Lieutenant Nezhdana Mironova started the scheme because she herself grew up in state care and wanted to broaden the horizons of girls who might otherwise feel their options were limited.
Mironova started boxing at eight, as she says because “you needed to try to defend yourself somehow”. After school, she went to sports college, joined the military and now works as a trainer for the army boxing team.
A chance meeting with the head of the Tae Kwondo centre in the capital Dushanbe linked her up with the organisation’s programme for women in sport. Ten years ago, she came up with the idea of a sports club for the care home and school she had attended in the western town of Shahrinau. Since then, she has run training twice a week there with a focus on football and martial arts for girls.
She says her aim was to “create parity between the girls and the boys, and give the girls a sense that they weren’t… born to stay at home and do the washing. They weren’t born for that. They might have some talent and they should be able to use it in their future lives.”
Odiljon Ashurov is IWPR’s radio editor in Tajikistan.