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June 2001


Gulbika, mother of Aman (Pakistan 12) and Muzzafar (Pakistan 29), lives in Gilgit with her sons who work there. During the interview she expresses concern that she should return to the village to “assist my daughter-in-law in Shimshal in livestock herding”, and suggests that herding is the best job for the uneducated like herself. She provides some insights into women’s activities – she describes how they teach each other to weave and embroider, and discusses activities related to livestock and agriculture. She also addresses changes that have taken place in the village.

She describes with pride how her children supported each other through their education; all received high levels of education. She says this was helped by the fact that she didn’t spend time at Pamir (Shimshal’s mountain pastures) when they were young: “if I had taken my children to Pamir probably they would have not concentrated on their education because they would have assisted with the yaks and livestock herding.” However, while appreciating the benefits that education has brought them, she is evidently saddened by the way in which it has meant they have left Shimshal. She is also now living in Gilgit and there is only one son left tending her fields: “development I made in my fields is being wasted and everything is getting spoiled. But my children get more advantage from their education.” When asked about her daughters she explains that she feels the education of girls to be more important than that of boys: “Men can work in any circumstance irrespective of their education, but women can only get a respectable job provided they are very well educated.”

She also discusses the benefit that the improved road has brought. She believes that this will be increased by the completed road since it will also increase tourism, the major source of income in Shimshal. Like Yeenat (Pakistan 26), however, she also expresses concern that “after the linkage of the road free movement for the women and working in the fields would be difficult because so many people will come to the village.”

While the narrator is keen to mention the improvements in standards of living that education, transport and other developments have brought, she also appears worried about the accompanying social changes. She concludes by talking about the way in which unity in the village has been lost, in particular between the older and younger generations: “People would sit together and would share their happiness with each other. In a family they would live with great unity and would share the household activities… Today I see that when our children (youth) get married they leave their parents. They separate from their parents just to feed their own children.”

detailed breakdown

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Section 1  Livestock: the activities associated with their care, and the benefits they confer – milk, butter, fertiliser and wool. All goods except for dried apricots used to be produced locally, and because “of scarcity of resources we carefully planned our expenses within our resources”.
Section 2  The preparation of beth (local dish, wheat flour mixed with butter, water and salt served with mutton) for marriage and nomus (donation towards community project in the name of a relative) occasions. Fertiliser: “The major benefit from this was a good yield per area of food grain…Those who would apply more fertiliser and would properly look after the crops would get more production.” Describes the different methods of irrigation for fertile and infertile land.
Section 3  Stitching of clothes, production of yarn and the knitting of sweaters: “We would make fine yarn from wool and then make it double for stitching purposes. The women who were not capable of stitching would get the help of others. Women would help each other in such works.” Soap was made by filtering water through ash mixed with animal fat.
Section 4  Women taught each other skills such as embroidery; she has now taught her daughters-in-law: “Whatever skills I possessed, my daughters-in-law learnt it from me and now practice it very well.” Says “embroidery work is very important and is profitable too.” Suggests women can sell goods they produce “and earn money to spend on their daily needs”. Education: describes how Daulat Amin, after being educated in Gulmit and Gilgit “returned to the village and laid down the foundation for education.”
Section 5  Her brother and sons were teachers in Shimshal. Her sons used their earnings to finance their siblings: “My third son was educated at the university in Islamabad. Thereafter he joined service and now he is meeting the educational expenses of his younger brothers and sister.” Stresses the importance of education but adds “my children have left the family home due to education. Their father passed away and now there is nobody to look after our fields.” Says that her children have left the village as “they fulfil all their needs only through education”.
Section 6  She also educated her daughters but the education of the first ended when “her father arranged her marriage without my consent/information. This was a great setback for us that we could not educate her further.” Feels education of girls is more important that of boys: “Education is important for the daughter in that after marriage they become queen of their house and if they are educated, the entire atmosphere of the house becomes education-oriented and mother can very well educate their children at home.”
Section 7  The road when completed will make transporting goods easier but may restrict the movement of the women. The road will bring hotels and more tourists: “Tourism is the major source of income in Shimshal. Our people trek with tourists and earn money and they save the money in the bank and then spend it on their children’s education and also meet their household expenses.” Livestock is also a source of income.
Section 8-9  Believes she should return to Shimshal and help her daughter-in-law with the livestock: “For those who are not educated livestock herding could be the best job.” She could not go to Pamir but believes that if she had her children’s education would have suffered: “People would admonish me for living in the village (ie not going to Pamir) but I think that was the better decision for my children’s education.” Says there used to be more unity in the village. Illustrates this with a story about a woman whose sons would not look after her following the death of her husband. She took poison to end her life, and her voice appeared at her funeral explaining why she chose to die.