A leader emerges

Tajikistan, November 25, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Clay Westrope/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Zokasjon Ergaschev serves as a key member of the Community Action Group for Mercy Corps' Tajikistan Stability Enhancement Program in the village of Oshoba. Photo: Clay Westrope/Mercy Corps

Zokasjon Ergaschev sits at a desk in his small office surrounded by images of mothers and children with headlines such as “Wash Your Hands” and “Immunize Your Child” in Tajik and Russian. A well-respected doctor who's 42 years of age, Zokasjon’s influence reaches far beyond his medical skills.

“Becoming a leader is difficult,” explains Zokasjon with the utmost of humility. “You must first gain your community’s trust. It is then important to carry yourself as a leader in the community. Perhaps most importantly, however, you must work with your community — not just supervise.”

Zokasjon’s path to leadership was not planned, but was a natural progression. He explains that eight years ago, his village did not have a drinking water system. A local non-governmental organization (NGO) was interested in working with the community to gather the necessary resources to build one and Zokasjon took charge in raising the necessary 20 percent community contribution. Through this, he explains, he gained the people’s trust and respect. He identifies this as the beginning of his emerging leadership role in the community.

Zokasjon serves as a key member of the Community Action Group for Oshoba village. He has been instrumental in organizing his community to improve the drinking water system that was built eight years ago. With funds from Mercy Corps' USAID-funded Tajikistan Stability Enhancement Program (TSEP) and the community contribution that Zokasjon has quietly but effectively helped organize, Oshoba village will soon have a modern, sustainable drinking water system.

Through the TSEP program, Mercy Corps identifies and collaborates with emerging leaders to implement targeted and community-mobilized projects. It is these leaders that will serve as the backbone of project success long after it is completed.

“The most important thing to remember is that every community has its issues,” says Zokasjon. “As a leader, you have to understand the community to be effective. Leaders are made from within.”

Going on to explain his philosophy on humanitarian aid, Zokasjon explains with a wise, but enduring modesty that, “It’s not just about money and physical help, but more about how the project leads us to a way that helps us improve our standard of living as a community. It is how we work together as a community that really counts.”

Always looking for ways to improve the impact for his community, Zokasjon says with hope that, “It would be great if we could come to one place and collaborate more — organization and community. We all have something to teach each other.”

Zokasjon’s silent leadership and focused purpose has ensured that Oshoba village receives the needed support for high impact community-mobilized projects. His enduring vision of progress for Oshoba and clear understanding of his role as an emerging leader will carry his community to further advancement in the future.