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28 August 2001


Although not particularly long, Yeenat’s testimony does provide some insight into women’s activities in Shimshal and some of the difficulties they face. There is also some interesting detail on agriculture and festivals. She has three children and was married when she was age eight. She found it difficult to adjust to her new home and “always worried about the norms and environment of the new family”. Her early marriage also signalled the end of her education, something she evidently regrets. During her testimony she discusses some of the difficulties of being illiterate, and emphasises the importance of educating her own children. She explains: “When we [women] see the people from down country we get frustrated because we don’t know the right manners, as we are in isolation between the high mountain rocks. Because of this our children cannot get a better education – that results in frustration. When the road will be linked our children will get better education…”

The testimony contains quite a lot of detail on clothing and food customs. Yeenat has been to Pamir (Shimshal’s mountain pastures) several times and she describes the storage and fermentation of butter: “the cows do not give milk all year round, hence fresh butter is not available. Therefore the butter is stored in the yeenjui (underground cold storage) and is used on the occasions of marriages and deaths and for other requirements… It is a symbol of prestige to use fermented butter on such occasions.”

She describes some of the festivals which take place, and comments on the purpose of one particular custom during the sowing festival: “they take seman (local sweet dish) to the houses of all their kin and relatives… for the reason that they want to reiterate their unity and share pleasure with each other and also remind each other of family unity.”

The testimony concludes with Yeenat describing her grief when her two brothers died – both in accidents: “These incidents caused mental and physical damage to us. I cannot forget them even for a moment. I always live with their memories.”

detailed breakdown

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Section 1-2  Interviewer introduces narrator and explains purpose of the interview. Yeenat has three children and was married when she was eight. Experience of marrying so young; difficulties of adjusting to a new family. She could not go to school: “I was interested in getting education but due to worries in [my husband’s] house I could not continue my education. They assigned me the household activities, so I could not spare time to go to school.” The family was large and the workload heavy: “we all remained busy …there was plenty of livestock and we had to carry out the work of carding wool and yarn and also to prepare fertiliser.”
Section 3  Woollen clothes made in the past. Her husband works as a porter: “if there were no tourists visiting the village then people would sell their cows, livestock and yaks to meet these expenses.” Pamir – she no longer goes but has been several times. The storage of butter.
Section 4  Education of children: “we must meet their educational expenses by any means but we must continue their education.” The problems of being illiterate: “When we go to down country we don’t know the language and the manner, we don’t even know how to ask for water.” Agricultural tasks; irrigation is the most difficult task.
Section 5  Management of household activities. Community service: “I have been to Gojerab (name of pasture) and voluntarily I have helped the physically weak and poor people because, unlike today, there were lot of difficulties at that time in the pasture.” Believes the women volunteers were “more active in previous times”. System of nomus (donation towards community project in the name of a relative). The road: “due to the unavailability of a road link to the village we are cut off from the rest of the area and we don’t know the modern way of life.”
Section 6-7  There are advantages to not having a road link – women can move freely in the village. Expresses concern that when the road comes “we may not communicate and deal properly with the people [coming in] because we women are illiterate” The death of her two brothers in accidents. The shock was so great that she fell ill on both occasions. Clothing that used to be worn; ash was used for washing clothes and hair. Food that used to be eaten, and food prepared for celebrations. Clothing worn for marriage.
Section 8-9  Describes the festivals that take place through the year. Describes Chaneer (harvest festival) and kooch (migration with livestock to and from pasture): “The system of kooch is such that everyone migrates to the pasture (in summer) where they take combined breakfast. They normally take meals together and they live there in unity. The livestock of those who do not go to Pamir are looked after with great care throughout their stay in Pamir and these livestock are brought back and handed over to their masters.” Again recalls her pain when her brothers died: “They were our guardians and were feeding us, but I lost them and can never forget them.