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Hunza Valley women challenge Pakistani patriarchy

In tourist-dependent Gilgit-Baltistan, female-run businesses are spreading

Hunzai tourist guide Aziza, left, with a foreign traveler in Pakistan's Hunza Valley. Female-run businesses are on the rise in the South Asian country. (Courtesy of Root Network)

KARIMABAD, Pakistan -- Seated on a set of intricate woven rugs covering the floor of a traditional home in Shiskat, a small village in the Hunza Valley in Pakistan's northern region of Gilgit-Baltistan, I cannot help but feel surprised.

After weeks of traveling in a country where men dominate public spaces, I am sharing a meal with my host, his mother, and her sister -- something unthinkable in many areas of Pakistan, where most women still live secluded from outsiders. Sexual violence toward women is common, and a recent rape case in Lahore ignited street protests after a top police official partly blamed the victim for being out alone at night.

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