In her home country of Tajikstan, Zamira’s story is unusual: she was allowed to simply be a child, blissfully unaware of the hardships other young women regularly faced. Her parents rose from poverty, determined to protect their daughter from a culture that viewed girls and women as inferior, defined only in relation to their husbands, fathers, and brothers.
“But when I became a social worker,” Zamira says, “I started to see the difference.” She notes that she was “ashamed” to be in a better position than the girls with whom she was working – who’d been subjected to sexual abuse as children, then abandoned – and that this shame spurs her to action. “I see myself in between those who’ve been left behind,” she says, “and those who have power.” Zamira works to support individual girls and women, but also to bring about larger cultural change to a country that is slowly moving past its Soviet chapter. Her work with the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Population is helping to modernize the social services system of Tajikistan, and to normalize gender equity.
Her desire to give voice to the voiceless led Zamira to the Coady, where she has twin goals: to show herself as a model of what a Tajik woman can achieve in education and employment, and to improve her public speaking. It’s the “strongest weakness” she has, but she is dogmatic in her desire to speak for herself, and in doing so, for others. “Sometimes,” she says, “it can feel that I’m the only woman in the world who’s trying to change it.” Coming to Coady has shifted that fatigue: “Now I see I’m not the only one!” The women in her group all have “different angles, different perspectives, and are from different countries,” but their aim is the same: to make things a little better than they once were.