Gaining the Power of Choice in Central Asia
We don’t usually spend time considering the impacts of human choice unless our power to choose for ourselves is taken away. But for many young women living in Central Asia, the right to choose how their lives unfold was never an option. Whether dictated by culture, circumstance, family, or poverty, their paths are often already set. These young women may never make their own decisions about their career, their spouse, or even how they spend their days.
It’s all too common for women in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan to surrender their chance for education and career to help their struggling families, frequently by marrying an older man or working as low-wage laborers.
But self-determination is a dream that many young women hold onto. And for the hundreds of women who received scholarships each year from Central Asia Institute, choosing education over old cultural norms allows them to discover their own power, their own ability to make the world a better place.
Whether in your own community or by lending support from afar, you have the opportunity to help these women exercise their right to choose the path their life takes. CAI works hard to identify and give financial support to women of all ages – pursuing their dreams of education in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan. And for a Tajiki teacher approaching the age of 50, the chance to make her own life choices is more important now than ever.
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A Lifelong Dream of Teaching in Tajikistan
“It is never too late to finish what you have started, even if it takes… decades to do it,” says Safarkhotun Navruzbekova. Safarkhotun is a 49-year-old teacher in Tajikistan. And this year, more than three decades after beginning her teaching journey, she will celebrate completing her university degree in Teaching Methodology.
Safarkhotun joined the Tajik Pedagogical College in 1986 and completed her diploma, a three-year degree in Teaching Methodology. In 1989, when she began teaching at School #7 in the Rushan District, the three-year diploma was the standard for teaching certification. She worked there for 24 years.
But the recent change in the Tajik education sector requirements rendered Safarkhotun’s three-year degree obsolete; teachers are now required to complete a full six years of university study. In 2015, Safarkhotun chose to continue pursuing this dream, a lifelong teaching career. She applied for a CAI scholarship to finish out the remaining three years of academic requirements and was accepted.
“CAI made me realize that everything is possible and that it is never too late to improve your life. If I hadn’t gotten a scholarship, I would’ve lost my job. It would’ve meant the end of my career, the end of my dreams. When I went back to university my biggest challenge wasn’t returning to university academic environment, but rather the paying of the tuition fees and meeting other expenses. I was seriously considering to drop out of the university since my family, and I faced a severe financial situation. Since the situation did not improve, I decided to drop out of the university. That was an awful day in my life. I knew that for the rest of my life I’d stay at home and work as a laborer on agricultural fields. Then I heard about CAI scholarship program and submitted my application for support. Fortunately, CAI accepted my application and provided me with an opportunity to continue with my education.”
Safarkhotun will return to her students at School #7 in the Rushan District, with her newly-completed six-year degree, to teach in September this year. She says, “I am learning about new ways and methods of teaching at the university. This will make me a better teacher. School children will benefit from my new enhanced knowledge and skills. My advice to others is that it is never too late to attend university. You may have lots of experience, but university education will open up a whole new world, life, and opportunities for you.”
Communities Benefit from Empowered Women and Educated Children
Creating paths toward education is one of the most valuable social and economic investments a developing nation can make. An educated female population correlates with lower child and mother mortality rates, and more education for children of both genders has been linked to less war and decreased poverty. A 2015 report found that by providing every child with access to education and practical skills, lower-income countries could boost their GDP by an average of 28% per year.
While we can’t always support the education sector of an entire nation, we can make huge impacts on the lives of individuals and communities. And those impacts add up, a promise of a better life that builds from person to person and begins to catch like wildfire. Central Asia Institute is committed to helping empower the women of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan as they find their power through education and use the skills learned to help others in their communities. We invite you to join us, as we help provide scholarships to the women of Central Asia who are destined for great things – and educated for the journey.