PESHAWAR -- Tribal women in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are advocating for themselves through a new NGO dedicated to advancing their political and social rights.
The Qabailee Khor "tribal sister" forum strives for the rights of tribal women hit by years of war and militancy and aims to enable them to participate in decision making in FATA.
Qabailee Khor comprises more than 25 tribal women from all seven tribal agencies and frontier regions.
The volunteer members have expressed their resolve to educate tribal women about their constitutional rights and issues related to religion, culture and society.
The overarching goal is political empowerment of tribal women, Qabailee Khor President Nausheen Jamal Orakzai told Pakistan Forward.
The organisation will also explore ways to rehabilitate women affected by militancy, create awareness among them about militants' misuse of religion and strive to provide women true representation in the tribal system and jirgas through awareness and capacity building, she said.
"We are focusing on three vital areas: educating tribal women, creating awareness among them about their constitutional rights, and [educating them on] the inheritance rights enshrined in Islam," said Orakzai, a social worker and human rights activist from Orakzai Agency.
"It is urgently needed to empower tribal women to realise their political rights," she said, adding that the organisation would help create avenues for women affected by militancy to obtain their legal rights so they can rehabilitate their homes.
Tribal women lack education and access to information, which prevents them from advancing, said Nadia Saba Dawar, a housewife and Qabailee Khor activist.
With the upcoming reforms meant to bring FATA into the mainstream political fold , it is imperative for tribal women to be part of the political process, she said.
Qabailee Khor will bring educated women and women with leadership experience to help uneducated tribal women understand their rights and responsibilities, she said.
"They will try to ... educate them about the political process and help bring them to the system of local bodies so they can have their role in decision-making for women," she told Pakistan Forward.
Countering the effects of militancy
Militancy has hit tribal women the hardest, leaving thousands of them without their husbands and sons, said Sakeena Mohamand, a Qabailee Khor member from Baizai Tehsil, Mohmand Agency.
"The forum will help these women build their vocational skills so they can earn a livelihood and support their families," she told Pakistan Forward.
Qabailee Khor will provide counseling and rehabilitation to tribal women and girls traumatised by the horror of militancy and war in FATA, according to Sara Massih, a Christian tribal woman from Landi Kotal, Khyber Agency, and a social activist involved with the forum.
Women's status in the newly introduced Rawaj Act (the planned replacement for the colonial-era Frontier Crime Regulation, which orders collective punishment in the tribal areas) and jirga system (which has no present-day role for women) is unclear, she told Pakistan Forward, so the forum is striving to include women in the decision-making process and is seeking women's representation in the judicial and political structure.
"The forum will encourage parents to send their daughters to school and co-operate with other organisations to help educate young women beyond school age on vocational as well as traditional school subjects", said Sara.
A platform for women's rights
Nageen Afridi, a University of Peshawar student, welcomed the new forum, saying women from the tribal areas have the potential to fight for their rights and that Qabailee Khor will serve as a platform for them.
"Young tribal women should now get up and wage a struggle for their rights," she told Pakistan Forward.
"They have benefited from their tribal status," she said, referring to those who enjoyed preferential admissions, based on tribal quotas, to universities and jobs. "It's time to pay back ... They should work with other women who still live under draconian laws."