By Rosalind Piggot, KF10, Tajikistan

As I sat down at the living room table, former Kiva Entrepreneur Mavluda Muhidinova hurried to show me her work.  5 plate-shaped pieces of black material were already on the table: work in progress.  Mavluda had been hand-stitching traditional Tajik men’s hats, which are part of her business as a hat maker.

Mavluda shows me the first hat she ever made

I was amazed when Mavluda pulled out the first hat she ever made.  She had kept this green crochet hat since the early 1960s.  “I came up with the idea for this hat myself.  Here, men only wear the black hats.”

Tajik men's hats and ladies' wedding hats

“I am one of the few people in this city (Isfara) that actually makes the hats.  Most people just buy and sell them, and the quality isn’t as good.”  For men’s black hats, she can finish 4 a day.  But for ladies’ wedding hats, it can take up to 4 days for one hat! 

I could see Mavluda was proud of her business. I know from her poem (below) that she was thankful to micro-lending for helping her build it.

Sumalak

I believe I actually met Mavluda almost a month before, although I was too overwhelmed by new people to remember.  We had both been invited to the sumalak celebration organized by Kiva’s Field Partner IMON.

Stirring sumalak

To the taste, sumalak is a little like crème-de-marron (chestnut paste) – a  thick, sweet, somewhat granular liquid.  To springtime in Tajikistan, it is essential. 

Preparing sumalak is akin to the Christmas or holiday party in the UK or the USA… you have to celebrate with everyone.  You prepare sumalak at work and at school, with your family and with neighbors.  It takes 24 hours to cook.  And everyone stirs the sumalak.  While pushing and pulling the wooden paddle in the massive cauldron over the flames, wishes you make come true.

The celebration

At IMON’s sumalak celebration, women were dressed in brightly colored and patterned national dress.  Several courses – salad, soup, plov (a national rice dish made with meat and carrots), and dessert – came out one after the other.  Between courses the music started, people danced, poetry was read.  There was even a “Miss Noruz” competition where 6 women competed in dance, poetry, and knowledge of Noruz, a national holiday in Tajikistan celebrating the beginning of spring.

My shiny jingly gold hat

I should have known that eventually, someone would notice my foreignness and say “Why don’t you say a few words ….”  I too found myself under the florescent lights with a microphone in hand, scrambling to string some words together.  I was rewarded with a shiny, jingly, gold wedding hat, which was placed on my head.

Mavluda’s poem

Mavluda has been a client of IMON for many years, and took out one of her loans from Kiva.  As a valued client, Mavluda was invited to IMON’s sumalak too.  She had even written a poem but was unable to share it at the celebration.

So she gave it to me to put online.  With the help of IMON’s staff, I give you an approximated translation:

Mavluda's poem

Because of my situation
I was filled with consternation
To improve my situation
I came to IMON

Whoever comes to IMON
Whoever comes in this place
Can better his condition
Leaving cheerful from this place

Currently, Mavluda is pleased that she can sell her hats for approximately twice the cost of materials.  Her business supports her entire family, which includes her son, his wife, and Mavluda’s 4 grandchildren (soon to be 5 in just a few days)!  She just wanted to express her thanks for getting  some financial support when she needed it. 

PS – One of the great things about meeting Mavluda was that I was not the first Kiva Fellow she had met. In 2008, she met with Carrie Ferrence, who wrote a journal just after Mavluda’s work had been filmed for a TV program. (Unfortunately, Mavluda didn’t see the program).

If you would like to support entrepreneurs in Tajikistan, you can lend, join the team Supporters of Tajikistan, or learn more about Tajikistan from Kiva Fellow blog posts


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