This image represents who I have become, the strong, happy and independent woman. It reflects my happiness on the outside because I have now found happiness on the inside.
I was born in the UK, both my parents were born in Pakistan and came over to the UK. I have two siblings, an older brother and a younger sister. Growing up I experienced extreme patriarchy and strong Islamic and traditional values. I had a forced marriage at the age of 16 to a man I barely knew.
I was married for ten years and during that time I endured physical violence, emotional abuse, marital rape, financial control, isolation, honour-based violence and other forms of abuse. I was forced to live my life as a traditional Pakistani wife which I never was and never could be. Being raised in the UK and being as strong minded as I am, I couldn’t change who I was for anyone. I was not permitted to continue with my studies and was forced to work in order to be able to run our home.
It took me two failed suicide attempts and a lot of determination to come out of the marriage. Mine is a success story. For many other victims, it is not. After my divorce in October 2013, I realised that the only person that could make changes in my life was ME.
I picked myself up and began to rebuild my confidence, self-esteem and the identity which had been taken from me. I began to do all the things I had always wanted to do. I began to believe in myself. I never lost faith in myself which is what has got me to where I am today. I have spent the past three years coming to terms with what I experienced and trying to move on from my past...
I currently work with The Dash Charity, who support victims of domestic abuse, on a voluntary basis. I am in the best place I have ever been and am very proud of myself for coming so far. I have come a long way! I aspire to support victims of honour abuse and forced marriage with Karma Nirvana. I would like to be a social worker who makes a difference and can see beyond the cultural barriers. I hope to have children one day and have the life that I once dreamt I would.
As a woman of Pakistani ethnicity, I have seen many examples of hidden abuse including forced marriages in Asian communities. I would like to support those who are unable to speak because of fear of tarnishing the so-called “image” and “social status” of their family. In educating myself, I may be able to bring awareness to those who believe this type of life is acceptable and this behaviour is the norm in Asian culture.
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