Gorno-Badakhshan, Tajikistan – Up to 60 percent of families in Tajikistan rely on remittances by relatives working as migrant labourers in Russia.
Yet eco-tourism is a potential source of income for the mountainous country.
Tajikistan has been trying to boost tourism, introducing academic tourism courses in local universities in 2012 but with little focus on outdoor skills.
Christine Oriol, a French development worker, noticed the lack of experienced trekking guides while working on a trekking guidebook for the region and started a training course.
She is teaching a group of young Tajik women crucial outdoor skills, like map reading, pitching tents, getting the stoves going and shouldering heavy backpacks to survive a week out in the Pamir Mountains.
Oriol’s course is defying traditions in Tajikistan’s Muslim society.
“The mountains I would say is considered mostly as a man’s area,” she says.
“Women never go to the mountains. There are very few male guides, and women guides absolutely don’t exist in Tajikistan.”
Tajik women enjoy more freedom than in neighbouring Afghanistan but are often expected to stick to traditional roles.
“Even my family, they are saying it’s too hard for you,” says Safina Shohaydarova, a tourism graduate.
“They think it’s more for men – all this trekking and stuff.”