For the last 15 years, Samar is challenging child marriages and various forms of culturally sanctioned violence against women and girls. A filmmaker and anthropologist, she does this by changing mindsets through documentary and other forms of creative media. Referred to by the media as ‘The Savior of Soul’,’ Women who Rock the world’, and ‘The Crusader with the Camera’, she continues to advocate against child marriages. In parts of Pakistan, girls are given away as compensation to settle disputes or to pay for crimes committed by men in their family or tribe. The family receiving the girl can make her a child bride, enslaving her for the rest of her life. Swara, as this practice is known, was practiced in parts of Pakistan for generations—until one woman, Samar Minallah Khan, used a camera to catalyze change.
In 2003, Samar created a documentary on Swara. Her goal was to raise awareness of the horrific custom and mobilize policymakers to abolish it. Thanks in part to Samar’s campaign, Swara was made illegal in Pakistan in 2004. Dozens of girls were rescued. Samar did not stop there — she made sure that the law was implemented. She took the cause to Pakistanis of all backgrounds, even convincing truck drivers to paint anti-swara slogans on their vehicles. She has produced documentaries on human trafficking, dowry and acid crimes, child domestic labor and forced marriage among the diaspora community. Samar sees her documentaries as a way to give voice to those who are seldom heard. Her films are made in regional languages and screened locally, so that people can relate and see themselves through her stories. She uses her lens to focus on unsung heroes within rural communities, such as Pakistani fathers who take enormous risks to stand up for their daughters. She believes in engaging men in order to end violence against women.