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Pakistan's first female Everest conqueror sets new goals

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The first Pakistani woman to climb Mount Everest is to embark on an expedition to summit seven major peaks around the world, to advocate female empowerment and action on climate change.

Samina Baig in June became the first Pakistani woman to reach the 8,848 metre (29,029 foot) summit of the world's tallest mountain, after a gruelling expedition in rough weather.

Now she and her brother Mirza Ali Baig will set off on Saturday to tackle Mount Vinson, the highest in Antarctica, Argentina's Aconcagua, the tallest peak in the Americas and others in Russia, Indonesia and Nepal.

The Adventure Diplomacy Group (ADG) consisting of the embassies of Argentina, Indonesia, Nepal, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America is supporting the duo in their voyage.

Hailing from Hunza valley in Pakistan's northern Gilgit-Baltistan region, Samina, 21, said mountaineering was not only a sport for her, but a means to inspire women.

Many women in Pakistan suffer severe discrimination, domestic violence and they are often victims of so-called "honour" killings -- when someone is murdered for allegedly bringing dishonour upon her family.

"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 AFP.

Northern Pakistan is home to some of the world's most impressive mountains and glaciers and is renowned for its particularly challenging climbs, including K2, the world's second highest peak.

But the climbing industry was badly affected by the massacre of 10 foreign mountaineers at the foot of Pakistan's second highest mountain Nanga Parbat in June.

Mirza, an experienced mountain guide, expedition leader and trainer in the Karakoram, Himalaya and Hindu Kush ranges, said he wanted to push a more positive message.

"Our aim is also to promote peace and love for nature and its inhabitants. We've had enough of bombs, we should give peace a chance now," he said.

Equal rights

Samina said she took inspiration from her own small community in the rugged terrain of the Karakorum mountain range in Pakistan's extreme north.

"A girl child has as equal rights as their male counterparts and our community does everything to educate female children," Samina said.

Nestled among some of the highest mountains of the world, Hunza is inhabited by moderate Shia Ismaili Muslims, followers of the Aga Khan.

The area has the highest literacy rate in the country with female literacy rate standing at a one hundred 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."

With a network of schools and hospitals established by the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), the Ismailis of Hunza have evolved into one of the developed communities in Pakistan where education as the young Samina says "is a religious obligation".

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131126/pakistans-first-female-everest-conqueror-sets-new-goals