Today I wake at 7.00 am. When I’m remote working and not having to travel I can wake up a lot later than if I was having to appear in court in person. This is just as well, as yesterday I was persuading a High Court judge to grant forced marriage protection orders to ensure the safe return of a child who had been removed from the UK, and subsequently I was up until the early hours drafting them.

I get my first cup of coffee and then call my elderly mother – something I do every day having lost my father suddenly and unexpectedly from heart failure. After the last 18 months, I think we all understand that making time for loved ones is very important. Today we talked about visiting Kashmir in Pakistan to visit my father’s grave. As the daughter of illiterate, working-class immigrants, I spent my formative years living in rural Kashmir, before we came back to the UK. I was nine years old before I learned to speak English fluently.

Culturally, coming from a conservative Mirpuri family, women like myself were not expected to pursue professional careers. I was determined to overcome the challenges I faced as a state-educated, Pakistani, Muslim female to build a career in the law. As Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist for female education, said: ‘I tell my story, not because it is unique, but because it is not. It is the story of many girls.’

After a quick shower and breakfast, I am ready for my virtual hearing. I am a family barrister and have specialised in family law since completing pupillage. Today I have been instructed on a finding of fact hearing in a private law children case. I was instructed on the matter quite late in the day but that can be quite normal in family cases.

Before the hearing, I have a long and productive conference call with my client. She is from South Asia so we speak in Punjabi. She alleges she is the victim of domestic abuse. She was very nervous about giving evidence; however, being able to speak in her native language helped put her at ease and also made sure there weren’t any misunderstandings. I think my background has actually become an advantage. South Asian clients, women, in particular, appear relieved to have counsel with a good understanding of their culture and the emphasis on family honour. They also appreciate counsel being able to speak in their own language (I also speak Urdu) and it helps them understand the legal process. After talking to my client, I have pre-hearing discussions with the opposing counsel.

The hearing is quite long with a lot of cross-examination of the alleged perpetrator of abuse. At the end, the judge made the findings my client sought. It is great to hear from my instructing solicitor that my client said she would have me ‘fighting for her any day’. This type of feedback and result is what drives me to keep representing vulnerable victims.

I get a call from a solicitor about another forced marriage case. It has become apparent that the person who is being forced into marriage is a vulnerable adult. I need to persuade the court that a capacity assessment is needed. We’re hoping that the results of the assessment will mean we can obtain a forced marriage protection order to ensure that the marriage does not go ahead as planned by the parents.

I have acted in many forced marriage cases, which is an alarming statement in itself when living in modern Britain. It is still a very big issue in the UK with approximately 1,500 ‘known’ cases a year where women are facing physical, psychological, sexual, financial and emotional pressure and abuse to get them to agree to marriages they do not want. The threat of being ostracised, bringing shame on their family, violence, or being abandoned in a foreign country until their consent is real.

We need to provide much better access to legal aid and access to information for these women. Gathering ideas to improve the situation, I chaired a Legal Services Commission workshop that investigated the experiences of BAME women in accessing legal aid in domestic abuse cases with the aim of influencing proposed legal aid reforms. The consultation resulted in the publication of a national report, Report on Black Asian and Minority Ethnic Women, Domestic Abuse and Access to Legal Aid.

However, it’s not just abuse victims that unfortunately face barriers. Last year the Bar Standards Board published a report on barristers’ income by gender and ethnicity. The findings demonstrate that major issues still exist for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic women at the Bar, who earn less than their male, white counterparts. The report concluded these disparities cannot be explained away by seniority, geography or area of law. If these disparities are not addressed my concern is that sadly BAME women will decide to leave the Bar, which will significantly reduce the pool from which QCs and judges are appointed. Yet the judiciary and senior ranks of the profession must be representative of our population and have the confidence of the communities they serve.

Despite the data in relation to earnings, I will continue to encourage BAME females to pursue a career at the Bar. My current chambers have shown me that this is a profession of possibilities. My advice to any aspiring BAME female barrister would be the words of another of my idols, Kamala Harris, ‘Dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not, simply because they haven’t seen it before.’

It’s hard to do this type of work and sometimes not ‘take it home with you’. What keeps me going on a bad day? My wonderful colleagues in chambers at Broadway House. My fellow barristers are great for bouncing ideas off, and my clerks are just the best clerks I have ever had. They not only manage my diary meticulously but are always there for a bit of support if I need to let off steam.

After scouring my inbox for any urgent emails, marking others for follow up, and prepping for tomorrow, I go for a walk. I’m very fortunate to live in the beautiful countryside surrounding Holmfirth in Huddersfield and walking through the countryside relieves me of the stresses and strains of the day job. The sun has come out, a rarity up North, but especially after a very soggy and grey month.

As I skipped lunch it’s time to reward myself with a big dinner – vegetable lasagna, my favourite.

Tomorrow I have two virtual hearings and an advocates’ meeting in a difficult and complex case. A busy day ahead so time to rest now.