Sadia uses her experiences so that other women don't have to feel as alone as she did.
I always wanted to choose my own husband by my parents had different plans.
Before me, my older brother was ‘persuaded’ to marry our cousin from Pakistan. After they were married he was unhappy and kept seeing his British girlfriend.
But my parents wanted to keep the family tradition of marrying within our extended family and support our family back in Pakistan. I felt so alone.
How could I explain that no one was physically forcing me to do it but it was clear I had no choice?
How could I tell my colleagues at work that I was being married off against my choice at the age of 21?
How could I explain that no one was physically forcing me to do it but it was clear I had no choice? The pressure to accept was overwhelming.
The thought of marrying a stranger against my will made me feel so depressed and I was too ashamed to ask for help.
My wedding went ahead and 18 months later my husband arrived to live with me. I tried but I knew I couldn’t live like this.
My husband noticed that I was retreating from him. As I resisted his control, he started to be violent towards me. My parents said I was an unfit wife and a bad daughter. They said they’d disown me because I was destroying their ‘Izzat’ [honour].
Eventually I decided to leave my husband. At first I had nowhere to go and moved to a refuge. Finding the Big Sisters project felt like my awakening.
Just going to a coffee morning with people who understood my situation and had been through it too made all the difference.
I understand much more about my experiences now and feel confident to start looking after myself.
I’ve also become a peer mentor in the project and use my experiences to help other women in violent or forced marriages.
I know my rights and want to help others so they don’t feel like I did.
I often wonder why my life was ruined through marriage when this was supposed to be the happiest time of my life. Maybe, as peer support volunteer, I was meant to help others in this situation.