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Women of the High Pastures and the Global Economy: Reflections on the Impacts of Modernization in the Hushe Valley of the Karakorum, Northern Pakistan

Farida Azhar-Hewitt
Mountain Research and Development
Vol. 19, No. 2 (May, 1999), pp. 141-151
DOI: 10.2307/3674255
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3674255
Page Count: 11
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Women of the High Pastures and the Global Economy: Reflections on the Impacts of Modernization in the Hushe Valley of the Karakorum, Northern Pakistan
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Abstract

In a Karakorum-Himalaya valley, women go to high pastures with the livestock. They possess detailed knowledge, wisdom, and skills relating to their environment. They know how to manage the resources of animals and plants which they process for subsistence, sale, and barter. They also make trips down to the village: tending their crops and caring for their household. It appears that small children, young women, and grandparents inhabit one world, while the younger men and boys live in another. This is because the men of this valley are turning to the outside world for more lucrative opportunities, abandoning their share of subsistence work. They migrate to the plains for work, or find positions as porters with visiting mountaineering expeditions. This has produced a sad state of affairs for people who still believe in family values rather than individual rights, and for whom arranged marriage is an economic alliance between clans. It creates a situation in which the husband depends on his wife for sustenance, while regarding her as 'backward' and 'inferior.' This is the problem of women: their subservient position and forced inclusion into the capitalist system of labor-first by their own men due to the patriarchal division of labor, which turns partners and co-workers into master and servant; then by the male elite of the village, who maintain and confirm this division; then by bureaucrats and corporate power-holders of the global market economy into which the women are inserted, without their knowledge, consent, or control.

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