By Molly Millar
CHELTENHAM, England, Oct 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - One of Britain's best-known celebrity chefs, Nadiya Hussain, on Sunday spoke of the mental health issues she had struggled with since being sexually abused as a young girl, and urged others girls facing the same ordeal to speak out.
Hussain, who shot to fame after winning top-rating TV show The Great British Bake Off in 2015, said she was assaulted when she was five years old but she didn't understand what had happened until a school biology class years later.
She said the abuse by a friend of a relative in Bangladesh had left her with mental health issues to this day, whilst she had also had to come to terms with the difficulties of being born a girl in a strict Bangladeshi family.
"I have grown up my whole life hearing about sexual abuse. If I did not talk about it, I would be part of the problem and not the solution," Hussain told Tan France of Netflix's Queer Eye TV show at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.
"It's very common. It is happening to men and women, and we're not talking about it," she said.
Hussain, 34, first went public about the fact she was sexually abused as a child this month with the publication of her memoir Finding My Voice — her 10th book in three years.
A total privilege to watch @tanfrance interviewing @BegumNadiya on stage @cheltfestivals today to a full house. Her book #findingmyvoice is out on Thursday. @HeadlineHome@headlinepgpic.twitter.com/PA0ejeMbkd— Lindsey Evans (@_lindseyevans_) October 13, 2019
She said she had only recently spoken to her family about the assault. But she said talking about it is "the best thing I've done".
"I feel so privileged that I have this platform, and what is the point in having this platform if I'm not doing anything with it?" she said.
Hussain also discussed the challenges of being female in a culture where boys are more valued.
She said her mother was under enormous pressure to produce a son and her father, on the day of her birth, shouted "bastard" when told his child was a girl.
"So often I used to think 'they don't like me because I'm a girl'... In our society, a girl is a burden," she said.
For her part, she said she decided to raise her two sons and her daughter differently — "by treating my children exactly the same".
Hussain said she realised while writing her memoir that she wanted to talk to her younger self and she hoped sharing her story of resilience would help other girls to speak up.
She said she wanted other young women who did not feel like they belonged to follow her mantra: "I'm going to push my elbows out and I'm going to make space."
(Reporting by Belinda Molly Millar, Editing by Goldsmith @BeeGoldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)