It takes courage to go for a drastic career change of profession, especially if it goes against stereotypes, but curiosity and family support can take you a long way. This is how it was for Gulraftor Nazaralieva, a 24-year-old history teacher, whose curiosity led her to join two-months course on refrigeration technology.
The demand for refrigerating technology is particularly on the rise in Tajikistan, where summers start early, las long, and can get as hot as 46 degrees during peak season. UNDP carries out a number of activities to help Tajikistan comply with its commitment to the Montreal Protocol by phasing out the use of Hydrochlorofluorocarbons with high Ozone depletion potential (ODP), including through shift to alternative technology with zero ODP and low global warming potential. Such technology, however, requires higher safety measurements in handling.
Initially, family safety was what motivated the young history teacher, but it has now opened up a perspective for a higher-paid job for her. “I saw the board announcement in the college, where I teach. We all use refrigerators and air-conditioners and when I realized that some refrigerating technology used in domestic appliances can be dangerous to handle, I thought I need to learn to handle them safely,” Gulraftor says.
Gulraftor and six other women joined the course mostly attended by men to learn the refrigerants’ impact on environment, their level of toxicity and combustion, as many types of freon are harmful both for human health and the environment. These women’s choice is not typical in Tajikistan.
Recent gender assessment of the sector by UNDP has shown that women make up less than four percent of labor force in construction sector, which includes Refrigeration and air-conditioning (RAC) systems repair and maintenance. The experts conclude that underrepresentation in high-demand technology sector and overrepresentation in humanities, teaching, and medical sphere is one of the key reasons behind pay-gap in Tajikistan. On average a woman earns 64 cents for every dollar earned by a man.
The disparity starts with education. The percentage of girls choosing technology as their major is extremely low, ranging from 0.7 to less than five in such sectors as transportation, energy, radio electronic technology, construction, and ICT. There are some legislative barriers, too. An outdated legal act banning women from heavy work serves as a limiting factor for women to be hired in a range of higher-paid types of jobs. Initially put in place as a measure to protect women’s health, experts find this act discriminatory particularly as new heavy lifting technology make it obsolete.
The mother of two says she found it difficult at first to juggle between work, family, and the courses, but her husband’s support and encouragement had kept her going in her new journey. Now she is a certified specialist in RAC repair and maintenance and is listed for potential employment by private stakeholders. Many large enterprises and tech-markets need specialists like Gulraftor to ensure the quality of their work complies with international standards.