CultureDevelopmentEducationGilgit - BaltistanPakistan

[Feature]The women who would restore a symbol of Hunza’s history


by Noor & Asghar Khan

As the nine hundred years old Altit Fort gets completely restored  in the year 2010, not only would facade of the ancient fort have changed in the middle of Hunza valley, a deeper social change would also have taken roots  in terms of perceptions regarding gender roles  in the society.

Traditionally labour of the the female folk of Hunza was limited to bringing up children, grazing DSC07931animal, watering crop fields, collecting wood for fuel, grass for the cattle, or doing other indoor choirs, as allowed by the society. However, with the passage of time the women of Hunza adopted other roles entering other mainstream professions, like teaching, medicine, politics, social development and, recently, the armed forces.  This was made possible by the education system introduced by His Highness the Aga Khan, through AKDN.

Now, the women of Hunza have taken yet another step towards social emancipation. 

Seventy percent of the total people working on restoration of the fort are trained female skilled workers. Female electricians, carpenters, masons and plumbers restoring the Altit fort are making history by venturing into new areas of opportunity and expression, hitherto considered forbidden for the “fair” sex.

DSC07910This is a welcome change as far as economic, psychological and social independence of the women of Hunza is concerned.

The restoration project is undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.  The trust has trained and employed a large number of women of Hunza, creating new opportunities of earning livelihood for half of the population, while also breaking taboos that limited choices for the women to a selected number of gender roles, as determined by a patriarchical society.

It is, now, also important to further work for objective sensitization of the society at large regarding the changed gender roles and their implications. One major negative implication can be lesser work available for the men who used to perform such tasks in the past. This might frustrate a segment of the society, no matter how small.   

What is required is a holistic, inclusive, strategic planDSC07938for balanced social development where the emancipation of one segment of the society does not shrink choices for the other, neutralizing the impact of change. This is vital for maintaining social harmony and family life, in a changed and charged  social environment. 

Men of Hunza have, logically, been supportive of the processes that have led to creation of the society that we have today. What they need to further understand is that when the social roles are changed, rules of the game of social life also change, by default. They will have to learn to live and compete in a beautifully different  and a meritocratic society. 

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  1. they are my strength and my heroes………………this is what we need for the betterment of our people.

  2. Karim is speaking nonsense. our women are hard working for centuries. Do not claim that AKDN has made them hardworking. Have not you seen our grand mother working in field from dawn to dusk? have not you witnessed them spending wintry nights weaving pattu for us? for Gog sake do not depreciate their efforts. True we should appreciate young girls who are opting for new proffessions. but boys are doing the same. there are boys who play good local music. this change occurs because of the pressure of time. they play music still they are not barich or dom. Why? should i give credit to ADKD? Definitely not. We appreciate AKDN where it deserves. otherwise it is not immune from our censure.

  3. Dear Khameto!
    I think you are missunderstanding Karim.I agree with you that our women were very hard working.But there work was limited to looking after cattles,farms and household.Now they are into professions which were once only mend for men.AKDN is utilizing their hard working spirit into diverse professions.

  4. Dear Karim,
    I agree with your observation about limited options for women. but these llimitations were also for men. My objection is the attribution of women only for AKDN. in our craze for institutions we forget that their are stories of individual struggle which tend to get burried under the thanks we offer to iinstitutions. there are success stories outside instituions and before akdn interventions. please do not treat development as linear progress under the patronage of single institutions. there are multiple factor contributing to it. can somebody tell me how Phiphi of Hindi has perfected the making of wine and araq process? can we explain it under the discourse of prevelant development discorse? this question is just a tip of ice burg. i want to search what lies beneath. you are satisfied with what is apparent. good for you but bad for me.

  5. Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent. And the women of Hunza have got both the talent and courage.

    L 🙂 ve

  6. Dear Khameto,

    We must not forget the life in Hunza before entry of The AKDN Institutions in the region, people were very hardworking, even then thay were poor and the standard of their lives was remained same for many decades. Going school was far away from our imigination, ofcourse we were not present at that time and are not in position to map the quality of lives of the ancient Hunzukutz, Thay all were slaves of the Tham, working for him and obeying him like GOD(Nawozbillah). I dn’t say that getting rid from those rulers is just because of the AKDN institutions but r you denying the current revolution in the region which has been praised globallly, and the credit goes to whome in your perspective?? I agree as time passes people’s standard of lives improves but not with the pace like this.

    By summerizing my point is that we need Institutions like AKDN to furnish the talent and ofcourse opportunities to utilize the talent in posative terms. We must appreciate and encourage the talented individuals az well..

    Hve a great day!


  7. Institutions are pivotal to harness the talent of men and women. Our men and women are no doubt hard working but diversify their embedded talent, without institutions, including AKDN, in my opinion, was not possible.

    My only concern is now, how AKDN plays the role, to resettle the affected people of the ataabad landslide disaster. We are very pessimist about the role of the Government to bring the people no normal life again.

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