Growing up, I lived within a traditional Afghan family where the women and children in the house were seen and not heard. My life was mapped out for me; from where I went to school (if I did at all), to what I wore and who I would marry. There was no way I could even dream of going to college or university, yet I was an ordinary British girl wanting many of the same things as my peers.
One day, I came home from school to find that there was a party going on. When I started asking questions, I was told that it was my engagement party. I was presented with a photo of a man, much older than me, and I was told to go upstairs and get ready.
From that day onwards, I decided I would run away and planned for months how I would get out safely and without being seen.
One day, when an opportunity arose and when no one was home, I ran away from my home in the north and moved down south.
That day, I knew I would never see my family again. I knew my parents would choose their honour and status in the community over me. I also knew that, if I was found, I would be killed; and my life was more precious to me than my family honour.
I voluntarily went into care and really had to fight to remain in the care system as opposed to returning to my parent’s home.
I am completely independent and have no contact with my family. I choose my life to be this way and have no regrets. I live my life the way I want to and I am happy and content.
In my professional capacity, I work within the child protection arena safeguarding and protecting vulnerable children. I chose this line of work due to my personal experiences. I am also part of the Survivor Ambassador Panel for Karma Nirvana and regularly attend training and other events to share my story. My input with Karma Nirvana has really empowered me and shaped me into how I want to be.
My vision for the future is to work and support victims and survivors of forced marriages and honour-based violence. I want women and men to have a voice and to empower them so that they can realise that they do have a choice, they are not alone, and what they are subjected to is abuse that they shouldn’t put up with.
*Zee is a UK-based survivor of forced marriage, and on Karma Nirvana’s Survivor Ambassador Panel