Aisholpan Nurgaiv with eagle
Aisholpan Nurgaiv

The Eagle Festival takes place in Northern Mongolia every winter. It is a celebration of mid-winter and brings together communities from all over the region. It’s also an opportunity for individuals to showcase their skills and abilities in training eagles to hunt prey such as rabbits and foxes. It is not well documented but it is recognized that women have participated in these traditions since tenth century Persia but none as young as Aisholpan. In present time there are only c.250 eagle hunters left participating in the annual festival.

In 2014, an image of her smiling as a fifteen-pound eagle soars off her arm went viral. From a young age, she recalls being interested in being an eagle huntress. Her parents have always supported her ambition, especially her father. He has always stood by her despite her community being critical of her ambitions. She says she was worried but was never afraid. The man that photographed her recalls that the atmosphere around her participating in the event. Saying how it was still tense as the community was still grappling with a girl, especially one as young as Aisholpan, participating in the event.

Aisholpan hopes her story has inspired girls and women from around the world. Since her photograph went viral there has been a notable increase in the number of girls choosing to train as eagle huntresses. It appears her legacy has already taken root. She hopes that girls and women will continue to persevere and pursue their dreams in the face of criticism and patriarchal systems.She has been immortalised in a 2016 documentary about the eagle festival and her own participation in it. She also features in the Bedtime Stories for Rebel Girls book. She continues to inspire and make change from afar.

-Megan Clout, Junior Girl

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