Women's Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation

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Afghan Women: Ready to Climb the Highest Mountain

Nargis Azaryun is participated in the WELDD workshop "CVAW: Resistance and Sustaining Our Activism" in JJakarta in August 2014.  Since then she has become Project Coordinator at Ascend Afghanistan.

It has been 6 months since we began working together with Afghanistan’s National Mountain Climbing Federation to establish a women’s national mountain climbing team for Afghanistan.

In doing so, we are aiming to introduce new conquerors, and to challenge the idea that “it is a man’s thing to be a mountain climber” or “women should just stay inside their houses.” We are here to say that “women of Afghanistan are now going to conquer the highest mountain in Afghanistan and women will be wherever they choose to be.”

Our team is made up of courageous young girls who want to climb every mountain in Afghanistan. They come from different ethnic and economic backgrounds and are committed to breaking stereotypes about women in Afghanistan.

In our first phase, we are organizing a rigorous fitness routine, a technical mountaineering training program, and a comprehensive set of leadership, teamwork, gender and management workshops.

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Our adventure begins

Recently we conquered one of the most difficult mountains near Kabul, located in the Qargha area outside of the city.

We left very early in the morning. For security reasons, our female team could not go by itself; we had to bring the men’s team with us. During the bus ride to the base of the mountain, the girls asked the driver to play some nice music and they started singing along as the music was playing. We reached Saramyasht, an official compound at the base of the mountain. Sadiqa Nuristani, the head of mountain climbing federation, left the bus to speak to the security office of Saramyasht to obtain permission for the hike. As we waited, a security guard drove up to the bus to see what was going on. As soon as he saw the girls, he got out of the car and said “Let them go, they have women with them.” Then Sadiqa came back with a permit signed by the head of the security unit.

We got off the bus and started walking. It was windy and cold. The trainer told everyone to cover their ears and keep walking. It was the first hiking experience for most of the girls. They were excited, but they would soon get tired. Whenever the girls stopped for a break, the guys would start complaining: “The girls are very slow. If we go like this, we won’t reach the peak by nightfall.” Then we would start climbing again. For most of our team members, it was their first experience climbing a mountain, not to mention rappelling down a massive rock face. We reached the peak in three hours.

“It was dangerous, but we can do it,” said Samira, an 18-year-old girl who is in 11th grade at her high school and is the team leader.

That is exactly how the members of our team feel about our ultimate goal – reaching the summit of Mt. Noshaq, in Badakhshan province.

Stay tuned for more updates as the team ramps up the training and prepares to reach Mt. Noshaq.

Originally published on Ascend