Tajikistan: Supporting Persons with Disabilities – A Girl Who Always Used to Cry Is Now Pursuing Her Dream

On November 11th, 2011, the World Cup qualification match between Japan and Tajikistan was held in Dushanbe, the capital city of Tajikistan. Tajikistan is a country that is rarely picked up by the Japanese media, but this day was an exception as the soccer match was broadcasted live in Japan and abruptly garnered attention of the people. As the one and only Japanese NGO that is active in Tajikistan, AAR JAPAN has been engaging in activities to support persons with disabilities (PWDs) since 2002, with the goal to improve the harsh conditions that surround them. The dressmaking class that was established in 2010, which aimed to promote vocational training and social participation of PWDs, has been very popular. AAR JAPAN staff member, Ayumi YASUDA reports on an interview with one of the trainees of the dressmaking course.

Dressmaking Course Trainee Shazoda SULTONBOYZODA (17 Years Old)

Shazoda shows us her favorite piece of clothing that she made herself. Her confident smile was memorable.

“I want to become a radio presenter,” Shazoda happily replied when asked what her future dream was. She is a graduate of the dressmaking course that AAR JAPAN operates. She lives with her mother and older sister in the city of Dushanbe. She was born with impairment in her spinal cord and depends on the use of crutches to walk. For 5 months between June and October of 2011, she attended the course twice a week and learned how to make clothes, including traditional Tajik clothing and embroidery.

May 2011- When medical specialist Mr. KONO (far left) visited her home, Shazoda (second from the left) was constantly in tears.

Before she began attending the dressmaking course, Shazoda preferred not to go outside and would always stay home and cry, thinking, “I can’t do anything because of my disabilities.” However, a major turning point in her life came around this past May. Medical specialist Mr. KAWANO, along with staff members of a union for PWDs, made a visit to her home and recommended that she joins the dressmaking course. 

She told us that in the beginning, she had no friends and was very nervous. However, as she attended the dressmaking course twice a week, she began to make new friends of her age and the course gradually became something that she looked forward to going. Once a week, AAR JAPAN holds a “Child Day Care Course,” which teaches rehabilitation activities like arts, crafts, and simple exercises to children with disabilities for occupational therapy. Shazoda proactively participated in this course as a volunteer and helped the trainers as well as the children every week.

Shazoda intently listens and learns from the course trainer Nigina (center). Nigina also has a disability in the lower half of her body and uses a wheelchair.

Her mother Umedova said, “I would have never imagined that she would brighten up so much like this, looking back on how she used to cry every day.” She added, “What makes us the happiest is her willingness to go outside.”

I have been going to the course once a week since I began my post in Tajikistan in June, but I have not once seen Shazoda crying. Her dream is to become a radio presenter. She apparently chose this as her future career after realizing how much she loved to talk during the conversations with her new friends at the course.

Shazoda (second from the left) and her friends at the graduation ceremony of the dressmaking course. Fourth from the left is AAR JAPAN staff member, Ayumi YASUDA.

A girl who always used to cry has developed the strength to step out of her home and now begun to pursue the things she wants to accomplish in her life. What encourages the PWDs and their families are the smallest chances. By seeing these people who are driven by the small chances, a different person is then encouraged, and musters the courage to take action. This cycle slowly becomes bigger and bigger.

What we can do on the field is nothing more than creating and spreading these small chances. I hope to continue to help create such small chances with as many PWDs in Tajikistan as possible. And I further hope to carry on our activities that would expand this positive cycle.

Ayumi YASUDA, AAR JAPAN Dushanbe Office
YASUDA has been working in AAR JAPAN’s Dushanbe Office since May 2011. After graduating from university, she worked in Nepal as a Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer, and later joined AAR JAPAN. She was part of the Great East Japan Earthquake emergency assistance project until April 2011. (Born in Miyagi Prefecture)