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Breaking the Glass Ceiling: A Tajik Woman Leads Tuberculosis Project in Central Asia
Dr. Dilorom Kosimova delivers welcome speech during the roundtable discussion with Deputy Ministry of Health participation
“Leadership is not a person or a position. It is a complex moral relationship between people based on trust, obligation, commitment, emotion, and a shared vision of the good.” - Joanne Ciulla (Author and Educator)
This quote captures the character of a manager dedicated to leading her team toward eliminating tuberculosis (TB) in Central Asia. The first Tajik woman in such a role, Dr. Dilorom Kosimova leads one of Abt Associates’ key regional projects: the USAID Eliminating TB in Central Asia (ETICA) Project, which Abt implements in Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrghyz Republic. As Abt’s project director, Kosimova collaborates with five diverse Ministries of Health, five USAID Health Departments, six subcontractors, and national and international partners.
“In Central Asia, it is commonly assumed that TB control is a very complicated field and requires the strong hand of a man to manage it effectively, yet Dilorom breaks this stereotype and successfully leads this complex regional TB project,” said Sanavbar Sherova, Regional Communications Specialist.
Kosimova, both as a technical specialist and in leadership positions, has always gone above and beyond to deliver high-quality and successful implementation of all activities aimed at reducing TB disease and mortality. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, she led the ETICA project to meeting its goals of detecting 90 percent of DR-TB cases and ensuring that 90 precent of cases detected are enrolled in treatment. The project was recognized for its response to the countries’ needs during COVID-19, and USAID committed additional funding.
It’s the latest success in a long line. “As the champion of the TB service in Tajikistan, I am proud that a Tajik woman is leading International TB project for five countries in Central Asia” said Dr. Alizoda S.P., Tajikistan’s former Deputy Minister of Health. “Dilorom, in my opinion, hasn't reached her career peak yet. She has a great potential, and interaction with Dilorom is always associated with obtaining new views on seemingly routine phenomena.”
Leading by Example
As the mother of two well-educated children, Kosimova knows the value of continuous learning and encourages her team to embrace that approach. “The world and our environment are quickly changing, requiring us to be lifelong students,” she says. “If one wants to succeed, they need to continuously improve their knowledge, update the information they know, and develop their expertise.”
And on this front, as on so many others, she has led by example. Upongraduating from Tajikistan’s medical university during a civil war, Kosimova worked in a district maternity hospital as an obstetrician-gynecologist and phthisio-gynecologist. Here her path into the TB program has started. When she lost her husband at the age of 32 she took care of herself and her two children by volunteering in the international organization that was implementing the first USAID TB project in Tajikistan. As she improved her professional skills, she received promotions as she worked her way up on various healthcare projects, starting as an assistant manager before moving to a program manager. Her next move was a quantum leap: she earned her Masters of Science in Boston. When she returned back to Tajikistan she worked as a coordinator of medical programs in USAID Tajikistan.
Before her current position she worked with Abt as the Deputy Chief of Party (DCOP) on the Defeat TB Project in Kyrgyzstan. In this role, Kosimova integrated TB case management approaches, helped the country shift away from vertical care to patient-centered outpatient services, supported the introduction of results-based financing at the primary health care level, and introduced advanced genome sequencing to diagnose TB. Defeat TB’s work supported the reduction of TB incidence by 3 percent and TB mortality by 7 percent in Kyrgyzstan.
Making an Impact, One Colleague at a Time
But it’s not just her wealth of experience and expertise thathave earned the respect of her staff, partners, stakeholders, and colleagues in Central Asia countries. Her willingness to mentor people has further her impact.
“She is the person I seek inspiration from,” says Zarina Mussaeva, an ETICA Project manager in Tajikistan. “Dilorom combines the qualities of a specialist, professional, real leader, and oriental woman. She possesses both technical knowledge and management skills, rare diplomatic talents, the ability to easily and naturally convince the interlocutor. She is a connoisseur of classical Tajik poetry! When she quotes the great and world-renowned classics, even those who do not understand the language listen to her.”
Presentation of the USAID ETICA Project approach during the team-building activity in Tajikistan
Adds Roman Dudnik, Director of AFEW Kazakhstan: ”Our working relationship started in 2014, when Dilorom served as the agreement officer’s representative in the USAID HIV React project. From the very beginning, she gave us impression of a powerful, knowledgeable, and, at the same time, very supportive specialist and, as a leader, her supervision for us means a high level of professionalism, justice, keeping promises, honesty and success.”
Kosimova’s tireless efforts and dedication to the project’s goal have earned her the deep respect of stakeholders, includingUzbekistan National TB Program Director, Dr. Parpieva Nargiza: “Dilorom is always responsive to our requests and seek to assist NTP to fill its needs; I feel very comfortable discussing with her joint plans,” she says. “As a woman, and NTP leader I recognize and respect Dilorom’s achievements in her career growth.”