Hunza: More than 500 kilometers away from Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, the women and girls of the scenic Hunza Valley located in the Gilgit-Baltistan region, neighboring China, have proven their mettle in many fields of life. They are constantly ahead of men and boys in the field of education, as shown by school and college results, and many of them are studying or teaching at top universities inside and outside Pakistan. Many are serving as top managers, executives, in commercial and social entities, while a small number of women are engaged in entrepreneurial activities.
In the field of sports, Samina Baig has climbed 7 highest mountains on 7 continents, while several players, including Diana Baig, are playing in the national women’s team for Soccer and Cricket. Many have set an example by getting trained as plumbers, electricians and carpenters, non-traditional fields for women.
Add to the list of these skilled and learned women the future stone dressers, who have started getting trained under the National Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) program deep in the Hunza Valley.
“The project is being implemented by Rupani Foundation – an NGO, with the support of German donor agency, GIZ”, said Waseem Samad, an employee of the foundation. He further said that the project in stone masonry has been launched to support labour markets in the region as a component of the TVET Reform Support Programme which was co-funded by the European Union, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Federal Republic of Germany
“Sixty participants, all women, are being trained by two master trainers – expert stone masons”, Zuhaib Alam, one of the two sub-engineers working on the project, told Pamir Times. He added that the training will continue till the end of June.
“Stone dressing, till now, has largely been an occupation for men, who are traditionally considered to be strong and more capable of using chisels, pitchers and hammers”, said a participant, who identified herself as Bibi, of the training course. She said that this occupation will no more be exclusive to men.
Clad in traditional shawls and hitting white stones with hammers and chisels, these women of Hunza valley may very well be carving their way into history, and they are very happy about it.
“I am determined to get trained and use my skills to not only make money, but also to leave some monument behind after I am gone”, Bibi said.
This is indeed a remarkable feat for women of a remotely located mountainous region, located in a largely conservative setting, with a population not more than a 100,000 souls, at most.
Photos by Asghar khan for Pamir Times
This story has been updated.