• Nyse Vicente

"The Woman Is To Blame for Getting Beat". An Activist's Fight to Stop Normalising Sexual Assault.

In conservative Tajikistan, women are often a “semi-functional tool” designed to sacrifice themselves. Virginity , honour kidnappings and domestic abuse are pervasive norms and, fighting against these issues was seen as ‘vulgar’ or ‘unnecessary’. But for Farzona Saidzoda, a Tajik native now living in Kuwait, keeping quiet was never a choice.

1. You are a young woman addressing profound topics. What inspired you to take this route?

I think I was always meant to go down this path. At some point, I concluded that keeping silent about the issues faced here was no longer an option, and the most available way for me to talk about these issues was through social media. That’s how my page came to be, although it was not originally devoted to feminism.

2. And feminism is still taboo in Tajikistan.

Definitely. Stigma and negativity exists around the word alone. It is so taboo that many women do not want to be associated with feminism, even if they support everything it fights for.

3. You began a page called TellMeSister to normalise feminism. Tell us more about it.

Tell Me Sister was my friend’s idea (@why_elen). The purpose of it is to showcase just how problematic violence and harassment against women. Many women, due to stigma, never share such stories. Because of this, many go about their lives assuming problems like this don’t exist. We share their stories as long as it’s anonymous.

For many women, Tell Me Sister is the only platform where they can share their pain. Most of the girls in the stories never told anyone about what happened to them. We didn’t expect the project to be permanent; at first, we had planned to share the story of 36 girls and end it there, but we received three times as many stories in the first few days, many of which began with “I never told anyone about this”.

And they continue to come to us. We just thought, “Hey, if at least one person can need to be listened to and supported, we will continue with this”. To ensure our platform is as educational as it is empowering, we write informative posts and even spoke to a psychologist and lawyer before.

5. Would you argue that most men don’t understand the struggles of being a woman? And do most women believe this kind of society is acceptable?

Women in our society are regarded as a somewhat semi-useful functioning tool. She is handed to her husband from her parents and lives under their shadow. She shouldn’t have an opinion, her viewpoints, her choice, or if she does, she has to keep it to herself. Her role is to take care of everyone, give birth, raise children, take care of the house and maybe get a little money from her parents and husband to allow her to handle money.

It’s hard to be a woman in such a society because misogyny is everywhere. No matter the situation, there’s always a woman at fault. Family problems? The women didn’t take care of the family. Divorce? The woman is the blame. The child became sick or lost-what kind of mother is she? The husband cheats then beats on his wife-that’s her fault too. A man kills his wife, and the first reaction people have is usually “she must have brought it on herself". That’s why speaking up is crucial. We should all be talking.

6. For those who want to get on board and fight for women’s rights, where would be a good start?

Just start. Do not be afraid of expressing your opinion. Do not be scared of the condemnation that comes with it. There are many decent people in our society. The problem is they don’t take a stand and choose to remain silent.

To learn more about Farzona’s work, head to her instagram here

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