Girls in Action! Swat Project 2024

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April 27th marked the end of the ‘Swat Girls in Action!’ course organised in Pakistan by Mountain Wilderness International in collaboration with the International Association for Mediterranean and Oriental Studies (ISMEO) and the Italian Academic Alpine Club (CAAI), as a joint venture with the Government Post Graduate College for Girls in the foothills town of Saidu Sharif, in central Swat, under the aegis of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region government.

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The success of the initiative far exceeded the most optimistic forecasts of the organisers. It is likely that the course will be remembered as one of the most original steps towards overcoming the traditional social roles that still limit the aspirations of young women in the country.

The aim of the course was to introduce 24 girls between 18 and 24 years of age to activities that included encounters, some of them very challenging, with the natural environment of mountains, sport climbing on rock walls, the organisation of tents, orienteering with a compass and reading topographical maps, as well as visits to the ruins of ancient Buddhist monuments hidden in the wooded side valleys. A perfect and unprecedented combination of nature, sport and culture.  All under the banner of active protection and conservation of the mountain environment, the raison d’être of the NGO Mountain Wilderness International and its chapters.

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It was an all-women course. Even trainers were all women, experts in mountaineering, trekking, environmental issues, mountain medicine and first aid, ancient art history and cultural heritage.  Five instructors were Italian, one Catalan and one Pakistani: Francesca Colesanti, Chiara Delpino, Susanna Gonella, Elisa Peyrot, Patrizia Romagnolo, Concep Mirò and Ayesha Hinna. Carlo Alberto Pinelli, Head of Mountain Wilderness’ Asian Desk, took care of the entire organisation, with the support of journalist Fazal Khaliq and College headmaster Prof. Bakht Tasleem.

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The certificates of attendance were awarded at the end of the course, during a festive ceremony. They allow trainees (all finished the training with excellent or good marks) to lead school groups to discover the nature and cultural history of the country. But they will also remain as a symbol of a promise of freedom in planning their destiny.

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Last but not least, we are very grateful to the support of Mountain Partnership (FAO) and Banca Sella, and the contribution in the form of mountain and climbing footwear by SCARPA as well as mountain equipment by Ferrino, both Italian manufacturers.