The independent women of the North

By Tabish Sethi

Many people tend to waste their lives slaving away behind their work desks thinking, “I’ll explore the world when I’m more successful,” or “Il travel after I complete the next office project.” But does that time ever come?

For me, working and travelling go hand in hand. I am an electrical engineer and I work for a telecom company as their Interconnect Planning Expert. Though I dedicate myself to my work, I also make sure I pursue my passion, i.e, travelling.

Photos by Tabish Sethi

Since the last 5 years, I have been exploring Pakistan solo. But travelling for me is not just about going to places, it’s also about becoming a part of the lives of people who live there.

During a visit to the Northern areas of Pakistan, I came across two independent and strong women from the region – ladies who impressed me with their courage and dedication. Henceforth, I bring their story to the world.

The craft of Hunza

I met Nasima Apa accidentally while on my way to Altit Fort – an encounter I will remember for the rest of my life. She owns a shop in Hunza that sells handmade items such as purses, wallets, caps etc.

I stopped by to get something for my mother but Nasima’s bubbly and friendly nature captivated me.  We soon got to talking and oh what an inspirational and hard-working woman she is. Apart from just owning a handicraft store, apa also focuses on receiving vocational training from NGO’s in Gilgit and further imparts that knowledge onto the women of her town.

If you ever travel to Hunza, you will recognise her store immediately by the crowd of women that surround it. During my time spent with her, I found out that her husband is a retired teacher who saved up money to buy her the store. Nasima apa is simply trying her best to make the best of the opportunity.

Her biggest regret though, is not being educated.

The pharmacist from Kalash

London Bibi from Rumbur, Kalash, is a source of inspiration for me since she has fought against all odds to achieve what she has today.

Her husband runs a small guest house that doesn’t earn much profit, hence it was up to London Bibi to either accept the circumstances as they were, or push herself for the betterment of her children’s future.

Belonging to a well-known family in the area, London Bibi works as pharmacist in a local dispensary and also performs the role of a nurse. Using her earnings, she sent her son off to study in Lahore. Her daughters on the other hand, are studying in Chitral for now.

I happened to meet her since she is the mother of one of my friend’s from Kalash. However, it is her strength that has been etched on my mind.

This photo was taken on my last day at Kalash, and here is this amazing woman making walnut bread for me to take back to Islamabad.

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