When the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation–Tajikistan began its work in late 1996, the country was in the final months of a five-year civil war that ultimately left tens of thousands of people dead, and displaced over a million people from their homes. Against this grim background, the foundation’s initial goals were of necessity modest—to create space for debate in a country where social and political life had been turned upside down by the collapse of Soviet Communism and the ensuing bitter civil conflict.
The foundation’s early programs included travel grants, scholarships, help for libraries, and organizing conferences to expose academics and officials to current research trends and thinking. Gradually, the work expanded into supporting the same kind of institutional modernization and reform that was underway in other former Communist states in the 1990s.
Today, the foundation works on issues from promoting inclusive education for disabled children to efforts to support economic development.
Nine Facts about Tajikistan and the Open Society Foundations
- The foundation has actively supported one of Tajikistan’s leading NGOs, the League of Women Lawyers, in a successful anti–death penalty campaign that led to President Emomali Rahmon announcing a moratorium on executions in 2004.
- Since 2002, more than 30,000 children in 150 schools and kindergartens have benefitted from the support of the Open Society’s Step by Step program, which seeks to engage parents as active partners with teachers and administrators in the education of their children.
- Since 2010, the foundation has worked with government agencies and grassroots organizations like the Parents of Children with Autism Initiative to improve services to disabled children, their families, and schools.
- Since 2001, the foundation has spent more than $3.5 million on providing access to the internet in remote districts of Tajikistan, as well to secondary schools, universities, libraries, and NGOs.
- The foundation is among the funders of the Coalition for Transparency, which represents civil society in negotiations with the government and mining firms as part of the process of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
- In 2005, the foundation began to help entrepreneurs, organizing training for scores of young women in rural areas on gold embroidery and economic planning, and helping to establish 25 viable businesses.
- The foundation has promoted the idea of microfinance since the early 2000s as an alternative to bank lending. Some 258 entrepreneurs have since been able to establish their own businesses using loans backed by the foundation.
- In Tajikstan, Open Society’s global expertise in supporting end-of-life care for people with terminal diseases helped establish the country’s first dedicated palliative care unit at Dushanbe’s City Nursing Hospital in 2010.
- In 2009, the foundation worked with the Association of Pediatricians to pioneer the idea of sending “caravans” of doctors and lawyers to remote rural areas to provide both healthcare and advice on government services. The idea was subsequently taken over by the government and extended across the country, and to people of all ages.