Tabassum Adnan

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Tabassum Adnan
Tabassum Adnan (Pakistan) -- 2015 - International Women of Courage Award.jpg
Swat Valley, Pakistan
Occupationwomen's rights activist
Years active2013 - present
Known forfounding the first female jirga in Pakistan

Tabassum Adnan (Urdu: تبسم عدنان) (born 1977) is a Pakistani women's rights activist from the Swat Valley. She won the U.S. State Department's 2015 International Women of Courage Award for her efforts in seeking justice for Pakistani women.[1]


Tabassum Adnan was born in 1977 and grew up in the Swat Valley of Pakistan.[2] She was a child bride at 13, mother of four and a victim of domestic violence, when she divorced her husband of 20 years. Finding herself homeless and without means of support,[1] Adnan attended a women's empowerment program run by a local aid group. It inspired her to work to change women's ability to participate in decision-making processes. Initially she approached the male-only, main Swat Aman Jirga, but was rejected.[2] Jirgas are traditional informal judicial councils which enforce qisas, retribution laws,[3] and though not intended to replace formal judicial systems or police procedures, decisions of the elders are socially respected and do often impact the judiciary.[4]

In May 2013, Adnan started her own jirga,[4] the first run by women in the country. Traditionally, women in the region have been used as chattel to settle disputes of men, traded in marriage to absolve debts, claims of honor, and retribution for crimes. Because women have little power, Adnan recognized that her group would need to pressure authorities to act. Her 25-member all-female jirga pressures police and the traditional court system to act while providing legal assistance to the victims.[5] The Khwendo Jirga, or Sister’s Council, in addition to providing justice support for women advocate for free education for girls; protection of women and girl's health; training in both traditional domestic and non-traditional vocational skills; microfinancing, access for women to peace negotiations, justice, and voting; and laws which protect women from violence,[6] specifically, honor killings, dowry harassments,[7] acid attacks, and torture. Initially the Khwendo Jirga was opposed both by men's jirgas and prominent women's rights activists.[8]

In 2014 an event happened, which changed the public perception of Adnan's group. A child was raped and the authorities failed to act. Khwendo Jirga organized a protest walk bringing visibility to the case. The suspects were apprehended and for the first time in Pashtun history, a woman, Adnan, was asked to sit on the male jirga and assist with dispensing justice in the case.[9] Since the first protest, the women have repeated the success[10] and in July, 2014, Adnan and Khwendo Jirga were lobbying for the passage of a law prohibiting child marriages.[11] Despite strong protest from religious factors,[12] the Sindh Assembly unanimously passed a ban on marriages for anyone under the age of eighteen[13] and in December, 2014 the Punjab Assembly unanimously passed a resolution to work on amending the present law.[14]

Since their first success with the men's jirga, Adnan has been invited to participate on other cases dealing with "women's issues." Though she still receives threats Adnan continues, as she believes that women should be part of the decision-making processes that effect their lives.[4][15][16]


In 2013, Adnan was awarded the Human Defenders Award,[17] in 2014 she was a nominee for the N-Peace Empowerment Award,[9] and in 2015, she won a U.S. State Department International Women of Courage Award.[1] She has won the Nelson Mandela Award 2016.


  1. ^ a b c she is the best human rights defender awardee in 2014 recently in 2015 she honoured with nelson mandela award for her great work in her area swat "Biographies of 2015 Award Winners". U.S. State Department. March 2015. Archived from the original on 2015-03-07. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  2. ^ a b Majeed, A (11 July 2013). "Pakistan's Women-Only Jirga Fights for Equal Rights". Newsweek Pakistan. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  3. ^ "Girl wants husband punished for chopping off her nose". Saach TV. July 3, 2014. Archived from the original on 8 April 2015. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  4. ^ a b c Siddiqui, Taha (March 4, 2014). "World Asia: South & Central In former Taliban fiefdom, Pakistan's first female council tackles abuses". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  5. ^ Ali, Syed Mohammad (August 8, 2013). "Significance of the female jirga". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  6. ^ Siraj, Haroon (July 24, 2013). "Female jirga head flays 'flawed' legal system". Pakistan Gender News. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  7. ^ "పాక్ మహిళకు అమెరికా అవార్డు.. సాహస స్త్రీగా ఎంపిక..!". తెలుగు వార్తలు. 6 March 2015. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  8. ^ Guerin, Orla (25 July 2013). "Pakistani women use jirga to fight for rights". BBC News. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  9. ^ a b "Tabassum Adnan A monumental moment for Pashtun women". N-Peace Network. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  10. ^ Ul Islam, Nazar (24 October 2014). "Nobody Cares". Newsweek Pakistan. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  11. ^ Inayat, Naila (June 7, 2014). "Cultures clash over forced child marriages in Pakistan". USA Today. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  12. ^ Inayat, Naila (May 16, 2014). "Muslim clerics resist Pakistan's efforts to end child marriage". The Washington Post. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  13. ^ Asif, Sundas (June 5, 2014). "Child Marriages Restraint Bill passed unanimously". Taste Pakistan. Archived from the original on 15 March 2015. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  14. ^ Shaukat, Aroosa (December 24, 2014). "PA session: Lawmakers pass resolution against child marriages". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  15. ^ بلوچ, سحر (February 22, 2015). "سوات کی خواتین کے لیے منفرد جرگہ". Dawn News Urdu. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  16. ^ "Swat activist honored with International Women of Courage Award". Pakistan Defence. 6 March 2015. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  17. ^ "Tabassum Adnan Khwendo jirga". Retrieved 15 March 2015.