Right now in Pakistan, the lives of 33 million people are in turmoil following the floods that have left a third of the country underwater. As extreme weather events become more common with climate change, women and girls bear the brunt of the impact.

The Awakening, our new Empower to Plan partner based in the northern Swat Valley of Pakistan, is responding to these daunting challenges by building feminist leadership, advancing women’s rights and mobilising gender equality and social justice.


The Awakening was established in 2011 to empower vulnerable and disenfranchised women in rural areas of Pakistan. They achieve this through a variety of programmes that engage girls, boys, community elders and religious leaders throughout the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. 

It is not easy to work on these issues in a place where 70% of girls get married before they turn 18 and the average family size is 6-7 children, and when daily life is ever more disrupted by floods and extreme weather events. Gender based violence, harmful practices and unsafe abortions are often the norm rather than the exception in northern Pakistan. 

However, Erfaan Hussein Babak, former headteacher of a girls’ school and The Awakening’s Founder and Director, is optimistic that things are changing. He believes firmly that engaging men and boys in family planning and sexual and reproductive health improves their own lives, as well as the lives of their intimate partners, families and communities. He tells us that this type of holistic engagement is reducing rates of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, as well as improving maternal health and advancing gender equality.

With your support through Empower to Plan, Erfaan and his team at The Awakening will reach and support hundreds of people through a series of community projects, including:

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“Working on human rights in this strict patriarchal Pashtun society is a constant challenge… but, after our trainings with the Council of Islamic Ideology, we have seen successes. Moderate religious leaders educate the less moderate ones on the fact that matters relating to women’s bodies are health and medical issues, not religious issues.”

– Erfaan Hussein Babak

The Awakening is committed to shifting harmful attitudes and behaviours. This includes encouraging men and boys to become champions of gender equality, supporting women’s safety and dignity and calling out gender-based violence.

Like Malala Yousafzai, who grew up in the communities served by The Awakening, the team is spreading awareness about the importance of girls’ education. The Malala Fund estimates that by 2025, climate change will be a contributing factor in preventing at least 12.5 million girls around the world from completing their education each year. Yet if we were to achieve universal secondary education for all girls everywhere, we could safeguard the happiness and wellbeing of girls, ensure their rights are met and eliminate child marriage and early childbearing

As the global challenges we are facing worsen, we need locally-led community action to reach the world’s most vulnerable and marginalised girls and their communities. The Awakening is leading the way in northern Pakistan, ensuring that Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and reproductive healthcare are accessible and available to those who need it most – especially during times of crisis

Pakistan needs your help now more than ever. If you feel able at this challenging time, please support The Awakening in empowering girls and boys to create a future free of violence and discrimination.

Thank you. 


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