Sundas Behroz

While scrolling through Instagram, my eyes fell on the BBC’s 100 Inspiring Women. Every year, the BBC selects 100 inspiring women from around the world who have made their mark in various fields, whether it is the field of sports, the efforts made to promote culture, or an important achievement in the world of science, or any work for the welfare of humanity.

This year too, BBC released the list of 100 courageous women of 2023. This news was not very special to me, but one name among them did not let me move forward. Seeing the name Afroz Numa, a brave woman from Shamshal Valley in Gilgit, my joy was endless. Curiosity was forcing me to know more about this brave daughter of the holy land. I also set out on this journey of discovery, and knowing about her made me proud.

Shamshal Valley is located at an altitude of 3100 feet. The residents here are called ‘Wakhi’. In 2003, a road was constructed towards this valley. Being cut off from the rest of the world for a long time, trade took place here through barter. They make a living by farming and rearing animals. In summer, their men stay in the village and farm, and the women head to the higher plains to graze their flocks.

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Afroz is the last of the shepherdesses who would take their flock over the most difficult routes to the green plains and would spend five to six months in the plains away from home. The way to reach these fields is through a river which is crossed by a wooden bridge. There is always a risk of landslides on this difficult route.

Apart from this, they also have to protect their herds from various wild animals in these plains, but these brave women know the skill of fighting every danger with valor and courage.

It is in these plains that they make curd and other dairy products from the milk of these animals, some of which they use there and some they bring back to their villages, and in exchange for them, they buy various items. This is the livelihood of these women through which they bear the expenses of their children’s marriages and education.

Afroz Numa was the first woman in this village to wear shoes that were gifted to her by her brother; otherwise, the people here lived without shoes for a long time. This tradition of the Wakhi shepherdess is ending now because Afroz Numa is the last shepherdess of this generation.

The BBC has named her one of the world’s 100 most influential women, saluting her bravery and courage. I am very happy that such women are now coming forward who were never known. A living example of this is Afroz Numa.

Note: Sundus Behroz is doing Masters in English and also writes blogs on social issues.