The Impact of Male Migration and Natural Disaster on Women Headed Households and Their Families
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Chronic poverty, high unemployment, and environmental degradation have driven many Tajik men in search for income opportunities across the former Soviet Union countries, leaving behind their families. Tajik women must then assume the burden of responsibility for taking care of the entire household, manage the fields, and all household chores. As a result, women perform multiple duties and live separately from their husband for a significant part of their married life. The situation grows worse for these women when natural disasters completely destroy their livelihoods. Nonetheless, the thought of improving their own and their children‘s lives give hope and strength to these women to shoulder these added burdens of the family. This study analyzes the impact of male migration and natural disaster on women headed household in rural Tajikistan through interviewing 18 women who were left behind to struggle for their survival. In this thesis, the findings show that the absence of men significantly reshaped the lives and altered the responsibilities of rural women. For some women, male migration brings personal autonomy, decision-making power, an increased workload, and remittances, while, for others, it also brings separation and divorce. Adding to the strain of coping with the absence of their husbands, the massive damage caused by disasters such as flooding and mudslides drastically impact these women‘s livelihoods. Even prior to disaster periods, women respondents already report facing enormous challenges attempting to maintain sufficient supplies of food for their families. Natural disasters only add to the vulnerabilities and insecurities for these women. Their inability to maintain nutritional levels force women to employ a number of coping mechanisms in order to mitigate and decrease the impact of severe insecurities on their families. This study is limited to a study of women living in the Khuroson and Kulob districts of the Khatlon Region, where the majority of the male population is away working as labor migrants in the Russian Federation. Eighteen women have been interviewed via phone. Practical observation was carried out from 2006 to 2009 and phone interview from May to July, 2011. This study present a coherent view of the shifting and challenging life of women heads of household in rural Tajikistan in the aftermath of natural disasters and male relatives who migrate abroad. Throughout this work, I attempt to represent my subjects and be their voice in order to enlighten other, outside communities to better understand the life of impoverished women in rural Tajikistan. I strive to attract the attention of stakeholders on the experiences of women left behind and attempt to provide insights into their struggle and coping strategies. As natural cataclysm and economic degradation are ongoing events in Tajikistan that causes out-male migration, a better understanding of people‘s personal experiences and needs are crucial for future effective relief strategies.