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This paper is based on a small micro-level study carried out to assess the impact of recent socio-economic changes in Tajikistan on the livelihoods and well-being of women in Gorno-Badakhshan. It examines the recent involvement of women in trading and informal economic activity with a focus on the trade-offs that women have faced as a result. It argues that the shift towards a market economy in a depressed economic environment has resulted in increasing socio-economic differentiation, insecure livelihoods, and declining social capital. Women’s involvement in trading, along with the withdrawal of the state from basic social services, has increased women’s workload. Women’s participation in the political sphere is declining from an already low base. Increasing material poverty and multiple roles and responsibilities have made it difficult for women to take up opportunities for public participation, even at a local level. The article concludes that there are structural barriers to reducing poverty in Gorno-Badakhshan and raises questions about the possibilities for disadvantaged groups and regions to benefit from a strongly market-based development paradigm.

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