We say that a woman has forty souls’, said Gulzira with a smile, a young Kazakh shopkeeper at a big modern shopping centre who grew up in a village and came to the city to work. ‘You see, a woman has so many things to do and roles to carry in her life as a daughter, daughter-in-law, wife, mother, then mother-in-law and grandmother. She has to make sure everything in the family runs smoothly and no bad words are spoken about the family… It is also the woman’s role to plan and schedule the weekly ‘emitting the fragrance’ to remember and honour our ancestors. This involves preparing shelpek (fried flat bread) and reciting the Quran which bring protection and blessing over our households. You see, this is our Muslim way’. Though said with a smile, the weight of life as a Central Asian woman is well captured in the saying above.
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