Ummmm how the hell is it March 2019? I went to get a glass of wine and three years passed?? Joke, I just got a job in international development and can now barely remember my own name, never mind string a coherent sentence together. It has been a crazy couple of years that broke me down more than a few times, but finally, thankfully, I’m arriving at a place where I can honestly say I’m starting to thrive.
My work has taken me to some amazing places: Jordan, Senegal, Indonesia, Malaysia. In the next few months I’m off to Kenya and Canada. I’m learning the terminology of development that allows me to speak about my experiences in a way that the people who can actually do something about it will understand, and I’ve done so alongside others from around the world who have also been affected by forced marriage. Basically I’m seeing places and doing things I never thought I’d be capable of seeing or doing. And I’ll never be one of those smug twats who take it for granted and act all nonchalant about travelling, even though the work can be stressful at times. And friends, the stress is no joke. You know I used to train regularly in kickboxing, BJJ, and MMA. I used to cook. I took care of my appearance. All that changed with the new line of work – I had no time to get to the gym, was living on ready meals and takeaways, and my home turned into a shitpile. I lost friends who simply didn’t believe that work could take up so much of my time. I know many of you can relate. We’re all busier, more stressed and trying desperately to find some balance, and in the meantime it feels like the world is burning. But that’s a whole other therapy session.
I’m just glad to be back writing even a tiny bit, and I’ve got some incredible projects on the go. I started doing a bit of campaigning again towards the end of last year, around the bill to increase the minimum age of marriage in the UK from 16 to 18 years. Here I am on Buzzfeed and LBC, speaking about why the move is so important and how it could have made a difference in my own family. Such a bummer that the second reading keeps getting postponed, but it’s currently scheduled for 22 March – fingers crossed. Next week I’ll be attending IKWRO’s annual True Honour Awards, a celebration of the outstanding individuals and organisations working to combat honour based violence, forced marriage, and FGM. In April I’ll be speaking at the Honour Abuse Research Matrix (HARM) Network’s first annual conference, which I’m really excited about because although multi-sectoral approaches to ending forced marriage might not sound like the sexiest topic in the world, it gets me going at least 😀 Then there’s the Project That Shall Not Be Named for fear of jinxing it, and it won’t really come to fruition until at least the end of 2020, BUT if it plays out the way it should I will just die.
The book has not been progressing much, I’ll be honest. Partly because of everything else that’s going on, yes, but I also think that now is simply not the right time complete it. There are a few things I have to see through to the end before I can do that. But I’m excited to see how this chapter of the story ends, and you might well see some new opinion pieces from me in the meantime, from around April.
I know I’ve been horrible at responding to your lovely messages, and for that I’m so sorry. I will try to do better.