For women in Pakistan, getting themselves recognised for accomplishments that go against the tide is always an uphill task. And when you are eyeing to do something which is not considered as a ‘women’s thing’, then you must be prepared to fight at several fronts, from family to society.
But if you are ambitious, then nothing can stop you from getting to the top of the world.
Mountaineer Uzma Yousaf is one of them.
Born in Peshawar, Uzma always wanted to participate in sports. But she couldn’t do so due to social barriers.
“I am from a sports family, but I couldn’t participate in sports [early] due to social pressure,” Uzma – now a mother of two
For her, things changed when she went to a trip arranged by her husband Yousaf Akhtar to Nanga Parbat.
“It was 2014, we went to trek Fairy Meadows and then we were scheduled to go further towards the base camp of Nanga Parbat,” she recalled.
“I wanted to trek and go till the end but my husband didn’t allow me, he thought I wouldn’t be able to do it and I was told to complete the journey on horses instead of trekking.”
It was a moment where she wanted to prove herself, but she wasn’t accepted as strong enough to trek that far.
“I was so demoralised at that time, but I remained motivated that I have to prove myself,” Uzma said.
Next year, she got a chance to finally prove herself when she climbed Mingling Sar in Shimshal, a 6,150m peak.
“It was my first experience of such an expedition. The weather wasn’t encouraging, but I was highly motivated. When we reached [the height of] around 5,000m almost all of my [team members] had gone back, but I kept on climbing [all the way] to Mingling Sar,” Uzma said.
It was one of the most memorable moments of her life. That moment also changed her husband’s thoughts.
“I was just cautious before, as a father and a husband. But she changed my mind with her passion,” Uzma’s husband, Yousaf Akhtar, said.
“Now I totally support her passion.”
It was something unusual. A woman, not allowed to participate in sports before, climbing mountains without proper training.
Uzma then went on a training expedition to Rush Peak in winters and to Spantik Peak.
And now she is vying to become the first woman from Pakistan to climb an 8,000m peak in the country.
“I am planning to climb Broad Peak this year,” she announced.
Broad Peak is the 12th highest mountain in the world at 8,051 metres (26,414 ft) above sea level. It is part of the Gasherbrum massif in Baltistan on the border of Pakistan and China, located in the Karakoram mountain range about 8km from K2.
“I want to prove that Pakistani women can do anything,” she said, citing Samina Baig as her inspiration.
“Samina Baig grew up on the mountains and she is used to [those] conditions. I am not from mountains, so it is not always easy for me or women like me to acclimatise with the conditions, it is always a challenge,” she said.
Uzma also hopes to encourage other women to opt for mountaineering and climbing.
“It makes you strong. Mentally strong, emotionally strong and physically strong,” she said.
“I am no different from other women. As soon as I return from the mountains, I am a homemaker, I am a mother and a wife.”