With the support of her feminist father and activist mother, Shawana was able to complete her secondary education and attend university — but her cousins and friends weren’t as lucky. Shawana watched as her peers’ families forced them to drop out of school and get married. It was then that she decided to become a gender equality activist. In 2008, Shawana co-founded Da Hawwa Lur (DHL), a feminist platform for girls and women to discuss their problems and identify solutions.
With her Malala Fund grant, Shawana works with communities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to shift socio-cultural norms that prevent girls from completing their secondary education. She trains women, men and students to speak out against gender stereotypes, child labour, early marriage and harassment. Through advocacy, leadership and communications trainings, she is helping these young advocates develop a list of policies the provincial government can implement to help girls learn, including increasing the budget for girls’ education, building more girls’ secondary schools, improving sanitation facilities in schools and providing girls with free transportation to school. Shawana and her advocates are planning to present their charter of demands to the Women Parliamentary Caucus and the Provincial Assembly by the end of the year.