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Derby College Leads the Way in Forced Marriage Awareness

Derby College has become the first further education college in the UK to launch an official training and awareness programme to tackle the issue of forced marriage and ‘honour’ based abuse.


The College will be working with national charity Karma Nirvana, whose founder Jasvinder Sanghera CBE was a former Derby College student. She returned to education as a mature learner to study A levels – a decision which was instrumental in her success to campaign to tackle the issue.


Following discussions between Ms Sanghera and Derby College Chief Executive Mandie Stravino, personal coaches and safeguarding officers across the College will now be specially trained by Karma Nirvana and awareness sessions will be organised for students across all College sites. Helpline posters will also be displayed.


The support at College comes at a time of a major breakthrough for Ms Sanghera and her team who have successfully campaigned for forced marriage to become a criminal offence and will be made law this June.


Ms Sanghera said: “I am delighted that Derby College is the first further education college in the UK to come on board.


“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.


“We will be acting quickly on the training for staff and then the awareness sessions across the College in the coming weeks as 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.


“Having been in a similar position when I was 16 and running away from home so that I could not be forced into a marriage to someone I had never met, my message to them all is that education gives you the power to make decisions and that there are people both at College and at Karma Nirvana who can help them.


“It is highly appropriate that Derby College is taking this lead in education nationally as 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.”


Ms Sanghera was forced to leave school without qualifications and, faced with the prospect of a forced marriage, ran away from home.


At 28 and pregnant with her first child, Jasvinder saw a leaflet about the chance to study A levels at a local community school through Wilmorton College (now part of Derby College).


She passed the exams and her College lecturers encouraged her to go onto the University of Derby where she graduated with a First Class Honours in in Social and Cultural Studies.


In the meantime, she set up Karma Nirvana to support women facing forced marriage and abuse which is now an internationally recognised charity and 21 years later has handled calls from 33,000 people across the UK.


A celebrated author, Jasvinder was awarded the CBE in the 2013 Honours list for Services to Victims of Forced Marriages & Honour Based Violence. She has also been presented awards for Woman of the Year, Pride of Britain award and an honorary doctorate from the University of Derby and has been listed in the Guardian as one of the world’s most inspirational women.


She continued: “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 on day. Therefore, being introduced to literature for the first time was amazing and liberating.


“Education empowered me and gave me a voice which I have used to raise the profile of the issue across the world.


“My college lecturers were so supportive and nurturing – and I slowly came to see that I was worthy of achieving something in my life.”


Derby College Chief Executive Mandie Stravino continued: “Jasvinder is an inspirational woman and, having discussed the issues with her, I was adamant that Derby College should have the trained personal coaches and safeguarding officers in place to ensure that we can raise awareness of this issue across our whole student body and support young women facing this horrendous situation.


“I hope that the work that we do with Karma Nirvana will encourage other schools and colleges around the UK to take this issue seriously and follow our lead.


“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.


“Jasvinder is proof of the power of education and I look forward to her speaking to students across the College to inspire them to follow their dreams and find their voice to make a difference to their local communities and society as a whole.”