Gulrivoj Mirova, 17, has gone against the stereotypical perception of women in Tajik society by simply choosing to be an electrician. To her, it is a childhood dream come true. “I used to stand next to electricians, when they came to us [to fix something], flood them with questions and watch closely as they worked,” she says. To her village, however, it is a question of necessity.
Makhshevad, a small village in the mountainous Ayni district, Northern Tajikistan, is home to 2149 inhabitants. Like many remote areas of Tajikistan, it suffers from labour migration, mostly men leaving their homes to go to urban areas or out of the country in search of job. This leaves the village with an ever-increasing lack of workers in professions that were inherently considered masculine. Energy sector is one of those.
The Ayni Vocational Technical Lyceum, where Gulrivoj is enrolled in her third month, trains young people from the nearby villages to give them skills that are on demand in the area. Most of the young women and girls still stick to learning crafts that are traditionally considered fit for women, such as sewing and embroidery.
About half of the school’s more than 250 students are young women, but only four have broken the pattern and gone ahead to pursue a masculine profession. The job market for their services seems promising.
“In recent years, there were practically no electricians in our village, which is located far from the centre of Jamoat [lowest administrative unit comprised of several villages], and we have to wait long before an electrician comes to repair the line,” Gulrivoj continues her story.
The bilateral agreement between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan on building two hydro-power stations on Zarafshan River signed this year opens even wider perspectives for her specialization. The school is getting ready for the increasing demand by attracting more students to its technical department.
“To promote social and economic opportunities for women and youth, UNDP with the financial support from the Russian Federation conducted repairing works in the premises of lyceum, equipped and provided with visual materials, etc. At the request of the residents of the district, carried out a major overhaul of the dormitory for 40 girls,” says Nozirjon Solijonov, UNDP Local Development Specialist.
Refurbishment of the premises to accommodate students from more distant villages has helped the school increase the overall number of enrolments. Yet, there is a long road ahead to attract girls to the technical sector. Despite the obvious lack of specialists in this field, parents and relatives are hesitant to let girls and women pursue a technical profession.
Bosimbek Tolibov, Deputy Director for Production Training at the lyceum, says that admission of these four girls to the “male” specialty had attracted public attention. Some people came to the lyceum specifically to see what a girl working with a screwdriver looks like. To an extent, this curiosity has helped smooth the stereotypical way of thinking. “The very same people that came to watch the girls work with screwdrivers are now asking us to admit their daughters to such departments,” Tolibov says.
As for Gulrivoj, she has already won her family’s delight towards her profession of choice. After just two months of training, Gulrivoj went home to repair all the sockets, change cartridges and professionally assemble electrical wires in the house.