Gender survey in Shakhrinav District, Tajikistan

Study areas

One administrative district (Shakhrinav) and three farms (Gulistan, Baratov and Bakhor) were selected for this gender survey.

Households and their owners

The rural type of households was selected to carry out this gender survey. Private farms were excluded from this survey. One hundred households with 933 residents were surveyed. Owing to the way of life formed for ages and a religion practiced (Islam), a woman in Tajikistan, as over the most part of Central Asia, was deprived of civil rights and humble. At present, according to respondents in the selected district, there are some changes in views of men and women on the role of women. Figure 1 shows that 78 percent of heads of households are men. 22 percent female respondents consider themselves as owners of households. These are widows or women whose husbands went to Russia in search of a job. Other women unconditionally identified men as leaders of their families.

Fig. 1

General characteristics of households and their sizes

As a result of land reform, the State has granted a farmland plot to each family a size of which varies from 0.1 to 0.3 hectares over the republic (Fig. 2). As regards a farmland plot, a rural inhabitant himself can decide what crops to grow and how to use output i.e. to sell or to use for own consumption. However, an area of a farmland plot is insufficient, and their cultivation is very labor-intensive. Nevertheless, income generated on a farmland plot is the main source for livelihood. In general, farmland plots are used for cultivating vegetables (0.18 ha), fruit, and grape (0.12 ha) (Fig. 2). Rural families have rather similar dwelling conditions. An area under house with adjoining sheds, cow-houses and other premises is 0.03 ha. Most families live in single-storey houses (walls of their houses made of a building material consisting of a mixture of clay and chopped straw), which were built many years ago.

Fig. 2

There are premises for fattening livestock in their yards (Table 2).

After gaining independence, livestock population in the republic has decreased as a whole, but especially cattle. Rural residents prefer to keep goats, sheep, yaks, and horses. An amount of horses is increasing because they are used as draft animals under conditions of deficit of agricultural machinery.

Since the form of land ownership and production are collective, peasants do not have their own cropland or rented land. In general, they work in collective farms or in state farms where they receive a wage, often in kind by agricultural produce.

Composition of a rural family

As a rule, a Tajik rural family is numerous (Table 3). A size of the family varies from 7 to 12 people. An average size of the family in the region is 9 people. A rural family consists of two spouses and children, whose number varies from three to nine people. An average number of children in the family make up 6 people. Composition of an average rural family is presented in Table 3. Sometimes, aged parents live together with them.

Birth rate

The study of the demographic situation in rural households reveals decrease in the population last years (Fig. 3). Decline in the birth rate characterizes the transition period (after disintegration of the USSR and gaining independence). Table 4 shows that there are mainly children of such age groups as “over 18 years old” and “below 14 years old” in rural households surveyed, but the age group “7 to 14 years old” is the most numerous among others (65 %).

Fig. 3

There are, on average, four and more children in rural families at the age of seven and older, in general. Children at the age below seven are met rarely. Respondents’ opinions regarding an optimal amount of children are different (Figure 4). 81.8 percent of women would like to have three children, at the same time, 91.8 percent of men consider that 4 to 6 children should be in the family. 48 percent of women and 84.8 percent of men gave the positive answer to a question: «Do you want to have any more children? », at the same time, 51.5 percent of women and 15.1 percent of men consider that they have enough children in their families (Figure 5)

Fig. 4

Fig. 5

Tajiks amount to 92 percent of the population and dominate among other ethnic groups.

Marriage age (nubility)

In oriental countries, families large in number are in line with the long-lived tradition, which determined the age criteria under creating new families. A family large in number tries to marry off daughters at the age of 18 and younger in order to get rid of “superfluous mouth” and to receive bribe-money. They also try to give their older son in marriage as early as possible in order to obtain a helper (daughter-in-law) for the senescent mother. Naturally, at that age, young people did not yet acquire a profession and were not able to endow their families. During the Soviet period, gradual receding of this tradition was being observed over the country as a whole. The law on general secondary education was adopted in the country. Higher education also was accessible, and rural parents made efforts to educate their children. Many of them had opportunities for training in cities.

Nevertheless, traditions were still very strong in rural areas, and at that time, marriageable girls educated have been rated beneath uneducated ones, because educated girls had stronger career aspirations and were not good helpers in the family. In recent years, there is the tendency of turning back to old traditions. First of all, this is related to a low economic potential for educating children. The marriage age of rural inhabitants under consideration is given in Figure 6. Most women (97.9%) got married at the age below 20. 73.7 percent of men got married at the age below 22, and 18.1 percent of men at the age below 25.

Fig. 6

Economic aspects

Forming the rural family’s budget

According to survey’s data, main sources of households’ income (Figure 7) are the following:

  • labor at a permanent place of employment or temporary work for a wage, by one or all capable members of a family;
  • personal garden plot;
  • state funds allocated to specific social groups of the population in the form of pensions, benefits, grants etc.; and
  • secondary employment;

Fig. 7

Other sources of income do not play an essential role in the family budget.

Major sources of income in surveyed households are the following: wage at a permanent place of employment (39.1%) and secondary employment (25.5%) that is necessary for poor families.

At the same time, respondents pointed that input of women into the family budget amounts to 19.3 percent (Fig. 8). Input of women into the family budget differs from that of men because women are mostly engaged in housekeeping and this workload cannot be measured in money terms. As a whole, a negligible amount of rural women has stable earnings, and women that are working in public institutions (medical care, education, and other services) may be included in this group. Incomes of these women do not differ from those of men working in the same sectors. As a whole, input of women into the family budget (Fig. 9) consists of wage at a permanent place of employment (8.6%), income generated on personal garden plots (7.3%), and secondary employment (3.1%).

Fig. 8

Fig. 9

With respect to input of women into the family budget, it is necessary to note the fact that 98 percent of male respondents and 100 percent of female respondents consider execution of housekeeping duties by women as their input into the total family budget. However, despite gradual improving social and economic situation in Tajikistan, the standard of life remains at the extremely low level. The agricultural sector is in a sad state. Prices go up, and even according to official statistics, incomes of rural families are lese than a living wage (US$ 1 per day). Income per capita can be used as an indicator of the standard of living. It amounts to US$ 4.9 per month in Tajikistan. Only 0.1 percent of respondents gave a positive answer to the question: «Does current family income satisfy you? ».

Expenses of rural families

Earned income in rural families (Fig. 10) is distributed between the needs of the family itself and the production costs. The production costs include expenses for developing garden plots, purchase of seeds, household implements, and young cattle for fattening. Figure 10 shows that the production costs amount to 11.6 percent of income, and taking into account insufficient income of rural families, their agricultural production cannot be quite efficient and profitable.

Fig. 10

In their turn, funds allocated for the needs of the family are used for financing a number of items necessary for supporting the family’s life (Figure 11) that consist of the following:

  • foodstuff;
  • non-food items;
  • household needs;
  • medicines and medical services;
  • public utilities services;
  • education; and
  • other expenses.

Fig. 11

Expenses for foodstuff are a very important indication of family’s welfare. If these expenses exceed 20 percent of income then the income cannot be considered as sufficient. In our case, expenses for foodstuff, on average, make up 79.3 percent of income. However, it is necessary to note that the difference in expenses for food within the republic is considerable (from 50% to 95%) The proportion of families whose expenditures for food are about 50 percent is negligible, only 2.0 percent of all surveyed families. Other respondents spend the lion's share of incomes for food. Expenses for medical services (2.5%) and education (0.9 %) are also extremely small. Taking into consideration our attention to gender aspects, expenses of men and women for their own personal needs (for example, expenses for hygienic materials etc.) are of interest.

Tajik men and women cannot satisfy their personal needs in full and should hunt up some money from the very limited budget for themselves. Figure 12 shows that women spend only US$ 1.9 per month for their personal needs (0.02 percent of the total amount of family’s expenses).

Fig. 12

Foodstuff consumption

The amount of foodstuff consumed is quite different not only between families but also between regions. Regional differences are caused by the location of residence and national, religious, and other traditions. A specific diet (quantity and quality of different foodstuff) of each family depends on the financial status of the family, tastes, and the level of health of its members, as well as the age structure. However, there are so-called medical rates of food consumption, and their infringement results in abnormalities in development and vital functions of a human being. One should not associate these medical rates with a basket of goods, which directly depends on the economic status of the region as a whole. These medical rates can be considered as the standard for the balanced nutrition. A specific amount and combination of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins provide calories to a human being’s organism, ensuring his mental and physical abilities.

The following situation was revealed in the process of analyzing foodstuff consumption in an average rural family in Tajikistan (Fig. 13).

Fig. 13

Based on foodstuff consumption’s data of an average rural family in Tajikistan, it may state that their nutrition is not good-balanced. Carbohydrates dominate in their nutrition at the expense of consumption of bread – 12.7 kg/month against a medical rate of 9.2 kg/month; however, there is the lack of proteins due to insufficient consumption of meat, milk, and eggs. Consumption of vegetables and fruit providing vitamins is also insufficient. All these defects in their nutrition are caused by the financial situation in families.

Financial problems in the rural families do not enable them to keep the sufficient amount of livestock in their yards for domestic consumption and this naturally affects the quality of their diet. Only 37 percent of respondents keep cows in their yards; 35 percent of respondents keep sheep; and just 28 percent of respondents have possibilities to keep poultry. As a result, rural families consume meat products four times less than according to the medical rates. There is the similar situation regarding vegetables, fruits, and dairy products.

Gender status in a family

As has shown the survey, an understanding of gender relations among the rural population is at the low level, because they do not know a meaning of the term “gender.” Nevertheless, Figure 14 shows that respondents (28.2 percent of men and 31.3 percent of women) have answered that a woman has equal rights. Traditional oriental parenting of girls (future wives and mothers) requiring to be obedient to a husband - master has exerted great influence on a way of life of most women. Therefore, more than half women (65.6%) consider their destiny as to be subordinated to men. However, declared equality and the leading role of woman, even at the level of the family, cannot be an indicator of actual equality for their rights if women economically depend on their husbands or other members of their family. Under conditions of poverty, this dependence increases many times. Only then, it is possible to speak about the equality and leading role of women when they have rights to manage the family’s budget according to their discretion and to make decisions. Such an approach takes place at both the family level and at higher levels of the social hierarchy. According to data of the gender survey, only 5 percent of rural women in Tajikistan have rights to manage the family’s budget according to their discretion and to make decisions in men opinion, and 2 percent in women opinion (Fig. 15). In most cases (according to the opinion of 53.5 percent of men and 54.5 percent of women), decisions concerning the family budget are jointly made. However, it seems that this is a result of the despondency of men and wish of women to support their husbands in the process of distribution of extremely scanty means of living. The right to participate in decision-making concerning purchase is an important indicator of the status of women in the family.

Fig. 14

Fig. 15

In this case, procurement of non-routine goods and services for family’s needs, most likely, is kept in mind. 29.2 percent of men and 80.8 percent of women answered that they make decision concerning purchase asking an advice of their spouses (Fig. 16). According to the above diagram, 35.3 percent of men and 9.55 percent of women consider that, each member of the family has the right for making decision concerning purchase independently.

Fig. 16


An important matter of the gender problem is rural employment (both men and women). As was mentioned, the main sources of rural family’s income in surveyed districts of Tajikistan (39.1%) is wage work in collective farms and in state organizations. As was identified, income of women is about half the income of men. However, if we take into consideration that a woman carries out actually all housekeeping works and duties including cooking, laundering, cleaning, and bringing up children, it become obvious that she is engaged considerably more than a man. In comparing with a man, a woman spends her time for housekeeping more than 3 times (Fig. 17). In Table 4, we tried to show the time proportion in the workload on men and women in percent. Data of this table make it clear that men spend more time for a wage work (3.5 times) and working on their land plots (1.6 times), visiting a market (19 times), watching TV, meals, and sleeping (1.2 times).

Fig. 17

However, in spite of high housekeeping load and wage works in collective farms, Tajik women are ready to undertake responsibilities for managing their households.

Education and cultural aspects

The gender survey has shown that the level of education of peasants and their wives is rather high (Fig. 19). Their potential abilities are quite high, however, the existing economic situation does not allow their realization in full. It should be noted that most men and women with specialized secondary or higher education are in the age above 40 and have adult children. They obtained their professional skills prior to the beginning of the 1990s. Due to current conditions, most of them do not have the possibility to use their skill in the proper field of activity. Some of them are obliged to learn again in order to gain such a profession, which is called for at present. Women, for example, gain new professions such as bookkeeper, tailor etc. However, many rural inhabitants could not find possibilities for applying their professional skill, and should practice heavy manual agricultural works. 47.4 percent of respondents have secondary education i.e. they left a secondary school, 12.1 percent of respondents graduated from vocational schools, and 28.2 percent of respondents have higher or incomplete higher education. More than half men (61.6%) graduated from universities.

Fig. 18

Fig. 19

Leisure and entertainment of rural inhabitants is rather monotonous (Figure 20). Due to the lack of functioning cultural institutions (cultural centers, clubs, cinema theatres etc.) most respondents have quite limited possibilities for valuable leisure. As entertainment, almost one hundred percent of inhabitants prefer watching TV and meetings with friends. Young people prefer mainly to visit clubhouses; at the same time, older people prefer to read newspapers.

Fig. 20

Priority goals and personal features necessary for achieving success

Female respondents were asked to answer the following question: what goals do they have in their life? What does each woman aspire to in order to make sense of her life, to gain satisfaction, and to feel needed by her family and other people? Data of the gender survey shows that family’s happiness, health and welfare are the leading goal for rural women, and active participation in the social life (interesting job, good education etc.) is the secondary aspect of their life (Fig. 21). Although it should be noted that some women have ambitious aspirations to obtain the recognition of those around them and to have their own power.

Fig. 21

Women specified intellect, diligence, to be well-bred, honesty, adherence to principle, and education as chief personal features necessary for achieving success. They consider such features as strength of character, perseverance, selflessness i.e. those features that promote to be an active member of society as secondary features (Fig 22).

Fig. 22

Water use

The water management organization renders services on domestic-potable water supply to the population, institutions, and organizations in the district (Fig. 23). The District Irrigation Scheme Management distributes water for irrigation at the level of main irrigation canals, and land reclamation services (irrigators) manage on-farm water distribution.

Fig. 23

According to respondents, water supply services are not always accessible, and the existing systems cannot provide regular water supply (Fig. 24).

Fig. 24

The level of water supply is directly related to the seasonality, for example, in the winter period, pumps in artesian wells do not operate due to frequent interruptions in power supply. As a whole, it is possible to assert that water supply is not always even and regular. Only some households have the possibility to use the water-supply systems regularly. As regards irrigation, one can assert that some villages do not face the problem of water deficit for water applications. Although there are seasonal and hourly limitations in water delivery, however, respondents consider that water is quite accessible even in the summer period. (Fig. 25).

Fig. 25

According to 38 percent of respondents, water conflicts among inhabitants and between farms take place in the summer period (Fig. 26); however, these conflicts are settled with interference of the rural administration and aksakals (elders). The priorities are specified on the basis of mutual agreements, first of all, taking into consideration the needs and importance of water supply for specific uses. Although most respondents (78 %) consider that it is necessary to put the water-saving technologies into practice of household water supply and irrigation, however, nobody can answer what measures should be employed for proposed water saving.

Fig. 26

By the example of water allocation, it is possible to show that women have quite limited access to the decision-making process (Fig. 27). They can distribute water in own household but not at the farm level. Since they completely manage housekeeping, water use in households is the priority of women. It may be mentioned that women have quite uncertain ideas concerning water supply issues outside their own households.

Fig. 27

Household water use

According to data of the gender survey, 59 percent of rural households have a water-tap in their yards (Figure 28). Inhabitants who do not have a water post in their yards take potable water from a water post in the neighborhood (39%), and only one percent of respondents take water from wells. Figure 29 shows that, in general, women are busy with domestic water supply (99%), and teenagers help them (97%). According to women, they spend for water supply from 20 minutes to one and half hour every day.

Fig. 28

Rural residents, who do not have a tap water in their yards, use different variants for water storage. They can use water-storing tanks made of standard reinforced concrete pipes installed vertically on the ground surface. Most rural inhabitants keep water in 50-liter aluminum flasks, buckets or other available tanks.

A very important aspect is sanitary conditions for water supply, and water quality and safety, which residents do not adequately realize. Water in wells, which they use, may be considered as safe for their health in principle. Figure 30 shows that answering the question concerning observance of sanitary standards, 99 percent of respondents consider that water completely meets the sanitary standards, at the same time, 53 percent of respondents consider that water delivery may create risks for their health. 46 percent of respondents consider that there are not any problems with water delivery.

Fig. 29

Fig. 30

Land use

Because Tajik peasants were united in collective farms, they have purely theoretical ideas about land rights (Fig. 31).

From 85 to 99 percent of respondents consider that only a man:

  • allocates land plots for vegetable gardens;
  • has access to agricultural machinery;
  • has access to a market;
  • has the priority in receiving credits;
  • posses land and water rights;
  • makes decisions in regard with a crop pattern in a farm; and
  • has real access to a ready sale.

Fig. 31