Hamrohkon Toirova’s barber shop has only been open since last fall, but she already has a regular clientele that covers her expenses and provides her family with 20 percent more income that they used to have. With her newfound economic power, she has also earned more influence in family decisions and priorities. But just a short time ago, Toirova’s life looked very different.
Toirova lives in Qurghonteppa, the main city center in southwestern Tajikistan’s Khatlon province. In 2008, she left her banking job to care for her three younger children. She and her family were fortunate – her husband and oldest son both had jobs in Tajikistan that covered expenses, unlike many of their peers who migrate to Russia for low-paying jobs and send what money they make back to their wives and children.
For the next eight years, Toirova spent her time caring for her family and doing household chores, but thought constantly about starting her own business.
In early 2016, Toirova visited her neighborhood center and saw a professional training. Her interest piqued, she found out that it was a Feed the Future business start-up training, which coaches participants through brainstorming ideas for businesses and then trains them in small business management and financial literacy. It was exactly what Toirova had been looking for, and she participated in the very next training.
Because her family already owned a small office space that was sitting empty, Toirova decided that she would open a women’s beauty salon. As she looked around her community, however, she saw many young men who had returned from Russia and were unable to find work. So she changed her business plan: She would open a men’s barber shop instead.
When Toirova’s husband learned that his wife’s business could provide jobs for Tajik men so they could stay in the country with their families, he saw the value that the shop would have not only for his family, but also his community. The family pooled their resources to hire staff and buy equipment, and Toirova officially launched her business. Today, her barber shop is thriving, and she’s created jobs in her community.
Toirova’s determination is also influencing the next generation of women. Her 20-year-old daughter, Marhabo, recently started her own business too, offering English and Russian language tutoring to children and older students.
Since 2014, the Feed the Future Women’s Entrepreneurship for Empowerment Project has supported 220 women just like Toirova in starting their own businesses. In addition to business and financial management training, the Feed the Future project has also established vocational training centers in weaving, handicrafts, baking, and even greenhouse seedling production. Once businesses are functioning, the project creates networking opportunities to connect women across Tajikistan so they can share best practices and ideas with one another.
Because of her and her daughter’s thriving businesses, Toirova is often asked for advice by other women seeking to emulate her success. She asks them, “What do you have in your heart? What do you have in your hands? I’m not a seamstress, I’m not a cook. I used the talents and resources that I already had. You can too.”