in Central Asia (SICA) project.

In February 2023, Firuza and Mariyam enrolled in SICA-funded Femida courses on internet and social media usage, Microsoft Office basics, and essential entrepreneurial skills. For both mother and daughter, these courses were not only practical, but also provided a much-needed distraction from the grueling process of divorce. Their enrollment marked the beginning of their joint journey toward self-development and discovery. “Before, I had no idea how to make money from social media, but the instructor suggested we should learn to use Instagram for business, and I eagerly began devouring information on this,” shares Mariyam. Adds Firuza: “The course has essentially opened my eyes to a whole new world before me.”

Equipped with the newfound knowledge, mother and daughter launched a business on Instagram. Within a remarkably short period of just four months, they managed to amass more than 5,000 followers. The store currently garners nine to ten sales per day, which is enough to sustain Mariyam and Firuza financially.

The impact of the SICA grant extends beyond Firuza and her daughter. According to Mirzo Soliev, Director of Femida, the project has helped 29 survivors of domestic violence acquire computer skills and start their own businesses.

Furthermore, as part of the SICA grant, Femida developed a comprehensive strategic plan, overhauled their communication channels, and established computer classrooms for their beneficiaries. “We express our heartfelt gratitude to the SICA program for elevating our operations to a new level,” says Mirzo.

In summer 2023, Firuza’s divorce was finalized, marking the commencement of a new chapter in her life. She now aspires to buy her own apartment and has many plans ahead. Thanks to  the transformative courses that helped her achieve financial freedom, this dream has evolved from a mere aspiration into an attainable goal.