The Heaven on Earth, Hunza Valley, a region in the Gilgit–Baltistan territory of northernmost Pakistan, is renowned for its spectacular natural scenery of majestic mountains and glittering lakes. And for the beauty of its people. People who enjoy long life expectancy.
The rough mountain terrain, clean air and water, an abundance of healthy organic foods like dried apricots and almonds, and relative isolation are believed to have blessed the locals with excellent health and long lives.
Apart of these, Hunza is renewed for something else which is really great. At least three-quarters of people in the Valley – and virtually all the youths of both genders , can read and write (in a country where about 55 percent of the population is literate, and millions of girls are essentially blocked from attending school). Almost every child in Hunza attends school up to at least the high school level, while many pursue higher studies at colleges in Pakistan and abroad.
Dawn, an English-language Pakistani daily, reported that one of the principal factors behind Hunza’s stupendous literacy figures traces back to the educational advocacy efforts of the Aga Khan III, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah. In the early part of the 20th century, he persuaded the mirs [rulers] of Hunza state to educate their peoples. By 1946, 16 “Diamond Jubilee” schools were established in the Valley, followed by a decision from the Pakistani government to open up public schools in the Northern regions, including Hunza. In 1983, Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini, Aga Khan IV, introduced The Academy, a high-quality school (including dormitory facilities) exclusively for girls in Hunza. By the early 1990s, the government created “community schools” in Hunza, including the Al-Amyn Model School in the village of Gulmit, which permitted the students’ families to participate in lessons.
Dawn noted two other major developments in regional education gains: the establishment of the Karakoram University in Gilgit, and the founding of organizations by the Aga Khan dynasty that encourage universal education, training and scholarships. The present Aga Khan has also financed local agricultural and other economic endeavors through the Aga Khan Development Network. “There seems to be urgency in terms of acquiring education,” wrote Dr. Shahid Siddiqui, director of the Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences at the Lahore School of Economics, in an article in Dawn. “Parents in Hunza are convinced that the best thing they can do for their children is to help them get a good education. There is a growing interest in higher education for girls.”
Parents in Hunza encourage their daughters to gain an education and are even willing to send girls to all parts of Pakistan to obtain a quality degree. It is an approach that distinguishes Hunza from the rest of the Northern Areas. Even more extraordinary, the importance of education in this Valley has raised the status of women to equality with men. in Hunza (in stark contrast to virtually all other rural parts of Pakistan), women and girls stroll the bazaars after dusk without male relatives, and no one dares to bat even an eyelash at them, let alone stare sleazily and make risqué comments as is tradition elsewhere. Women have also become an integral part of the local economy, including those who weave Hunza’s famous handicrafts.
Now, hundreds of well-educated young Hunza residents are involved in IT centers, many of which are funded by foreign NGOs, studying e-marketing, e-accounting, content writing, programming, foreign exchange market trading and web design. It is hoped these courses will lead to gainful jobs, both online and offline. Pakistan is a leader in online work, ranking fourth in skills on a list of 158 countries and third in total earnings. This alone speaks to the talent in the country. Women are at the forefront of this surge. Online work is transforming the role of women across Pakistan and offering opportunities for them in IT and beyond.
Visitors to the stunningly beautiful valley, towered over by five snowcapped mountains, sometimes feel as if they are standing at the edge of the Earth — or, maybe, at the centre of it.
A once-vibrant tourism industry collapsed after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
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