There are many inspiring stories of ordinary women in Afghanistan who have walked the extra mile and accomplished some extraordinary things in various fields. In the field of sports, many young Afghan women have brought laurels to the country, matching steps with their male counterparts in the rest of the world. Social media is replete with stories of such young achievers who have overcome odds and carved a niche for themselves.
While Afghan women have proved their mettle in many sports; mountaineering is one area where they have traditionally lagged behind. Oghli Sediqa Mayar Nooristani is out to break the jinx. The first Afghan woman mountaineer, Nooristani has already given glimpses of her rich talent, scaling the most famous mountain peak of the country. Till few years ago, it was unimaginable for young Afghan women to dabble with such adventurous sport that was considered the exclusive domain of men in this part of the world. Nooristani defied critics and misogynists and went to explore the unchartered territory. Today, she is an inspiration to millions of young women in Afghanistan who believe in the beauty of their dreams and dare to chase them.
Nooristani was born into a family of athletes. “My grandfather, father, brothers, sisters have all been athletes,” says the young prodigy. She was in grade VII in the year 2005 when a group of Italian mountain climbing instructors came to Afghanistan to train enthusiastic boys. “I was fascinated with this sport and luckily I got full support of my family and friends, so I attended the assessment session and made it through,” says Nooristani with a broad grin.
She managed to impress her foreign instructors with incredible passion and skill. “I was the only female in that group interested in mountain climbing sport and that impressed my instructors,” says Nooristani, who has been doing it for past six years. Starting with theory and practical lessons for one month in her country, she went to Italy and trained there for three years with the support of Italian government. She returned with three certificates, dreams and loads of confidence.
Looking back at her momentous journey so far, Nooristani has come a long way from being a small girl with dreams of making it big. As a little girl in primary school, she used to marvel how people scale such towering mountain peaks and come back alive. Though it was considered impossible for women to attempt such dare-devilry, Nooristani made a pact with herself. Many years later, she waved the three-color flag of Afghanistan from Mirsamir Mountains in Panjshir province at the height of 4000 meters, and realized her long-cherished dream. “Climbing mountains seemed easy for me the first time, but as I crawled up, the people below appeared tiny and fear gripped me. But when I reached the peak of the mountain and waved the flag of my country there, I felt proud and happy for myself and people of my country who cheered me on,” says the young mountaineer.
Mountain climbing is a popular adventure sport and a mode of recreation for some amateurs. It also involves the research on precious stones and other natural resources found on mountain peaks, besides understanding the geographical locations. Nooristani rues the fact that people are not inclined towards mountaineering in this part of the world. “A few years back, an airplane lapsed on Salang Mountains and all the passengers on board died. I felt stressed hearing that news and wished we had a group of mountaineers who could help in rescue operations.”
Nooristani has come a long way from being a small girl with dreams of making it big
Afghanistan is world-famous for its mountains and the highest peak in this country is called Nawshakh, which is 7492 meters from the ground. Nooristani says if Afghan government promotes the sport, more people will be drawn to it.
In other countries, says Nooristani, governments pay lot of attention to mountainous areas and invest in training their mountaineers. In Afghanistan, there are currently 49 male mountaineers and only one is female. “Our government needs to encourage young mountaineers, especially girls who are interested in this field,” says the young achiever, who plans to train and guide youngsters in her country. And as she puts it, “sky is no limit”.