Woman who founded forced marriage charity after seeing Ilford girl trapped visits school

Aneeta Preem talking to year 11 pupils at Woodford County High School about forced marriage.

Aneeta Preem talking to year 11 pupils at Woodford County High School about forced marriage. - Credit: Archant

The founder of a forced marriage charity has visited a Woodford Green school to help girls protect themselves and friends against the illegal practice.

Aneeta Prem founded Freedom, which offers advice and runs a hepline, two years ago.

She said she was compelled to act by stories she encountered while teaching karate in east London, including at a centre in Ley Street, Ilford.

She said: “One of my students in Ilford was forced into marriage and I didn’t know how to help her.”

But now the charity is visiting schools around the country to help girls prevent forced marriages in their communities.

On Wednesday she visited Woodford County High School, in High Road, Woodford Green, for an assembly, and the charity plans to visit more Redbridge schools.

Girls were given information about forced marriage and honour violence and urged to act if they believe friends are in danger.

Most Read

The charity gave the school 250 copies of Aneeta’s novel But It’s Not Fair, which explores the issue through the eyes of a teenage girl and her friends.

Aneeta, who lives in Loughton, said forced marriage is a “huge problem” in Redbridge.

She added: “We get calls to our helpline from the area so we know how bad it is.”

According to Foreign Office statistics, forced marriages are most common in Pakistani and Bangaladeshi communities and can happen in the UK or abroad.

Most victims are young women and girls aged between 18 and 21, although many are much younger. 18 per cent of victims are male.

Unlike an arranged marriage, where people allow relatives or friends to suggest a potential match, at least one partner does not consent to a forced marriage.

Aneeta said the practice can have terrible affects on girls and believes it contributes to higher suicide rates among young Asian women.

She added: “A lot of people don’t want to tell anyone about it because they’re ashamed or they don’t know who to turn to.

“You’re trust your mum and dad but if they are the ones abusing you, where do you go?”

For information on preventing forced marriage, visit www.freedomcharity.org.uk.

If you believe you or anyone you know is at risk, call Freedom’s helpline on 0845 607 0133 or text “4freedom” 88802.