To celebrate the Golden Jubilee year, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) hosted an exhibition in October 2007. Held at the Kohi Vahdat complex in Dushanbe, the event was aimed at increasing awareness of the work of AKDN agencies in Tajikistan. Over the course of two days, more than 5 000 people visited the exhibition.
Since launching its first programme 12 years ago to alleviate food shortages in the Gorno-Badakhshan region, AKDN has expanded the geographic reach and thematic scope of its activities in Tajikistan. It operates in the areas of health, education and culture, as well as infrastructure and economic development. Projects include the construction of three major bridges connecting Tajikistan to Afghanistan across the Pyanj River and the rehabilitation of power facilities in the Gorno-Badakhshan region. Projects to be opened in the future are a Serena Hotel in Dushanbe and a campus of the University of Central Asia in Khorog.
Among the distinguished guests in attendance at the exhibition were: Amonnulo Ashur, Tajikistan's First Deputy Minister of Economy and Trade Development; Mirzoshorukh Asrori, Tajikistan's Minister of Culture; ambassadors of France, Germany, India, Japan, Pakistan, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the USA among other countries; and representatives of the European Commission, the World Health Organisation, and the United States Agency for International Development.
In his opening remarks Munir Merali, AKDN Resident Representative in Tajikistan, commended the partnership of the AKDN with the government as key to the work of the eight AKDN agencies operating in the country. With this support, he noted, AKDN provides direct employment opportunities to more than 3 000 local residents.
After the ribbon cutting ceremony, visitors were invited to view the more than 20 informative and interactive displays. The Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme transported 800 kg of carved marble stones from Khorog to demonstrate how local materials have been used in the reconstruction of Khorog Park. The Aga Khan Foundation's Mountain Societies Development Support Programme exhibited products from the projects it supports, including intricate handicrafts made in the Rasht and Gorno-Badakhshan regions, and pickled fruits and vegetables bottled in rural processing plants, alongside a display of live bees from a bee-keeping facility.
Across the hall, representatives of First MicroFinanceBank of Tajikistan, an institution of Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance, informed visitors about the lending and deposit services available at its branches throughout the country. The French Ambassador to Tajikistan, Olivier Maitland Pelen, described the exhibits as “remarkable” and commented that “the manner, both vivid and pro-active, in which each one of the different stands presented the activities of the Network was indicative of the quality of their work in the field."
The exhibition hall was filled with a festive atmosphere, with live performances of traditional music by two local groups sponsored by the Aga Khan Music Initiative in Central Asia (AKMICA). Seven middle-school students from the Khunar Talent Centre in Khujand alternated performances with masters from the Academy of Maqam in Dushanbe, showcasing the traditional Tajik music that AKMICA has sought to revive and preserve.
For many members of the Jamat in Tajikistan, the exhibition was their first opportunity to interact with and learn about the work of AKDN agencies in their home country. Farzona Noyobshoeva, a university student, remarked “There were so many new things I discovered, from talking with representatives of the University of Central Asia about their new programmes to learning from FOCUS about how to react after an earthquake.”
Throughout the exhibition, excitement was palpable on the faces of the volunteers from the Jamat who helped to organise and manage the event. Volunteers assisted with a variety of efforts including helping to construct display booths, serving refreshments, and conducting tours of the exhibition. Hanif Pabani, an exhibition volunteer and a Canadian working with the United Nations Development Programme noted, “It was great to see volunteers from the Jamat working together with staff from AKDN agencies. The work ethic and enthusiasm of the volunteers was fantastic and this event would not have been a success without their effort.”
Exhibition coordinator Nazlyn Pirani concluded, “the exhibition was a great success and we are proud that so many people have a new level of understanding of the AKDN and its agencies in Tajikistan.”