The history of Pakistan is full of the examples of women pioneers, who’ve broken the barriers of age, gender and ethnicity to make their mark in various walks of life – from politics to arts and sciences.
According to the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah:
No nation can rise to the height of glory unless women are side by side with you. We are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity to shut up women within the four walls of houses as prisoners. Let us try to raise the status of women according to Islamic ideals and standards. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable conditions in which our women have to live. We should take the women along with us as comrades in every sphere of life. We cannot expect a woman who is ignorant of herself to bring up our children properly. Women have the power to bring up children on the right lines. Let us not throw away this asset.
Hunza valley is not only well-known for its breathtaking sceneries, but for its hard-working and enthusiastic women who’re breaking the barriers of success.
The houses of the people living in Hunza valley might be small, but their minds are broad enough to realize the need for women empowerment.
Carpentry is a job primarily known for men because of their strong and muscular physique. But, women of Hunza are making their mark in the field of carpentry as well. Long gone are the times when women were considered as objects of mere pleasure, whose only job was to cook for their dominant husband and take care of their children.
Altit Fort, almost 800 years old, located in the Hunza valley was at the risk of collapsing on top of the cliff when its proprietor conferred it to a non-profit organization known as ‘Aga Khan Cultural Service, Pakistan’ in the year 2001. The organization played a huge role in carrying out extensive repairs funded by the Government of Norway. This is why the fort won Unesco Asia-Pacific Heritage Award in the year 2011.
The restoration of the fort was carried out by a highly professional and trained team of women from a well-known organization known as Ciqam. According to the local dialect, the word ‘Ciqam’ literally means ‘prosperity’ or ‘well-being’ or ‘green’. The organization was launched in the year 2003 with an objective to provide a solid income to poverty-stricken households.
More than 90 local women between the age of 19 to 40 work under Ciqam in a workshop that is located at a walking distance from the Altit Fort. The workshop is known to be always having an air of manoeuvre. The woman are trained in designing, engineering, polishing and cutting wood for making doors as well as windows.
Among these women, Amina Bibi is the first female carpenter of Hunza valley who lost her beloved father in 2008. After the death of her father, she did not have enough money or financial support to complete her education. So, she decided to work as a carpenter.
According to Amina Bibi;
There was no social acceptance of a woman working outside her home
Amina became a carpenter to earn a living to fulfill her basic expenses. But, it turned out to be a passion. A passion that took her abroad to Norway for a better training.
Today, Amina’s story is encouraging a lot of girls to enter the field of carpentry. According to Amina, “When I see other girls doing what I started doing alone, it is a feeling I can’t express.”
According to the surveyor of the carpentry project, Aqeela Bano Shah said;
We want to reduce poverty and give opportunities to the girls in our region. We want to give them the skills to become economically empowered and look after the environment.”
The women of Ciqam are also in charge of the beautiful restaurant of the Altit Fort that was opened in an orchard in the year 2009 to attract tourists from all over Pakistan. According to Nasreen Ali, a tourist from the city of Lahore, “The food was incredible and having lunch under those trees in the lovely orchard with those views is an unforgettable memory.”
The woman of Ciqam has also built a beautiful yet sustainable guest house where tourists can rest for a few days. According to Aqeela bano, “We designed and built the guesthouse ourselves. Last year there were around 27,000 visitors to Altit, so we thought that if we opened up our own guesthouse we would do well.”
Quaid-e-Azam, Founder of Pakistan once said:
It is women alone who can teach men how and when to wield the sword or pen when the occasion arises. You, young women, are more fortunate than your mothers are. You are being emancipated. I do not mean that you must copy the west. But I do mean that man must be made to understand that a woman is his equal and that a woman is his friend and comrade and they together can build up homes, families, and nations