News / Asia

Tajik Migrants: Both Parents Leaving for Work Puts a Strain on Those Left Behind

As many Tajik children lose both their parents to labor migration, this is placing an increasing burden on other family members left behind to look after them. (File Photo)As many Tajik children lose both their parents to labor migration, this is placing an increasing burden on other family members left behind to look after them. (File Photo)
x
As many Tajik children lose both their parents to labor migration, this is placing an increasing burden on other family members left behind to look after them. (File Photo)
As many Tajik children lose both their parents to labor migration, this is placing an increasing burden on other family members left behind to look after them. (File Photo)
Daisy SindelarSohibai Karomatullo
Ten-year-old Nigora has grown used to seeing her father and brother just once a year. 
 
Both men left Tajikistan several years ago to find regular work in Russia. But one month ago, her mother left as well, putting Nigora in the care of an older sister. This is something she has found harder to take.
 
"I don't know what my father does there," she says. "But my mother works as a seamstress. My brother makes tables and chairs. My mom left a month ago, but my brother and father left many years ago. They call me every day, but I still miss them. My mom told me that when they buy a place [in Russia], they will bring us all there."
 
Some 1 million Tajiks are estimated to be living and working outside their country, settling temporarily in Russia or other countries to find work.
 
It's a massive drain in a country of less than 8 million people. But it's labor migration that keeps impoverished Tajikistan afloat, with remittances of $3 billion accounting for nearly half of the country's GDP.
 
For years, it was men who traditionally left the country to make money. But since the global financial crisis in 2008-09, Tajik women have begun making the journey as well, accounting for as much as one-sixth of the outflow.
 
More Than They Bargained For
 
Many are able to find work as housekeepers, nannies, and cleaners. But their exodus has created a new demographic reality in Tajikistan: thousands of parentless children, left in the care of older siblings or more often grandparents, for years at a time.
 
Grandparents often serve as surrogate babysitters in close-knit Tajik families. But many say the daily rigors of full-time child care are more than they bargained for - and hard on the children as well.
 
Mamurbi, a 70-year-old pensioner living in the town of Qurghonteppa, some 100 kilometers south of Dushanbe, has been left taking care of seven grandchildren between the ages of 14 and 4.
 
Mamurbi raised three children of her own, but that hasn't been enough to prepare her for the realities of acting as disciplinarian in her newly unruly household.
 
"I try my best to do as much as I can," she says. "Mostly with kindness, but sometimes by force. I say to them, 'My dear children, don't do this.' But it's very difficult to bring up children without a man in the house. Thank God they listen to their uncle."
 
In Tursunzoda, a town near the Uzbek border, 60-year-old Shamsiya Shoimardonova is facing a similar dilemma. She says she "couldn't say no" when her daughter decided to leave for Russia and asked her mother to take in her four children. But now she says she has "slight regrets."
 
"Three of my grandchildren are hitting puberty, and it's very hard to find a common language with them," says Shoimardonova, who still works as a teacher at a children's art center.
 
She adds that the sheer physical labor is more than she accounted for. "During my lunch break I go home and make them a meal and then I go back to work. Then in the evening I go home and cook again, in addition to cleaning the house and doing the laundry," she says. "I'm already old. It's difficult for me."
 
'Deprived Of A Bright Future'
 
Few in Tajikistan deny the importance of remittances sent home by migrants like Shoimardonova's daughter, which can help pay for improved health care, education, and nutrition. But many say that two-parent migration leaves children exposed to a host of new problems.
 
In a report issued in November 2011, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said many Tajik children left behind by labor-migrant parents were vulnerable to bullying and suffered from depression and increased aggression.
 
According to Faizali Sukur, a sociologist in Dushanbe, parents should think twice about the two of them migrating, regardless of the financial benefits. "Those who have left their children here in Tajikistan and leave as labor migrants are making a serious mistake," he says. 
 
"You can't expect anything good to come of a child who grows up without constant parental supervision. Children are like young branches - you can bend them in whatever direction you like. Most of these children don't have a good education. They're being deprived of a bright future."
 
In Tursunzoda, Shoimardonova feels much the same. She thought her teaching experience would make it easy to take over care of her grandchildren. But she maintains that a grandparent, can never replace a parent.
 
"Sometimes the children remember their parents, and they start to cry," she says. "When I see that, I have to go to my bedroom and cry myself, in private."
 
Written in Prague by Daisy Sindelar based on reporting by Sohibai Karomatullo in Dushanbe
 
This article originally appeared at RFE/RL

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: anna from: south korea
December 20, 2012 8:55 PM
So sad all children should protect being loved, but i hope even one parent could come to live their children.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs