Bethnal Green’s Morpeth schoolgirls quiz Asian author on illegal forced marriage

Author Sufiya Ahmed

Author Sufiya Ahmed - Credit: Morpeth Sch

Schoolgirls are to quiz an Asian woman author in London’s East End about being forced illegally into arranged marriages by parents.

Author Sufiya Ahmed

Author Sufiya Ahmed - Credit: Morpeth Sch

A group of 30 girls aged 11 to 14 get the chance to put questions to Sufiya Ahmed who visits Bethnal Green’s Morpeth Secondary on Friday for a talk on the illegal practice of forced marriages.

The visit coincides with the October 11 United Nations’ International Day of the Girl—this year’s campaign focus is on education.

The 39-year-old author’s interactive presentation is about Asian cultural identity and explores the issues around teenage forced marriages.

It begins with a reading from her debut teenage fiction novel, ‘Secrets of the Henna Girl’, about a teenager on summer holiday in Pakistan faced with the prospect of an arranged marriage against he will, whose world is shattered by a forced duty to protect her father’s ‘honour’.

“Sufiya’s book helps draw attention to what can be a real issue for teenagers from some Asian backgrounds,” Morpeth Headteacher Jemima Reilly said. “This reading is an opportunity to raise awareness.

“We know how important literature is in raising issues that can sometimes go unnoticed or unheard.”

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Sufiya commits herself to writing about empowering women in her own Muslim community.

She talks to the Morpeth pupils about her own childhood dream to become a writer, her previous career in the Houses of Parliament and eventual journey to becoming a full-time author.

The pupils also get the chance in the presentation to experience wearing bridal headdress and ceremonial veil and henna make-up.

Sufiya set up the non-profit BIBI Foundation in 2010 that arranges visits to Parliament for underprivileged schoolchildren.

Her first novel for teenagers, ‘Secrets of the Henna Girl’, is published by Penguin at £6.99.