Swat girls trained in environmental mountaineering
Trainees with Betto Pinelli, MWI Asian Desk

First course for women trekking guides

How many years have passed since the day the young and brave Malala Yousafzai was shot by Islamic fundamentalists?

Today, in that very same Swat valley, surrounded by the southernmost peaks of the Himalayan mountains, a small but significant revolutionary event is about to take place, involving twenty-four girls like Malala and – just like her – determined to shape their own destiny independently.

Within the framework of the Swat Project, that the NGO Mountain Wilderness International (MWI) has been implementing over the past few years, with the cooperation of ISMEO (International Association for Mediterranean and Oriental Studies) and the Italian Academic Alpine Club, a first course for mountaineering, nature and cultural trekking guides has been planned, entirely for local women and led exclusively by Mountain Wilderness trainers from Italy, Catalonia, Canada as well as Pakistan.

The eight-day “full immersion” course will begin on August 21 and will allow trainees to experience the thrills of rock climbing and the fascination of long routes in mid-elevation mountains, along untrodden and sometimes difficult paths, acquiring precise skills in the fields of natural heritage protection, tent camp management, relations with Pakistani and foreign tourists, mountain first aid, archaeology and art history.  It is worth mentioning that at the bottom of many side valleys, surrounded by dense vegetation, stand the imposing ruins of ancient Buddhist monuments, dating back to the first centuries of the vernacular era. For more than half a century, a famous Italian archaeological mission has been operating in Swat, initiated by Prof. Giuseppe Tucci, which every year brings to light extraordinary evidence of the most ancient history of the Indian sub-continent: city walls, temples, fortresses, centres that were inhabited even before the invasion of Alexander the Macedonian.

At the end of the course, the best trainees (with their parents’ consent) will be invited to visit – accompanied by the same trainers – the mountainous areas of northern Swat, where imposing peaks covered in ice rise up to 6,000 m a.s.l. An experience that will leave its mark and convey an important symbolic message beyond Pakistan’s borders.