Merlyn is originally from Namibia and is currently living in Leigh. She's waiting to find out if her application to be granted asylum in the UK will be accepted.
Merlyn left Namibia to escape an arranged marriage. Here is her story.
If you are a young girl in Namibia, your marriage will be planned by the time you are 12, usually to a cousin or uncle.
This was the plan for me. As soon as I became an adult, I would marry my cousin. But by the time I was 17 I had fallen in love with somebody else and I found out I was pregnant.
My partner wanted to marry me, but my family still wanted the arranged marriage to my cousin to go ahead. My partner was a teenager like me and we had nothing, no money, but we knew we would have to leave so that I could escape the arranged marriage and so that we could all be together as a family.
I had an older friend in her 30’s and she agreed to help us. She bought us tickets for a flight out of Namibia, but when we got to the airport there were people there waiting to stop us.
My cousin is influential and he knew people everywhere. We waited and then tried again.
We travelled across Africa by truck, through Botswana and into South Africa. By this time, my son was a young boy and it was a difficult journey that took days. This time we flew from South Africa and made it to Manchester.
At the airport we explained that we needed to seek asylum and were put in touch with a charity that eventually helped us to find a place to stay.
At first, we didn’t feel welcome here. We would go to the local shop and groups of teenagers would be drinking and they would tell us to go back to our own country. It would make me panic but I would try to stay calm and go home again and wait until they had gone away before going back to the shop.
Over time the community has got to know us. The teenagers are friendly to my fiancé now. Everyone should be friendly to the people they don’t know as they could one day become friends.
The hardest thing about being here is that I miss my family every day. I think about everyone back home and I think about my friends and what they would be doing each day.
I hope for a better future for my family. If my asylum application is successful, I would love to go to college and study education and perhaps become a teacher.
I am not allowed to work whilst my application is being processed but I am volunteering with a local community group and I hope I am making a good contribution here.
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