Pakistan Youth Outreach: a doorway to the splendor of Karakoram
“When I was a kid, I heard from my uncles and cousins that climbers, both men and women, would come across the borders into Pakistan to climb our mountains, explore new passes, valleys, and do research on glaciers, flora, fauna or culture.”
Mirza Ali continues to explain to me that he hardly ever sees any travelers from his own country visiting his village and the magnificent surrounding areas. He wants to change this – create something unique – especially for young women. Enter Pakistan Youth Outreach.
“It’s our mission to provide a platform for mountaineering awareness and education to youth, and to encourage and promote women’s adventure in the country,” says Mirza. “We want to empower our youth to explore our country, to see the beauty of nature and study the environment, wilderness, mountains and glaciers. We are richly blessed with nature but due to a lack of awareness, education and promotion, it still remains ignored.”
I ask Mirza why the focus on educating young women??
“I started this program with my sister Samina in 2010. She has chosen mountaineering and mountain guiding as her future career, and will be the first female in Pakistan to do so. She is also the first Pakistani woman to climb over 6,400m. Samina is currently still in college but in the very near future, she wants to be a tour leader, guide women groups in the Karakoram, and assist with our Pakistan Youth Outreach programs and charity work."
Mirza says they currently have no outdoor education and activities in Pakistan, and there are no female athletes in the country – or at least not like the many female world-class athletes from other countries around the world. “We don’t even have a national climbing team – neither male nor female. Yet, we have five 8,000m peaks, and hundreds of 7000m and 6,000m peaks…”
Mirza and Samina organized their first expedition in 2010 to Chashkin Sar in Shimsal, to create awareness among youth and empower women in adventure sports. Samina successfully summited the 6,400m peak (now called Samina peak!), and the documentary was picked up by leading TV channels in Pakistan.
The brother sister duo grew up in the mountains of Karakoram Hunza-Shimshal. The village, Shimsal, is located on the Pakistan-China border at 3,300m above sea level and considered among the world’s 15 highest settlements. According to Mirza, Shimshal is one of the most remote and isolated villages in Pakistan, and very hard to access for the modern world.
Mirza and Samina hope that their work is a massive message to people in Pakistan, “that if a girl can climb a mountain, which in our society is considered the most daring of sports, other young women can do anything within their capacity – it will help boost the morale of women in our country.”
Find out more about Mirza and Samina's inspiring work and remarkable leadership at www.pakyouthoutreach.com.
“My birth place has played a significant role in providing me with the strength to fight with extreme situations. Mountains are our culture – they are our identity.”