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Tajikistan's official master seamstress gets a Kiva loan

Munavvara Chillaeva insists her talent as a seamstress and embroiderer was a gift from God. No one taught her, but she became the first Master Seamstress of Tajikistan - a role designated by the president himself. 

Munavvara with examples of her embroidery work.

Munavvara lives in a town just outside of the capital of Dushanbe in a lovely, typical family compound with her 7 children and many grandchildren. There is a rose garden in the center courtyard and an outdoor dining area for a quiet afternoon tea or lively dinner with children, grandchildren and guests. 

Kiva lenders have supported Munavvara with 2 loans. Her most recent loan helped her purchase materials for a variety of beautiful sparkling dresses, accessories, and household linens. It also paid for materials to build a sewing school on the west side of her compound. Munavvara wants to establish a 1-year program for 30 girls from extremely poor rural areas in Tajikistan. Her goal is to give them skills they can use to earn a sustainable income when they return home.

At an age when she is no longer comfortable sewing all day, Munavvara’s customers are now teachers and students who want to learn the Tajik craft from a master. She has become a regular adjunct teacher at a university in Dushanbe. 

Journalists and television crews drop by to capture her skills and outgoing personality as they strive to ensure her legacy. University students want to learn about Munavvara herself, specifically how she stays so active in her old age. “When you are engaged with your favorite job, when you complete a beautiful product, you become happy and stay young,” she says with a youthful smile and twinkling eyes. 

When asked about her age and her transition into teaching rather than sewing, she says, “This is not the end - I have much more to do and offer!” 

For all the Kiva lenders and lovers of artisans out there, I certainly hope so!

Click here to make a loan to a borrower in Tajikistan like Munavvara. 

About the author

Betsy Benoit

Betsy worked for 21 years in sales with Pfizer Inc. In 2014 she was chosen as their Global Health Fellow to PSI in Cambodia for 4 months. After working to enhance PSI/PSK's efficiencies and capabilities, she decided to work full-time helping others, leaving Pfizer to lead a US nonprofit which supported an NGO in Ghana. She saw the importance and benefit firsthand of empowerment versus charity, as they worked in rural villages on WASH and education infrastructure projects. Betsy is excited to continue learning how to empower others through the Kiva Fellowship. She is looking to increase her knowledge and abilities in order to create a microloan organization focusing on community and group loans that will be used to improve education, health and WASH infrastructure.