Samar Minallah Khan is an anthropologist and a documentary film maker from Pakistan. In the media, she has been referred to as ‘The Savior of Soul’, ‘Women who rock the world’, ‘The Crusader with the Camera’ and ‘Women that changed Pakistan’.

Samar has been a pioneer in using film and other innovative mediums of communication for social change in Pakistan. Having an MPhil degree in Anthropology and Development from the University of Cambridge and a Master’s degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology, her work focuses on a culturally sensitive approach to development. Samar has over 20 years of progressive experience in advocacy, women and children’s causes, anthropological documentation of tangible and intangible cultural heritage, social change, working in and with different media.

Her commitment to ending compensation marriages in Pakistan goes a decade back.

One of her documentaries ‘Swara—A Bridge over Troubled Waters’ has won several national and international awards for breaking the silence around a practice that violates rights of girl child and women. It helped in legislation against a culturally sanctioned form of violence against minor girls. Her media advocacy to bring to attention various forms of compensation marriages and other forms of human rights violations has led to policy changes and a change in the mindsets of the people.

Samar has widely traveled to speak at national and international events. She serves on various advisory boards and is recipient of prestigious awards. She serves on various advisory boards.

Compensation Marriages

In 2003, Samar’s first documentary film titled ‘Swara—da jhwand mairmen’ led to breaking of silence against a culturally sanctioned form of violence against girls and women called ‘Swara’.

‘Swara’ is a custom whereby girls, often minor are given in marriage to end disputes. In case of a murder or any other serious crime the tribal ‘Jirgas’ or councils degree one or more than one girl to the enemy’s family as reparation. The murder gets away with his crime and an innocent girl pays the price for the rest of her life.

The film was launched at Peshawar Press Club and then disseminated to an audience comprising of policy makers, print and electronic media, religious scholars, tribal elders, and community in general.Part of an innovative communication’s campaign, Samar also worked with the traditional truck artists and rickshaw owners to disseminate messages against the custom of ‘Swara’.

This was followed by filing of a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court of Pakistan against the custom.In 2004, the law against the custom of ‘Swara’ was passed. The Public Interest Litigation helped in providing relief to more than 100 minor girls from different parts of Pakistan.The advocacy campaign has helped in breaking the silence against similar culturally sanctioned forms of violence against girls called ‘Sang Chatti’, ‘Irjaai’ and ‘Vanni’.

Samar Minallah continues to train and sensitize law enforcement agencies, media and youth regarding compensation marriages in Pakistan.Samar was the lead researcher on the first qualitative and quantitative research on the custom of ‘Swara’.Samar’s innovative work is being replicated in Afghanistan where the custom is being practiced as ‘Bad’