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First fashion modelling agency opens in N. Tajikistan
Aim is to give girls confidence, a profession
By Maks Maksudov
KHUDZHAND – Tajikistan’s first agency to train fashion models and sewing machine operators has opened to give women in the area new career prospects.
The Babadzhangafurov District administration in northern Tajikistan opened the Zebunisso agency, offering women and girls a place to spend free time, communicate with each other and learn to operate sewing machines.
The agency opened March 29 in Sughd Oblast’s most populous district. Of the region's 2.2 m, 325,000 live in the area, including 158,800 females, said Nigora Gaffarova, head of the district executive council’s Committee for Women’s and Family Affairs.
No education, no skills
“Very often, girls in Sughd Oblast get married without completing high school or learning a trade,” said Khotira Maksudov of the Regional Women's and Family Committee. “Poverty, separation from their husbands who often go to Russia to work, and humiliation by their in-laws sometimes drive them to suicide, like Katerina from Aleksandr Ostrovsky’s ‘The Storm.’”
Last year, Babadzhangafurov District authorities registered 59 female suicides – 34% higher than in all the other cities and districts of northern Tajikistan combined, Gaffarova said. This year has seen 24 female suicides so far, 30% more than all the other northern districts and no improvement from last year, she added.
“Nationwide, the incidence of female suicide has grown 9% this year, but Sughd Oblast is still in the lead with 17% over the average,” Valida Kakhorova, an activist from the organisation Tajiki Dukhtar, noted.
“Problems such as nervous breakdowns, family violence and the low standard of living had been piling up for years,” Gaffarova said.
To ward off potentially lethal depression among women, the Sughd Oblast administration decided to help women from low-income families obtain vocational training and jobs.
“The international organisation Vdokhnoveniye (Inspiration) offered financial support,” Gaffarova said. “It financed renovation of the space, formalisation of documents, and the purchase of 10 sewing machines and all the necessary materials.”
The fledgling agency has only two groups of 10 young women each so far, but it intends to expand to other districts.
Learning the basics
“The trainees began by learning the basics of tailoring,” dress-making instructor Nigor Shukurova said. “Later, they’ll learn to make Tajik and European garments and to decorate them with embroidery and beadwork. By the end of the course, each trainee will have sewn for herself five dresses for different seasons.”
“Every month, the girls will go onto the runway… to model their garments,” Shukurova said. “Fashion shows will be attended by local women, social activists, and government officials from all over Sughd Oblast.”
One of the trainees, who requested anonymity for family-related reasons, shared her story of coming to the modelling agency.
“My parents wanted me to get married at 16, and I’d quit school at 14,” she said. “My husband was 15 years older, and we didn’t live together long, since he went to work in Russia and found a girlfriend there.”
After that, the young woman had to return home, where her brother and his wife repeatedly hounded her for the smallest perceived failings. On the verge of suicide, she came to the agency to make something of her life.
“They not only teach me how to sew but also foster my self-confidence and convince me I can make a career,” she said. “After I finish the course, I’ll make dresses to order at home. It’s especially exciting that at the end of the course we’ll model our own garments at a fashion show. I hope other girls will be interested in that too, and will get the feeling we can work independently.”
She doesn’t know if she’ll be too shy to go onstage, she said. “But I would very much like to overcome my timidity and show off like those girls on TV.”
Plans to open similar modelling agencies in other districts are under discussion, Kakhorova said.
“If we find the money to purchase premises and equipment, we’ll be able to give hope to many Tajik girls who have no one to confide in,” she said.