A few months ago I was asked by the wonderful Deeyah Khan if I would speak about my perspective on forced marriage at the second event in a series produced by FUUSE Forum, a platform dedicated to discussion of harmful practices and radicalisation. It was so refreshing for me to able to approach the topic from an angle of my own choosing, as most often I’m asked by the press to relate my dramatic story of escape from the threat of forced marriage when I was 12 years old. Although it’s clear that I do need to keep telling that story to reach those who are simply unaware of the very real threat to victims’ safety at the hands of their own families, I really wanted people to know that the story doesn’t just end with escape, and that it’s not a case of living happily after, basking in freedoms previously unknown. The psychological impact of sudden estrangement, suicidal depression, and continued vulnerability due to a lack of awareness in asserting personal boundaries are all very real concerns for anyone who has been ‘lucky’ enough to escape a forced marriage situation. Here is the link to my talk – I hope you find it useful.
It’s hard work running a charity. Not only do you have to make sure that day-to-day operations run with maximum impact on a shoestring budget to fully support those in need of your service, you have to justify your strategy to your Board of Trustees; spend hours and weeks filling out reams of forms for funding bids; contribute to government consultations, and on top of it all report on the measurable impact of your work constantly in order to secure future funding. One of the most powerful tools any charity CEO has to raise awareness of their cause to potential donors and policy makers is survivor voice.
As someone with personal experience of honour abuse who wants to highlight the suffering of others in my situation, I too have often taken the opportunity to speak out publicly about what happened to me. For about one and a half years I was a member of the Survivors’ Advisory Panel at one of the UK’s main charities providing support to victims of honour abuse and forced marriage. When I first took on the role, I was incredibly happy that painful experiences could be made meaningful and used to help others. Unfortunately, the reality was very different. Continue reading
Here is my discussion with Nihal on the BBC Asian Network, where I talk about how I escaped from abuse and came to be estranged from almost my entire family. Becca Bland, the CEO of Stand Alone, a wonderful charity that provides support to people who are estranged, was also interviewed with me. Although at the time I found the experience of speaking live on national radio completely terrifying, I’m now extremely proud of myself for having done it at all. My confidence and determination to continue reaching those who can identify with my experiences has increased massively. It took enormous effort to keep myself from disassociating when asked about the specifics of my story, while simultaneously articulating and defending my views about honour abuse and forced marriage. This is of course aside from my main priority of protecting the identities as much as possible of those who were also involved in my story.
In short, this was really fucking hard, but it turned out alright – enjoy 🙂