Written by Afrah Qassim.
Sharing experiences and stories with others is vital, and can help others who may be struggling alone and think they are the only person who is suffering. Hearing stories, also helps to break the stigma and encourages others to speak out and ask for help and support. It is important that I share some of my own experiences and my reason for leading Savera UK as well as my passion and commitment to the work we do.
People ask me if I was a survivor of domestic abuse or harmful practices. My answer is no, I consider myself lucky, because I could have easily been forced into marriage at the age of 11 years old. I also had seen firsthand my family and close friends become victims of domestic abuse and harmful practices. I saw them go through these horrific practices and it made me feel very angry. I tried to encourage them to report it but there was so much fear on their side and mine, because I knew if I did I will no longer be accepted in their family or home. One close friend was so badly bruised but said to me if I reported it,
“I would have no one to talk to, because I wouldn’t leave and shame my family.”
Many just accept and follow some of these cultural traditions. I always question how and why this is happening and why some believe in such practices that only bring harm and pain.
As I said, I was lucky. I grew up in a household where I was protected from abuse and where I was never treated differently to my male sibling. But outside the family household, things were different, I wasn’t seen as important or valued as a young woman. I didn’t feel my voice was heard or that my opinion mattered. Despite the empowerment and the positive role-models I had growing up within my family, I still had to conform on many occasions, especially when I moved to UK. I wanted to fit-in and be part of the community I belong to, even though my thinking was different in particular to such harmful traditional practices.
Through the years, I realised that being different and having the right to choose is the most important thing a person should have from the beginning of their life. As I had that choice, I wanted to make a difference where I could, particularly to women and girls who may not have been as fortunate as me and given that freedom of choice.
Having a choice, is having the opportunity to explore and exercise your chances, and learning about what you want and who you want to be with. We all need to have freedom regardless of gender, race, culture, religion and so on. There is no language, culture or tradition to ‘choice’ and if we take the choice and freedom from someone, then it’s like stopping them from breathing. Many of our clients feel that way when they first come to us. One of our clients said to me:
“I never even knew what it was like to go the shop and buy a pint of milk.”
Savera UK was established to campaign and support individuals to help them make their own choices and have the right to be who they want to be, not for someone to tell them, what or how they should or need to be.
If you would like to get involved with us and support us in anyway, please get in touch, to end these horrific practices can only achieve if we all work together and support one another.
If you or someone you know need support around any of these issues mentioned in this blog, please contact us.