Khorog, Tajikistan, 10 December 2021 – In a global, virtual event organised by the FAO in celebration of International Mountain Day, Dilshodbegim Khisravova – one of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat’s (AKAH) emergency response volunteers in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO), Tajikistan – was nominated the Mountain Partnership’s first Youth Goodwill Ambassador.
Ms Khisravova, a 21-year-old native of the Pamir Mountains, has been a champion for mountain communities since she was a young girl. She leads a local community emergency response team – all volunteers – in GBAO and is passionate about protecting mountains and mountain life and encouraging women to speak up and lead. We spoke with Ms Khisravova about her work, her new Goodwill Ambassadorship and her message for other young people.
What do mountains mean to you? Why is it important to protect them?
I was born and grew up in my hometown Khorog surrounded by the Pamir Mountains. Living in Pamirs means enjoying the freshest air, eating the sweetest fruits and uniquely beautiful nature. Even though high mountains possess uniquely beautiful nature, current harsh climate conditions pose a threat to the population of the Pamirs. It can increase the intensity of natural hazards and man-made disasters. In many cases, villages are cut off from communication routes for a long time after these disasters and must rely only on themselves and neighbouring communities. And that’s why we have to take care of mother nature and mountains. They do matter.
As volunteers, we can improve the ability of our community to better cope with the impacts of disasters and other emergencies. Thanks to AKAH and the Government for taking unprecedented actions to train and equip us with the resources.
What inspired you to volunteer?
When I was a schoolgirl, I observed a group wearing the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) vest and helping the community clean and do other stuff. But there was no girl in the group, and I wanted to be as brave as the guys are. So, I joined and eventually became first the leader of one team, then leader of the district and the whole CERT team.
Gender balance should be everywhere. That was the reason I joined the CERT team. But I’m truly sad observing how women are still struggling with defending their fundamental rights not only across the world but in some neighbouring countries. So, I’m trying to keep gender equity and maintain gender balance in the teams here as well.
What do you do as a CERT volunteer?
Besides being volunteers, we have our own lives studying, working and hanging out with our friends. But in an emergency, whenever there is a need, we can quickly mobilise and provide first aid before the actual professionals come. In addition, we receive a two-day professional CERT training session conducted by AKAH annually to improve our knowledge.
The Mountain Partnership nominates well-known personalities to champion the cause of sustainable mountain development. What does it mean to you to be named its first-ever Youth Goodwill Ambassador?
I don’t even know what it means. But, when people started congratulating me, I acknowledged that it was something very important and serious, so I Googled it. It turned out that only stars and big-shot influencers could be nominated. And this is a huge responsibility for me. I’m so proud that the world community is noticing us – volunteers. Without the other 5,000 volunteers, I would have never achieved this nomination. So, we all deserve this, and everyone in our CERT team can say that they are Goodwill Ambassadors.
What is your message to other young women and girls?
So many girls out there think that volunteering is not for them; they are afraid of speaking up. But CERT is that platform where our voices can be heard. So, don’t be scared. Stand, and go for changes!
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