A few weeks ago, my family and I set out on our annual summer trip to Gilgit-Baltistan. Our destination was the uniquely beautiful valley of Hunza-Nagar. We intended to stay for three or so days in this valley, exploring the different tourist attractions such as the centuries-old forts of Altit and Baltit, the pre-historic rock carvings of Ganesh and, naturally, the handicrafts and souvenirs market for which Hunza is renowned.
We spent our days wandering the streets of Karimabad while at night the gentle, cool, pine-scented breeze lulled us to sleep. I could ramble on concerning the various aspects of Hunza that can seduce the unsuspecting wayfarer- the people, the food, the music- but I digress. Perhaps the most outstanding facet of this city is its education. Modern-day Hunza can boast a literacy rate of approximately 75%, the highest in Pakistan. Even more surprising- albeit pleasantly- is the fact that the literacy rate amongst girls is very high.
Education and the attainment of knowledge are given top priority; boys and girls alike approach their schooling with endearing exuberance. They can be seen walking along the roadside, lunchboxes swinging on their arms and books hugged closely to their chests. Due to the importance of education in this valley, the status of women is held to be equal to that of men. They have become an integral part of the economy, for more than half of the handicrafts of Hunza are meticulously given shape by their loving hands.
Another advantage of having a high literacy rate is the awareness that comes with it. Not once did my family or I spot even a small wrapper or piece of litter on the ground. 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 risque comments as is tradition elsewhere. Hunza is an oasis of education in an otherwise parched desert, and it is time that the rest of Pakistan learn from the wisdom of its people .
(Janeha is an O level student)
The blog has originally been posted in the Friday Times, Pakistan’s first independent weekly newspaper.