By Palash Ghosh for ibtimes.com – Malala Yousafzai may be the most famous young Pakistan woman in the world – but she should perhaps share that status with 21-year old Samina Khayyal Baig, a young lady who, like Malala, has shattered the stereotypes about females from her country. Samina is a mountaineer – not just any mountain climber, but a woman who has already scaled the tallest peak in the world, Mount Everest, and plans to conquer many more. Samina and his brother Mirza Ali Baig recently scaled Mount Aconcagua in Argentina, making them the first Pakistanis to have reached the summit of the highest peak in South America. The Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP) reported that the duo arrived at the top of Aconcagua – which is 6961 meters (or 22,838 feet) high – on December 13, after “battling harsh weather conditions for almost nine hours.”
Samina had already achieved legendary status in Pakistan – in May of this year, she became the very first woman from her country to scale the highest mountain on earth, Mount Everest in Nepal. She is also the third Pakistani to climb Everest (regardless of gender) and, for the record, the youngest Muslim woman to do so (at the tender age of only 21). But this is only the beginning of Samina’s quest – in late November she and her brother left Pakistan to embark on a grand adventure to climb seven peaks in seven continents (Argentina was the first stop on their global excursion). According to ACP, Samina and Mirza will next voyage to Antarctica in January to attempt to climb Mount Vinson (16,050 ft.), then move on to Tanzania in East Africa to scale Mount Kilimanjaro (19,341 ft.) before returning to their native Pakistan for a rest.
Samina fully understands her role shattering stereotypes and blazing her own path in a country where women are generally treated as second-class citizens and property and often subject to such horrors as honor killing. “I want to tell women in developing countries that they are as powerful as their male counterparts and they can play an equal role in their respective societies,” Samina told Agence France-Presse. “A girl child has as equal rights as their male counterparts and our community does everything to educate female children.”
Interestingly, the region where Mirza and Samina hail from is quite different from the rest of Pakistan – the residents follow a moderate brand of Shia Ismaili Islam (as followers of the Aga Khan), whereas most of the country’s observes Sunni Islam. Extraordinarily, the literacy rate for women in Hunza is 100 percent. “When I came to the city for the first time, I saw a completely different world, where people are less educated, poverty is widespread and [the] female is a non-existent species compared to their male counterparts” Samina said. “But in my community, women are as important as males and they are playing an equal role in the society.”
Noting that the Aga Khan Development Network has established many schools and hospitals in the Hunza region, Samina described education of the young (including females) as “a religious obligation.”