Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Forced Marriage Seminar

I attended a seminar organised by the Foreign Office in London last week. It focused on forced marriages and the need to reach out to ‘closed communities’.

Excellent speakers were in attendance. The Crown Prosecution Service’s Communities Director, Nazir Afzal, chaired the event and information from the likes of the Joint Head of the Forced Marriage Unit at the Foreign office Suzelle Dickson to Hannana Siddique of Southall Black Sisters was shared.

It seems we have come some way from ten years ago when the issue was ignored by the authorities because of cultural sensitivities. Now there are forced marriage orders, new legislation to prevent a forced marriage, and the police and judiciary have also had training to deal with the issue.

One thing stood out for me though. It became clear as the seminar progressed that the one place where awareness needed to be pushed was neglected. This was in schools. Several community and social workers stood up and noted that some schools just refuse to distribute prevention information to their pupils. Why? Fear of offending community groups.

Hmm, seeing that most forced marriage victims are under the age of sixteen, how can schools place cultural sensitivity over child protection?

Perhaps the Department of Education should make it a requirement for the school to distribute this information.

Friday, 11 March 2011

World Book Day & International Women's Day

Happy World Book Day to all as well as International Women's Day.
March has to be my favourite month.
I've been very happily busy marking the two days with visits to schools. From as north as Yorkshire to Birmingham and back to London, I've been reading from my new book 'Zahra's Trip to Misr' and answering children's questions.
I take delight in the questions everytime and am always pleased with the show of hands when I ask who would like to grow up to become a writer.