Forest Gate students organise forced marriage campaign

Organisers Sabah Athar, 14, Arooj Khan, 14 and Maryam Rashid, 15

Organisers Sabah Athar, 14, Arooj Khan, 14 and Maryam Rashid, 15 - Credit: Archant

Everyone should have a choice in who they marry.

Organisers Sabah Athar, 14, Arooj Khan, 14 and Maryam Rashid, 15

Organisers Sabah Athar, 14, Arooj Khan, 14 and Maryam Rashid, 15 - Credit: Archant

That was the message at Azhar Academy Girls School, who arranged a forced marriage campaign to raise awareness of the issue.

Guest speakers at the school in Romford Road, Forest Gate, included representatives from the government’s Forced Marriage Unit and the Sharan project, which helps vulnerable women from south Asian communities.

Also speaking at the event was Cmdr Mak Chishty, the highest-ranking Muslim police officer in the UK.

Part of the afternoon saw girls and guests alike write statements on why they are against forced marriage, which were then put on display in the school.

Organisers Sabah Athar, 14, Arooj Khan, 14 and Maryam Rashid, 15

Organisers Sabah Athar, 14, Arooj Khan, 14 and Maryam Rashid, 15 - Credit: Archant


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They also learnt about the signs of forced marriage and where to go for support should they or a friend find themselves at risk.

The event was organised by three of the school’s students, 14-year-olds Sabah Athar and Arooj Khan, and Maryam Rashid, 15, as part of their GCSE citizenship course.

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Polly Harrar, the founder of the Sharan project, presented them with a certificate to recognise their unity towards tackling forced marriages.

She said: “It was a pleasure to be part of this inspiring event and raise awareness of a subject that affects so many young people in the UK today.

“We believe that change needs to start at a grass roots level and by working with communities so together, we can achieve real change.”

Last year, the Forced Marriage Unit provided support in 1,200 potential cases.

Of those, 27 per cent involved people aged under 18 and a further 35pc involved 18 to 25-year-olds.

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