Nashra Balagamwala was only 18 when she first faced pressure to enter into an arranged marriage.
More than five years later, she’s back with something that has helped her get out of an arranged marriage — a board game.
Arranged! is a board game that follows three women. Their objective? Avoid the matchmaker.
Balagamwala, who’s previously worked for board game giant Hasbro, first came up with the idea of making her game, after making a list of all the things she had done to avoid an arranged marriage.
“Wearing fake engagement rings, getting a tan or being seen with male friends in public, [these are] the things I had done to avoid an arranged marriage myself,” she told Mashable.
And it is these experiences that have been incorporated into the game.
Cards with commands like “you want to pursue a career…move four steps”, will help push you further away from the matchmaker in the game — but at the same time, Balagamwala hopes that they will also serve as talking points.
“At the beginning of the game, players usually think it’s all fun and games, however, they start to realise the deeper issues that are present and have the urge to talk about it,” she said.
She adds that the game has receiving “unbelievably overwhelming” feedback.
For one, it raised $12,000 on Kickstarter — twice of its initial $6,000 campaign goal.
“I’ve had several Pakistani and Indian girls reach out to thank me for finally speaking up,” says Balagamwala.
But not all the feedback has been good.
“I’ve also dealt with a lot of criticism. Many Pakistanis have said negative remarks and have made it clear to me that I’m a disgrace because I’m bad mouthing the society.”
The 24-year-old who was born and raised in Pakistan, left for the U.S. when she was 18, wanting to pursue her dream of being a designer and wanting to “find her own guy”.
The Rhode Island School of Design graduate is back in Pakistan now, after her visa ran out.
And ironically, it’s the game that has helped relieve her of the pressures of an arranged marriage.
“This game has really helped decrease the pressure of getting an arranged marriage. Ever since I’ve spoken up…I’m no longer the perfect submissive bride these women are looking for because I’m…too strong-minded and independent.”
Balagamwala adds that she hopes the game will “empower” women to “pursue things such as an education, a career or a love marriage.”
“Although a game cannot change the world, I am hopeful that by discussing the problems these societies face, they might start to realise how flawed these norms are and eventually work towards fixing it,” she said.