Tabassum Adnan

Founder/Head of 1st female jirga( khwendo jirga) in history of Pakistan


Tabassum Adnan is famous in Pakistan and abroad as the Khwedo Jirga Mashra(Leader of the Women Jirga/Council), the first ever Women Jirga.Born in a patriarchal society where the voice of women is not considered, she was married at the age of 13. In addition to the trauma of being married as a child, she  tortured  mentally and physically.Her story in the Swat valley of Pakistan is unfortunately not uncommon. However, Ms. Adnan considered that those injustices and sufferings were not a fatality and she decided to devote her life to lighten the burden and sufferings imposed to women and minorities by the Pashtun society.Her most striking achievement, the Women Jirga has emerged as a necessity due to the continuous violence against women in Pashtun society. She is the only woman that has stood against the patriarchal societal structure to defend women rights and took the historical step of forming the first ever women Jirga in the history of Pakistan.For the first time the voice of the despised Pashtun women were listened. In the darkness, Ms. Adnan has lightened a small light that keeps growing since then.The Grand Male Jirga recognized her courage and she was invited to attend its sessions. It was a milestone in the history of Pashtun culture; for the first time in history, a woman could attend a male Jirga.  Later on, she was the first Pashtun woman to take place in government district dispute resolution council.All those incursions into what is still considered as male territory were considered as impossible before Ms. Adnan.It should be also noted that she is not imposing changes from outside and making a clean break of the traditions. On the contrary, as a member of Pashtun community, she is trying to be the spokesman of the women and oppressed minorities and start to change the situation from inside, using the traditional institutions (cf. the Jirga).She has caused a breach into traditions into which the oppressed women can now step into. Ms. Adnan has opened the way for millions of women.Through her action in the Women Jirga, Ms. Adnan was the first nail in the coffin of the unjust patriarchal traditions that are depriving women of their rights in the Pashtun society.In addition to fighting for women, she has also raised the voice for religious minorities, Christian and Hindus, and advocate in favor of peaceful and nonviolent relationships between the different faiths.Ms. Adnan believes that all humans are equal and must be treated in the same manner. When the suicide attack on a Christian church in Peshawar occurred, she was the first Muslim woman who along with an organization protested against such brutality by organizing a protest walk.Recently, she has opened the debate of transgender rights in Pakistan. Once again she hasn’t hesitated to be criticized and defend the most vulnerable members of society.Those actions are not without consequences on her physical integrity. She is regularly threatened to death, not only by Taliban but also by other conservative people who cannot accept the changes she is slowly making in society.She is putting her life in danger to serve the cause of others. Ms. Adnan is a wonderful example of commitment and courage.She has accomplished more than any others for the rights of Pakistani women as well as the rights of minorities. For those who are fighting for women and minority rights, her achievements make her not only an exceptional person but also a source of inspiration as well as a model to follow.For many women and minorities, she is the last chance to receive Justice and be treated fairly that is denied by state and society. Since its establishment in 2013, Khwendo Jirga (Sisters Council) and its Founder and  Head Tabassum Adnan, have been fighting for the rights of women in the face of a male dominated society. The Council currently operates in Swat, Pakistan, but  they are working to ensure that their services  are extended throughout the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.and in the whole country.


April 28, 2016: The CIVICUS Nelson Mandela - Graca Machel Innovation Award was presented to Tabassum Adnan on the concluding day of the International Civil Society Week (ICSW), held from April 25-28 in Bogota, Columbia. Meet the daredevil activist who is changing the game for women in Mingora, Swat.