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Speaker Meeting 10th June 2024: Sabeena Pirooz, Solicitor and Director of The Sky Project – Child Marriage,

Soroptimists are always open to learning and our speaker Sabeena Pirooz (a senior clinical negligence solicitor and Director of The Sky Project) taught us a great deal about a subject very few of us knew about in detail but is a huge cause for concern for some women and girls.

In 2009, Sabeena learned that many 16-year-old girls were not returning to education, and some appeared to ‘disappear’, so she started ‘The Sky Project’ to confront the issue of forced marriage and honour based abuse.

The project has three main aims: To educate and raise awareness of the issue, train professionals and form a multi-agency network.  From these aims, the outcomes should hopefully stop domestic violence and abuse, suicide and self-harm, depression, sexual abuse, Female Genital Mutilation and honour killings (14 a year).

A forced marriage is coercion which can be physical, psychological, emotional, or sexual pressure.  There are many misconceptions around this issue, as it is not confined to one culture or religion.  The question to ask is “Are you able to say no to your marriage?”  Sabeena reminded us of some of the high profile and harrowing cases of murder, that have been in the news, but highlighted a positive change to the law (February 2023) when the minimum age to marry became 18 years of age.

Sabeena spoke with eloquence and passion.  Her background in law, as well as her cultural heritage, helped convey a clear understanding of the issues. Her determination and commitment to educate professionals and the wider society about these sensitive issues was inspiring.

The Sky Project is making a difference for women and girls which echoes our Soroptimist goals.  Thank you for a very educational and interesting evening.