Surviving Child Marriage: Q+A with Activist & Survivor Payzee Malika

 

Child marriage: the act of forcing a child to marry a man who is usually much older than her. This may sound like the plot to a movie, however, it is the sad and deeply disturbing reality for many girls in the UK, one of whom is Payzee Malika.

 

Inspirational and brave, Payzee has made it her mission to speak out against this horrendous crime as a survivor of child marriage herself, the same awful crime which took her sister's life Benaz in a tragic "honour killing". Payzee was kind enough to give us some of her time to share her story, activism goals and also touched upon her advice on beauty as a WOC. 

 

 

1. Tell us a bit about yourself. 

 

My name is Payzee, I am a British Kurd living in London. I love fashion, art, travelling and I am very passionate about human rights and equality. I feel it's a responsibility we should all be taking seriously, doing all we can to make this world a safer place for everyone, especially women and children. I work passionately with IKWRO to tackle harmful practises and raise awareness on the issues I faced. have a French bulldog and he’s my joy. 

2. You have a really powerful story behind your campaigning to end child marriages - would you be able to share some of that with us?

 

I campaign to end Child Marriage with IKWRO, this is as a result of having my own experience of child marriage at the age of 16, unfortunately my sister Banaz, also had a child marriage and she became the victim of an Honour Killing as a result of leaving her marriage and falling in love with someone else. I know this is unfortunately the reality for many girls around the world, we may not hear about every case or see it, but it’s happening. 

3. What is the current situation like in the UK with regards to child marriage? What can people do to help?

 

 

In the UK a young person can be married at any age via a religious, cultural or marriage that happens abroad and this is not illegal! That’s very shocking and dangerous. The law also allows ‘parental/guardian consent' to marry if under the age of 18. What we are asking for in our campaign is that ‘parental consent’ is removed so that young people are making their own informed choices when they are ready to, as it stands the consent is becoming a loophole for coercive control and force. 

 

4. What advice would you give someone who is just starting out in their activist journey- any key resources or steps people can take to educate themselves better?

 

 

Activism is like a lifestyle and mindset for me, it isn’t like any other ‘job’, it’s really a state of mind. I find myself being so much more aware since being an activist, it has allowed me to be a lot more open minded and learn so much. My advice to anyone who is starting out their activism journey, it to pace yourself, you can feel very passionate to want to bring about change very quickly, but you will burn out if you don’t pace yourself, also there are topics of conversations which will take a toll on you mentally, so make sure you have some support in place, therapy is key for me. I would also recommend volunteering, there are so many incredible organisations working on these issues, I feel I have learnt so much through working with IKWRO, I would recommend them!

5. As a fashion stylist with Kurdish roots, how much of your culture and background impacts the way you dress

 

 

I think my roots and culture definitely impact my fashion sense, I grew up seeing lots of beautifully bright and colourful traditional Kurdish clothing being worn around me, I would dress up using my sister’s clothes and my mothers jewellery, to this day I absolutely love statement gold jewellery pieces. I make clothes by hand and I always try to mix traditional fabrics with modern fits, to combine both my roots and the new environment I grew up in. 

6. How do you define beauty and has that changed over time?

 

I think beauty is HOW YOU SEE YOURSELF. I have personally had a lot of difficulties accepting how I look and struggling with insecurities around my features. I think beauty is changing, but it's very slow. We are still being shown the beauty ideal consists of European features, that is the truth. I am slowly seeing other beauty ideals on social media ect, but when you are so used to seeing the same ideals you even question ‘is this really beautiful’ when you’re being shown other forms of beauty. 

7. What is your skincare routine like?

 

 

I am 33 now and I think I am only just really finding out what works for my skin and what beauty routine is best for my skin, not the routine I see others doing that works for their skin which is so different to mine. I have struggled with acne for as long as I can remember, from school days I would get teased about my skin, kids would say things like ‘you can play knots and crosses on your face’. As I grew older and would fork out £100s of pounds on products my skin absolutely hated, it just got worse and worse. I was put on Roacutane twice for my acne, which is something I still struggle with, lockdown did not help. I have learnt over the last year to be kind to my skin, stop trying to change my skin, stop putting things on my skin it hates, listen to it, be kind to it, treat it with love and respect. I have a simple routine using only 3 brands, I cleanse, tone and hydrate with La Roche Posay products. I’ve been using Estee Lauder Advanced night cream for a few years. I absolutely love treating my face to fresh aloe gel every so often too.

8. As a WOC what do you think is most important when it comes to looking after our skin?

 

 

As a WOC I think the most important thing when it comes to looking after your skin is being able to recognise what is the right product for your skin type, it might seem to be stating the obvious, but I am only now realising not all beauty and skin products marketed are for my skin, its impotent to be aware of that, I would also say researching products to know what is really in them, using chemicals on my skin has definitely done damage on the past. 

I remember growing up I would lawyers be told because of where I was born (Kurdistan) my skin could hack the sun, I didn’t need suncare, but of course thats not true! I only started using proper sun care a few years ago, I wish I knew how important that was for my skin!

Follow Payzee and her inspiring work on her Instagram @payzeemalika 

 

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