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‘Behind the Wheel': A Look at the Women Tajikistan's Russia-Bound Men Leave Behind

Behind the Wheel won Best Student Film at the Women's Voices Now festival in July (Image by Elise Laker)

Behind the Wheel won Best Student Film at the Women's Voices Now festival in July. Image by Elise Laker.

“Behind the Wheel”, a short film by British filmmaker Elise Laker, highlights the difficult lives of women and families who are left to cope in the wake of the seemingly never-ending flow of male labor migrants from Tajikistan to Russia. Currently the film is winning praise in festivals across Europe and on July 30 claimed the Best Student Film award at the Women's Voices Now Film Festival.

A short description of the film, released in 2013, is as follows:

Every year, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers leave Tajikistan in search of employment. The money sent back provides a huge boost to the economy; in fact, Tajikistan is the most remittance-dependent country in the world. The vast majority of these migrants are male, which means the Tajik population is becoming ever-more female. So what happens to the women who are left behind? Behind the Wheel explores the moral and emotional turmoil of Nigora, an [ethnic] Uzbek woman whose traditional life of being a housewife is turned upside down after her migrant husband fails to send back enough money and she finds out he has been having an affair. No longer able to rely on her husband, Nigora defies prevailing gender norms and sets to work fixing car tires.

Despite being only 20 minutes long, the film's portrayal of Nigora and her family is at once upsetting and inspiring. It can be watched below, shared via citizen.tv:

A photo essay by Ksenia Diodorova, featured by RFE/RL, offers another window onto the experiences of migration-affected Tajik families.

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