New Ambassadors to The SHARAN Project
South Asian women’s charity The SHARAN Project has announced TV and radio presenters Sunny and Shay Gerwal as Global Ambassadors for the charity.
As forced marriage looks set to be criminalised in the coming months, The SHARAN Project, working closely with the Forced Marriage Unit, has launched a global initiative ‘Harnessing Change’ to ensure that the message against the practice reaches as wide an audience as possible.
Both high profile and grass roots supporters have signed on as ‘Ambassadors’ for the charity and will use their expertise and resources to raise awareness of forced marriage and campaign to improve the lives of South Asian women in the UK.
The Ambassadors are to meet with Mark Simmonds, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Tuesday 4 March, at a special event hosted by The SHARAN Project and the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU).
Ambassadors include Sunny and Shay Grewal, a couple who shot to fame on Channel Four’s The Family and who now present a weekly BBC London radio show.
Sunny said, ‘We have been supporters of The SHARAN Project for some time. We have personally faced some of the issues they address and have got to know the charity as experts in their field. We have seen the impact of their work and the passion and commitment they show to their clients. For us, it was a natural decision to be a part of this programme.’
In 2013, the FMU gave advice or support related to a possible forced marriage in 1,302 cases.
Many believe they are being taken on holiday to Pakistan, India or Bangladesh, but once there they are pressured – be it through emotional or physical abuse – into marriage. Forced marriage is an abuse of human rights and often marks the beginning of a cycle of powerlessness and violence for the young girls and women involved.
‘Forced marriage is set to be a criminal act and this sends out a very clear message,’ Polly Harrar, founder of the charity, said, ‘I cannot thank our Ambassadors enough for coming on board and offering their time, passion and experience to help us. Together we can stop the cycle of abuse.’
Minister Mark Simmonds said, ‘The statistics we released last week show that forced marriage is a huge global issue. It is clear that eradicating this appalling practice requires a concerted and co-ordinated effort which is why we are working hard with partners like the SHARAN Project to spread the message that forced marriage simply will not be tolerated. With as many voices as possible speaking out against forced marriage we hope to improve the lives of young people at risk.’
Other Ambassadors for the charity include Superintendent Parm Sandhu, the highest ranking Asian female police officer in the UK, and Sukki Singapora, the world’s first professional Burlesque performer from Singapore.
Parm said, ‘As an advocate for equality and justice, I am delighted to lend my support to an organisation
that works so hard and makes a real difference to so many women.’
‘Having gone through my own family struggles as a result of following my dream, I was touched by the work and support Sharan provides to empower women to realise their true potential,’ Sukki added. ‘Freedom of choice is a vital human right that I will continue to campaign for as an Ambassador.’