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Forced marriage charity relocates to West Yorkshire
Anayah Sher
Anayah Sher was in a forced marriage for 24 years before escaping

A national charity which tries to help people in forced marriages has moved to West Yorkshire to meet demand.

Karma Nirvana has relocated because most of its work is now done in West Yorkshire.

One of its advisers, Anayah Sher from Bradford, escaped a 24-year marriage which was planned by her parents when she was just five years old.

Anayah said: "This was not an arranged marriage, this was a forced marriage. I had no say in the matter."

Today, Anayah is a successful Bradford businesswoman making aromatherapy oils and running classes on how to use them.

But it was just four years ago that she was desperate for help after having spent 24 years with a man she did not want to be with, but to whom she had been married since she was 14-years-old.

'Dark days'

She said: "I really did not know who to turn to. Those were extremely dark days.

"I spent most days in a very depressing state, just feeling hopeless about my future.

"I was suffering in silence and I had no-one to turn to.

It torments me to think that I've given 24 years of my beautiful life to someone who did not deserve it.
Anayah Sher, victim of forced marriage

"I wish that at the time I could have picked up the phone and spoken to someone."

Anayah did eventually get help after speaking to her GP but, sadly, her situation was not unique.

According to the government's Forced Marriage Unit, thousands of women - and men - across the country are similarly trapped.

However, in West Yorkshire a growing number are now looking for help.

That has led charity helpline Karma Nirvana to relocate from Derby to a confidential location in West Yorkshire.

Karma Nirvana adviser Phillip Balmforth explained: "We are getting more and more calls coming in to the charity and most of the calls are coming from West Yorkshire.

"We can't say it is a bigger problem here. It is probably that the people have got the courage to ring the organisation.

"There may be just as big a problem in the south of the country but people haven't got the courage to report it."

New volunteers

chained hands
The government describes forced marriage as "appalling and indefensible"

The increase in calls to Karma Nirvana means the charity is now looking for new volunteers prepared to help victims of forced marriage.

Anayah Sher said it was important there was somewhere for people to turn when they decided to escape.

She hoped charities like Karma Nirvana would help people to avoid suffering like she once did.

She said: "Every day I regret not leaving within the first few seconds of that marriage. I will have that for the rest of my life.

"It torments me to think that I've given 24 years of my beautiful life to someone who did not deserve it.

"Pick up the phone without hesitation and make that important call. That's when change happens."

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14 May 10 |  Religion & Ethics
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