Reaching the survivors of coerced marriages and violence in Pakistan

girl holding toddler

“I was given in Swara when I was 14 years old. The man I was given to has married another woman. He has sold my daughters and would beat me regularly for resisting prostitution.” (Project beneficiary)

Swara, is traditionally practiced in north-west Pakistan where women and girls are given in marriage to settle disputes. Although outlawed in 2005, informal tribal elders still consider it a legitimate form of justice (known as Jirga).

The consequences of this practice on the girls and young women traded in the name of justice are serious. Most are children, taken from their homes at an early age and forced into marriage. They are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and early pregnancy, and consequently are at high-risk of maternal mortality and morbidity, STIs and HIV.

Rahnuma-FPAP has set out to challenge the acceptance of Swara, child marriage and gender-based violence (GBV), and provide services for survivors of these practices. The strategies for intervention are designed in keeping with the tribal setting of the area, where Jirga law prevails over judicial law.

Rahnuma-FPAP have worked closely with Jirga members and religious leaders who have issued Fatwa banning the practice of Swara, as well as with mothers-in-law who provide a crucial access point to the Swara girls and young women. Mobile service units have provided sexual and reproductive health services, information and counselling to over 2,500 young women and girls.

The project has been voted as one of Women Deliver’s 50 most inspiring ideas and solutions that deliver for girls and women, joining a high profile list of truly inspirational initiatives from across the globe.