Psychosocial Support and a Sewing Business: Motivating Muslima to Leave TB Behind

Speeches Shim

Sunday, December 19, 2021
Muslima featured above

Thirty-six year old Muslima lives in Khujand in Tajikistan’s northern Sughd district. Muslima shares a house with her husband, 14-year old daughter, and parents-in-law.

Back in 2011, Muslima started feeling sick and went to a doctor. After six months of tests and examinations, doctors finally diagnosed Muslima with extrapulmonary tuberculosis.

As soon as Muslima received her diagnosis, she was started on medication. Thanks to attentive doctors and nurses and support from her family, after a full two-year course of TB therapy, Muslima completed her treatment.

For the last six years, Muslima and her husband tried to get on with their lives and hoped to have another child. Eventually, they sought medical help to conceive, only to find out that Muslima had developed multi-drug resistant TB. This news was a blow to Muslima and her family. And she started another course of treatment, this time with second-generation drugs to which her infection, hopefully, would respond. 

The volunteer outreach workers of the USAID Eliminating Tuberculosis in Central Asia project helped Muslima find the motivation to undergo lengthy treatment once again. 

Muslima’s drive to get better was bolstered this spring when she received a sewing machine and a set of basic sewing supplies from the project to help recovering TB patients in rural areas start small businesses and earn a living. The USAID Eliminating Tuberculosis in Central Asia project conducted training on cutting and sewing skills for Muslima and 10 other women and provided them with sewing machines.

TB remains a highly stigmatized disease in Tajikistan. People are persecuted for a long time even after they are cured of the disease. And because TB treatment often lasts 24 months, many people with TB end up losing their jobs or can’t take care of their families. This economic development opportunity for TB patients is a result of a multinational partnership. One of Project’s implementing partners which provides psychosocial support to TB patients through the project leveraged outside resources to provide sewing machines and training to people with drug-resistant TB to whom they had been providing psychosocial support in rural areas.

“When I found out that I would have the opportunity to get a sewing machine and take training courses, I was both surprised and happy at the same time, knowing that I will be able to earn money for my dream”, shares Muslima.

Equipped with her new skills and sewing machine, Muslima first sewed two dresses and gave them as gifts to a couple of needy neighbors. Through word of mouth, community members learned that Muslima is good at sewing traditional clothing. Soon, Muslima started receiving 15 - 20 orders each month bringing in a profit of about $70. While $70 might not go far in some parts of the world, it goes a long way to helping sustain Muslima’s family. 

Building off her initial success, Muslima initiated organizing a sewing workshop with other young women who took the sewing courses with her. They further improved their sewing skills and learned a national sewing technique using gold thread, which allowed them to find more clients. Now, Muslima and nine other women from her neighborhood get many orders. Recently, they received an order from the local government to make coats and hats using the golden fiber sewing technique. With this order and others like it, each woman is now able to earn between $100 - $150 per month. These nine rural women and Muslima are now able to contribute quite well to support their families.

And Muslima is one step closer to her dream.

“Now, our business is developing very well. I am busy with work, I enjoy being engaged and successful and this motivates me during my treatment. For the last three months, I’ve been free from tuberculosis. My tests are clean”, Muslima noted happily.

Now that she can earn a living and has her health back, Muslima feels pride in contributing to her family. She can see a future for her teenage daughter. Still, she continues to dream of having one more child.

“I’m planning to save up my earnings and use my savings to get the medical care I need to bring another child into our family”, Muslima said with pride.

Last updated: March 25, 2022

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