Derby College tackles forced marriage

Hands tied Forced marriage will become a criminal offence in June

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A programme to tackle forced marriage and "honour" based abuse has been launched by an East Midlands further education college.

Derby College is working with charity Karma Nirvana to train personal coaches and "safeguarding officers" to recognise and deal with the issue.

Karma Nirvana has campaigned to make forced marriage a crime.

The college will also hold awareness sessions for students, and publicise help lines that support victims.

It is claimed as the first further education college in the UK to launch such a programme.

The founder of Karma Nirvana, Jasvinder Sanghera, was compelled to leave school without qualifications when her family attempted to force her into marriage.

She avoided it by running away from home, and later studied A levels at Derby College as a mature student.

'Urgently needed'

She said it was "highly appropriate" the college was now taking the lead on the issue.

"It was this organisation that set me on the road to finding my voice and having the confidence to start campaigning for awareness around the world," she said.

"It was a huge decision for me to return to education as my abusers always told me that I was worthless and incapable.

"My sisters and I were never encouraged to read and often told that there was no point in having an education and I would become someone's wife one day.

"Being introduced to literature for the first time was amazing and liberating."

Ms Sanghera said that the new programme was urgently needed, and that its timing was opportune.

"The summer holidays are a time when families often take young girls out of education and send them overseas to marry a stranger from a photograph," she said.

"It is vital that all young people know about the issue of forced marriage and abuse and recognise that there is specialist support at the college to help them find the courage to take control of their lives."

Derby College's chief executive Mandie Stravino said she hoped the programme would encourage other educational establishments to "take the issue seriously".

"Colleges such as ourselves have an important role to play, not only in supporting our learners to the next stage of their lives and ensuring that they have the skills that employers need, but also in moulding the citizens and leaders of the future."

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