As the world tunes in to watch the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, we pause to acknowledge the movement of sports and culture in building a better world. This ethos has been adopted by civil society in Khorog, Tajikistan, whereby recent sporting initiatives are empowering youth, notably young females and adolescents, to challenge gender stereotypes, assert their role in society and build structures for peace and security within the region.
To mark this initiative, the Gender and Sport Forum was held in June, 2021 – a collaborative effort with the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), the Youth and Sport Department (YSD) of GBAO, Youth Portfolio of the Regional Council for GBAO, and the Youth Board of the National Council for Tajikistan. With an aim to engage young adolescents in sports, the Forum also made use of the six newly constructed recreational facilities funded by the European Union. The participants of the Forum met with local community members, played a friendly volleyball game with the nation’s sole female volleyball team who are recent champions of a tournament in Tajikistan, and engaged in an interactive forum with the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Center of Khorog (IJCK).
“Sport was, is, and will remain one of the factors of building networks, peace, and stability. Therefore, relating the sport to only male or female is a dishonest approach. Sport is inclusive and we encourage boys and girls to enhance their skills and equally participate in the sport competitions at regional, national, and those outside of the boundaries of Tajikistan.”
Nazira Amirbekzoda, Deputy Governor, Government of GBAO
Members of the female volleyball club gave advice to the younger participants on how to keep balance in sport, family, and education, and how sports engagement can change lives. With some members of the team being mothers themselves, they highlighted how early positive encouragement can increase childhood involvement. Shodruz Shohmamadov, a recent kickboxing winner in Russia, originally from Eastern Tajikistan, also shared his experience of how sports has positively shaped his life.
Momentum leading up to the Forum was first built in May with opening ceremonies for a number of sporting facilities. The Andarsitez community were one of the first to create a special fund with contributions from residents for maintaining and operating facilities, and supporting youth participation in local and national competitions. Using various fundraising initiatives, the community played an integral role in planning, mobilising, and contributing to the ceremonies.
“There is a high sense of ownership felt from the civil society. Young people have been very active at all stages, at planning, designing, and construction of these facilities. They have played an active role in implementation of this project and their efforts has contributed to the successful construction work of these modern facilities”.
Manzura Bakhtdavlatova, Project Manager
Moving forward, the Aga Khan Foundation will be developing daily schedules and plans for the sporting facilities to ensure young people stay interested. These initiatives will pave the way for the next generation to join sports and are crucial for building a stable future in a region that has faced instability and fragility in the past.
“We strive to make sure that the connection is not lost between the current champions of GBAO and youth, hence we encourage all those engaged in sports engage more and more boys and girls to the path that they are following.”
Suraj Chorshanbiev, Head of YSD, GBAO
The sporting facilities and the Gender and Sport Forum were supported by the “Critical Infrastructure to Contribute to Stability and Peace in Khorog” project (IcSP) funded through the European Union (EU) and implemented by Aga Khan Foundation, Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) and Mountain Societies Development Support Program (MSDSP) in close partnership with Government of Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast. Implemented over a period of 24 months (October 2019 to September 2021), the IcSP project aims to foster peace and stability in Khorog Town by improving highly demanded public infrastructure and services, strengthening confidence in local authorities, and generating temporary employment opportunities through construction works.
This article was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the AKF and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union. For further information, please contact Partnerships Officer, AKF Tajikistan, Rukhshona Broimshoeva at: Rukhshona.Broimshoeva@akdn.org.