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IMG 0329Hafiza lives in Kanibadam, Tajikistan with her husband and four children. In what was still Soviet times, she graduated from secondary school and after she was married, went to work on a collective cotton farm with her husband. As her family was growing quickly the support from Soviet Russia was suddenly swept away with the collapse of the USSR. A few years later, things had degenerated to the point where Hafiza and her husband were compensated in apricots, the primary fruit of the region. They were forced to work for a product for which there was no ready market. Those were hard times, as she had many small children to feed in a tiny house. Describing their situation Hafiza says, "It was like slave labour, we had to work hard but weren't getting paid in useable tender."

In 2006, Hafiza heard about an agricultural loan product that IMON, a microfinance organization, offered. She gathered some neighbourhood women and they applied as a group. Hafiza used the loan to pay for the processing of the title of land, which had been distributed to them from the collective's assets. The loan officer recognized determination in Hafiza borne out of the desperation of a situation beyond her control. Now she owns and works her own land, and with help of additional loans, Hafiza has planted more trees, produces, trades and sells apricots and has increased her income. She is self-determined, making her own business decisions to dry and store apricots, selling them when the price is good or when she needs cash. Her husband is now employed in construction, and together they have saved and built an addition onto their tiny house.

Hafiza overcame extreme obstacles and found positive change for herself and her family of six. Hafiza noted that the loan came at the perfect time for her: if she hadn't been able to process the land title when she did, others would have scooped up the land and she would not have benefited from the post-Soviet land reform. Because of this timely intervention, Hafiza has been able to increase her income and her entire family has benefited. She was a leader in the community when the neighbourhood banded together to erect power lines to their area, bringing electricity to her household and others. She is recognized in her community and attributes her contributions to the IMON loan she was able to access. Her dream is to visit India one day and see some of her favourite Bollywood stars.