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)
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

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs