Meri Khahani Meri Zubani (My story in my words)
Here we share case studies written by service users in their own words.
Case study 1
My parents had four daughters and I was the second child, my father often referred to me as his son so I took a job to help out with the family finances.
From a young age I was promised in marriage to my first cousin from England and I knew I could not refuse. In 2017 we got married and I came to the UK in 2019. I was taught that marriage was for life and my parent’s door would close upon me after marriage.
I lived with my in-laws and as a Pakistani woman I understood and adhered to traditional family values. Shame and honour were deeply embedded in my upbringing. I noticed my husband had a carefree lifestyle and made no effort with me. At times it felt as if I was married to my mother in law as l spent more time with her than him. I had to seek permission from my mother in law before I did anything and my movements were closely monitored. I had to get permission to eat, leave the house and even to go to sleep.
I often caught my husband speaking to other women and very soon realised he was cheating on me. I did not confront him and as a good dutiful wife I tried to overlook this. My mother in law was fully aware of her son’s activities but never intervened. My husband decided to move into another bedroom to get privacy. I felt humiliated and questioned him, he told me he needed some space and good sleep, so l believed him and allowed him to carry on.
We began to have many arguments, starting with verbal insults and finishing with broken bones. My mother in law decided to take me to Pakistan for a short break. Upon returning back she told me the shocking news that my husband had remarried. I was deeply shocked and upset; nobody in his family supported me.
My mother in law decided to move me out and placed me with a paternal uncle in another town. Whilst here, l contacted my friend and asked her for some advice. She encouraged me to go on the internet and look for refuge accommodation. I was very scared because I was dependent upon my husband and had no recourse to public funds, I feared being deported. My family back home was not aware of the extent of my problems, they always advised me to be patient. Every time I tried to talk to my family, they would silence my cries. I was scared how a separated/divorced woman would be treated back home.
I saw the word Roshni on the internet and it resonated with me, here l was standing in darkness and Roshni was the inviting light in my life. I took the biggest step of my life and made that call. This was one of the hardest things I did in life. Scared of the unknown with many questions “I have no money, how would I buy food?” “Have I made the right decision?” “What if my husband was right and they throw me out of this country?” “What if no one believes me?”
Roshni rescued me and placed me into a women’s refuge. Here, l had my own warm room, food, clothing, family friendly environment; I had no recourse to public funds so the staff helped me to obtain a DDV concession and we are in the process of making a visa application. I have registered with a doctor, set up a bank account, my benefits have started and I have money to buy my own things. The staff provided me with more clothes, shoes and a coat. I left home with nothing but the clothes I was wearing. I hope to go to college, get a job and build myself so I can stand on my own two feet and never allow any other man to treat me like this. I am so blessed to be here, thank you!
Case study 2
I was only 14 when my parents started discussing my marriage to someone from back home. They would talk about me like I was a commodity ready to be placed on the open market. I used to feel alone, frightened and scared but I dared to say a word about it to anyone. I was brought up to believe that talking back to your parents was disrespectful, family was important and anyone that brought shame would be dealt with accordingly.
When I turned 16, these conversations became more real. My mum and dad began to make plans to take me back home; to a country I’ve never been to and marry a man I’ve never met.
One day at school, I sat in a corner asking myself what have I done to deserve this. Why are my parents doing this to me? Don’t they love me anymore? Tears trickled down my cheeks and it felt like the space around me was closing in. I began to panic as I could not breathe. My teacher saw me and immediately asked what was wrong. She asked if I was being bullied but I could not speak the truth. She realised this may be serious so she took me to another room. I couldn’t hold it in any longer and I burst into tears informing her that my parents were forcing me into a marriage. I didn’t want to create any problems for my parents and but the same time I didn’t want to go along with their plans.
The teacher reassured me and made me feel safe. I began to see a glimmer of hope and I no longer felt alone. She told me it was against the law to force anyone into a marriage and as I was a minor this was wrong. The teacher got the local authorities involved and to get a better cultural understanding social services called Roshni Birmingham. I reiterated that I didn’t want to get my parents into trouble because they are good people just a bit old fashioned and traditional minded.
Roshni Birmingham helped to get a Prohibited Steps Order and a Forced Marriage Protection Order to stop my parents from taking me out of the country and forcing me into a marriage. They advised us that I may have dual nationality and that we must ask that my parent’s surrender both passports. It was not safe for me to return back to my family so my Support Worker worked with the local authority, my teachers and the police to safely remove me from my house and place me with a foster family in another city.
I left behind my school, my friends, my family and my identity. Despite what they did to me, I love and I miss them terribly.
Roshni helped me to focus on my future and to look ahead. I received counselling and emotional support. Today, I am studying at college and planning a life for myself. I don’t have any contact with my parents and that’s fine for now.
Thank you Roshni for shinning the torch to light my path, I will one day return and help other girls in similar situations.