Women for peace: Subhiya, Tajikistan

To mark International Women's Day 2016, for which the official theme is #PledgeForParity, we are profiling our peacebuilders around the world and asking them: What does gender parity mean for peace?

You can read all of their featured stories here.

Subhiya Mastonshoeva, Tajikistan

Subhiya Mastonshoeva is a Senior Project Officer working on countering violence against women and girls in Tajikistan.

Please describe your background and the project you are working on.

I have previously worked with Counterpart International on youth programming and with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on gender and anti-trafficking issues. At International Alert, I am currently implementing a project that uses economic empowerment as a tool for tackling violence against women and girls in villages in Tajikistan.

What are the challenges and opportunities for gender equality in Tajikistan, especially in the context of this project?

The main challenges for gender equality in Tajikistan are the traditional social norms and gender roles which are very deeply rooted and have a big impact on relationships at the level of families, communities and the wider public. This was clear early on in the research phase of our current project, which will aim to question these existing norms to change attitudes and behaviour.

What role, in your view, does gender and women's empowerment play in peace?

Major General Patrick Cammaert, the Deputy Force Commander of the United Nations Mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo, once said: "It is now more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier in modern wars.”

Conflicts impact men and women differently, but the interests of women are often neglected during the peace and reconciliation processes. I think that empowered women are the key agents for reconciliation and sustaining peace. In the context of Tajikistan, the exclusion of women from this process following the civil war is one of the reasons why the hatred is still present between the conflicting parties, since the issue of victims redress was never raised and dealt with.

Which women inspire you and why?

I am inspired by several famous women but my main inspiration is my mother, who managed to balance family life and a career in a traditional society like Tajikistan. She faced the same challenges in the early years of her marriage that the majority of women face in Tajikistan - fulfilling traditional gender roles by sacrificing self-development and never reaching ones full potential.

My mother got married at the age of 30, which is considered very late in Tajikistan. She raised four children, including twins, whilst living with her husband's family and managing all the traditional household chores and teaching maths at school. Despite all the barriers, she managed to become one of the leading maths teachers in the country. I like what she always tells me: Be different, always, in everything you do.

Will you be celebrating Women's Day? How?

I think the Women's Day concept is very important when used as an occasion to celebrate achievements on gender parity and to call for further gender equality. However, in my opinion, in Tajikistan and other former Soviet republics this day is feminized to a certain extent and the initial concept is somehow missing. Women receive flowers, presents and appreciation by family members and co-workers but there is a lot more associated with this day than just flowers. An appreciation for being a woman and a human being should not be limited to only one day. Since 8 March is not a working day, I will be at home and will spend time like I do during usual weekends.