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  • "I have learned that you don't have to be rich or powerful to help your community, all you need is the desire to help," says Dilshodbegim Khisravova (centre with megaphone).
Dilshodbegim Khisravova: AKAH volunteer outlines her aspirations for the Pamirs and sustainable mountain development

At 22 years old, Dilshodbegim Khisravova is a team leader for a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and Avalanche Preparedness Team in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, Tajikistan. On International Mountain Day 2021, she was nominated the Mountain Partnership’s first Youth Goodwill Ambassador.

Dilshodbegim tells us about her voluntary work and her hopes for the Pamir region.

What do you like most about your area?

Most of all I like the beautiful and rich area of hot springs, which are endowed by nature with special therapeutic properties. I love the fresh mountain air and tranquillity that always reigns in the heights of the Pamirs.

I am trying to fulfil myself here because I feel that I am needed here. My family, my community and I, as well as the volunteers we work with, can do a lot to prevent and respond to emergencies, in cooperation with the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) and government agencies. The thought that I can contribute even a little to the development of an environment [making it] safe from natural disasters for my community keeps me going.

What have you learned during CERT training?

The most important thing I learned is that you don't have to be rich or powerful to help your community.  All you need is the desire to help, and of course to join an organisation.

First aid training has also been very useful.

Thirdly, we were taught how to react to and manage an emergency situation before the rescue team got there. My volunteer team and I were involved in the mudflow emergency in Khorog. Our role was to work until specialists arrived, and then to help them. In this mudflow we evacuated people to safety. They did not return to their homes for two weeks, because their homes are very close to the mountains and when it rains, there may be debris flow and rockfall.


CERT volunteers practise first aid training during an emergency response drill. AKAH trained nearly 5,000 people in emergency first aid in 2021.

Has there been any hesitancy on the part of the community to have the CERT team led by a woman, or someone so young?

I have not heard any recriminations from anyone. At AKAH, there are women and men, some with physical disabilities, and everyone is trained and given a chance to show their worth.

If someone is thinking of volunteering, what advice would you give them?

I would say it's the best step they can take to develop themselves and their community. The people I've met over the years have taught me a lot and my perspective on some things has changed for the better.

It's very important to participate in all the classes and activities to gain experience and to learn how to act in an emergency.

What do you see as the impacts of climate change in the mountains?

According to older people, there are more and more natural disasters, even in places where no mudslides or avalanches were expected before. More people will immigrate to safer areas.  We need to act together to make conditions safe for nature and for people.

What would encourage youth to stay in the Pamirs?

In most cases, it is need, not adventure, that drives young people to leave their families and homelands. They leave to study and work, because of the poor living conditions and the lack of entertainment and cultural activities for young people (there is not a single cinema or modern entertainment complex).

To encourage young people to stay, new jobs need to be created where they can develop themselves and the societies in which they live. We need safety from natural disasters and at least minimal comfort for people who are tired of living in harsh mountain conditions. We should recreate the conditions that exist in the cities in our mountains.

How might this be accomplished?

I have long dreamed of building affordable modern multi-storey combined residential and business buildings. Considering our geographical conditions, where about a third of the very few plains are hazardous, it would be logical to build modern multi-storey houses in safe places.

On the lower floors there could be nurseries, clinics and supermarkets with leisure centres. On the upper floors there would be residential houses. Build an alley and a park near the house and build a solar boiler house to provide heat, water and electricity.

From selling flats at affordable prices some of the money can be reinvested to extend similar living conditions to other mountainous regions.

We've had International Mountain Day since 2002. Now the UN has declared a whole year dedicated to sustainable mountain development. How do you hope this might benefit mountain societies?

Hopefully by investing in new and innovative projects for sustainable mountain development. I hope that we will succeed and that the Pamirs will become a developed region in all senses of the word.