Meet the First Female Tour Guide in Afghanistan

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A 22-year-old woman is making a name for herself in Afghanistan, paving the way for others in the country as its first female tour guide — and by even working at all.
After growing up as a sheepherder in the Afghanistan countryside, Fatima is now a tour guide in Herat, the country's third-largest city, as per a report in CNN. (CNN noted it was not using her last name at her request, to protect her safety.) Fatima told the network that she was entirely unaware that being a tour guide was a job, but that she was determined to do work of some kind, despite the norm of women not working in her country.

"I thought a lot during these years, how sitting at home would not solve any problem."


"I thought a lot during these years, how sitting at home would not solve any problem," she told them. "My brothers and sisters were forced to get married. It was so sad for me. I decided that I would not continue in their tradition. That was how I decided to work."
To get herself started, Fatima joined Facebook and began learning English. That propelled her to start writing posts about places in Afghanistan that foreigners may not be aware of in an effort to inform them that the country is not solely "a place of war and conflict."

Her 'Big' Break

In response to those posts, Fatima met a colorful character known as "Big Tom," who asked her if she'd be interested in showing him around Herat. Fatima agreed and the rest, they say, is history.
"Big Tom" referred a friend to Fatima, getting her other clients to tour around, which led to a boutique travel agency, called Untamed Borders, finding and hiring her. The company's founder, James Wilcox, told CNN that "having a female guide gives our guests a whole new perspective."
In addition to "being well-informed as a guide, Fatima gives our guests a personal insight into her life as an Afghan woman," said Wilcox. "We try to give our guests a framework of information to give context to the experiences they have in Afghanistan, and Fatima adds to that in a big way."
Of her life as a tour guide, Fatima says: "I am the first lady in Afghanistan to guide people, but I do not want to be the last."
Fatima's work is not only wildly impressive but also brave: Women's rights in Afghanistan still have a long way to go to reach anything resembling equity.

Tags: Groundbreaking Women, Gender Equality

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Written By

Rose Low

Rose Low is a writer based in New York, with a background in social media strategy and reporting. She has a Masters from NYU and a love for romantic comedies. See Full Bio

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