Author: katieroberts

New Research Project and Partnership with Edge Hill University

Savera UK has joined a new mental health research project, ‘Arts4Us’: Working together to scale up place-based arts initiatives that support the mental health of children and young people’ led by Professor Vicky Karkou from Edge Hill University.

This three-year project explores the benefits of arts activities in supporting the mental health of young people aged 9-13 years old. It will see the development of a digital platform, bringing together a variety of art activities and local organisations, making it easier for children and their families to access art therapies. 

Savera UK will bring its specialism to the project, offering insight into ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices and its impact across different cultures and backgrounds. We will also provide relevant information and guidance on engaging with diverse communities. Savera UK is committed to ending ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful practices nationally and internationally through our awareness raising campaigns, and through our Direct Intervention Team, who work with those at risk, and survivors of HBA and harmful practices.

Afrah Qassim, Savera UK CEO and Founder, said: “We’re delighted and very excited to be one of the 50 partners involved in this innovative and new project focusing on the mental health of children aged 9-13. We’re excited to develop new and creative ways to engage with children and young people, and look forward to working with Prof. Vicky Karkou, the research team, and with the CYP Creative Health Associates.

‘Arts4Us’ will give us the opportunity to potentially scale up our own arts initiatives at a local, national and international level so we can find new ways to improve the mental health of children and young people. We value the prospect to engage in discussions around the future of commissioning and policy development, while strengthening existing links and creating new connections with researchers based in the North-West and beyond.”

This collaborative project secured £2.5 million in funding, the largest research grant of its kind ever awarded nationally in arts and arts therapies, and will see partners from NHS trusts, schools, community organisations and others in the North West and beyond, working together to give children and young people the crucial support they need in tackling mental health issues. 

Read more about the project here:


Training | ‘Honour’-Based Abuse & Harmful Practices

Throughout April 2024 at various locations across Liverpool City Region.

Learn about ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful practices at one of our in-person training sessions. Get to know the definitions of HBA, how to spot the signs and how to respond. 

In this full day workshop we will explore various topics such as forced marriage, female genital mutilation, virginity testing, conversion therapy and more. The sessions are designed to educate and equip professionals with the knowledge and confidence to recognise if someone they are working with might be at risk, and to understand their responsibilities and obligations which could save a life. 

Training commissioned by Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner

Book now for one of the following dates:

Monday 29th April – 9.30am-4pm

Egerton House, 2 Tower Road, Birkenhead, Wirral, CH41 1FN

Book now

Statement: Amina Noor FGM Sentencing

Last year Amina Noor, 40, from London, was found guilty of aiding the female genital mutilation of a young British child in Kenya, in the first conviction of its kind.

The landmark decision, made at the Old Bailey on Thursday 26th October 2023, was the first time that someone in England and Wales has been convicted of FGM offences that were committed abroad. The offence carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.

Today, Noor was jailed for seven years at the Old Bailey.

Afrah Qassim, Savera UK CEO and Founder, said: “We welcome both this landmark conviction and sentencing decision, as it sends a strong message that FGM is a harmful and abusive practice and a violation of human rights, and will not be tolerated under any circumstances, whether committed in the UK or abroad.

“It tells those who believe in these practices that FGM is a crime and those who perpetrate it will be held accountable. It also demonstrates to those at risk or under threat of FGM, or survivors of the practice, that they can seek help and that they will be listened to and believed.

“While this sentencing is a step in the right direction, seven years is nothing compared to the lifelong physical and psychological impact of FGM. We would like to commend the survivor who sought help and spoke out against what happened to her as a child. Her bravery has set a precedent that will help so many other survivors and people at risk.”

The crime took place when Noor took the then three-year-old girl to Kenya to be subjected to the practice, but was only reported years later when the girl confided in a school teacher at the age of 16. She is now 21 years old, and cannot be named for legal reasons.

During the trial Noor told the court that she feared being “disowned and cursed” by community members if she didn’t take part and said that it was a practice that had gone on for cultural reasons for many years.

Afrah continued: “While custodial sentences will serve as a deterrent to potential perpetrators, it is also vital to highlight the importance of education and of speaking about this abhorrent practice.

“Many people wrongly believe that it is integral to their culture or religion, which has been demonstrated in this case, but this is categorically untrue, it is a crime and violation of human rights.

“Education and community outreach allows us to open dialogues, teach and communicate that FGM is abuse, while dispelling myths and empowering people to challenge this practice, seek help and report concerns.

“There should be a focus on funding and working closely with specialist agencies, like Savera UK, that are active in communities and working to educate and empower people to end FGM for good.”

Noor is also only the second in the UK to be convicted under the FGM Act of 2003. The only other successful prosecution for FGM was in 2019 when a Ugandan woman from Walthamstow, east London, was jailed for 11 years for cutting a three-year-old girl.

If you think that you or someone you know is at risk or under threat of FGM, you can call the Savera UK helpline on 0800 107 0726 (10am – 4pm, Monday – Friday, excluding Bank Holidays), or contact us online:

Professionals can contact the helpline on on 0800 107 0726 (10am – 4pm, Monday – Friday, excluding Bank Holidays), or get in touch with us online to seek advice or make a referral:

If the risk is immediate, please call 999

Take Action: “This could be the only chance to prevent FGM”

In England and Wales an estimated 137,000 women and girls are living with the consequences of female genital mutilation (FGM), and 200 million globally have been subjected to the practice, three million of those in Africa alone.

But it does not have to be this way. 

Working in Kenya as a UNICEF Youth Advocate, our ‘Honour’-Based Abuse and Harmful Practices Specialist Worker, Eve, saw the direct physical and mental impacts on survivors. But she also discovered communities that had once undertaken FGM, but had since rejected the practice, which has inspired her drive to end the practice for good.

We spoke to Eve about what working in communities has taught her, how the Savera UK Direct Intervention team works with survivors, those at risk and the professionals who help them, and what we can all do to help end FGM. 

Tell us a bit about yourself and your knowledge of FGM?

Before joining the team at Savera UK, I previously worked with UNICEF Kenya as a Youth Advocate. This involved me working within the Child Protection team, focusing on programmes to end harmful practices such as FGM and Child Marriage. I also worked on the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation.

My career has given me insight into working at various levels to create change, from influencing government policy to working in grassroots organisations directly with communities to change views and learned behaviours. 

Whilst working in Kenya I got the chance to meet a variety of people that developed my knowledge and understanding of FGM. The most notable learning experiences for me was meeting with communities that once practiced FGM but have now changed their outlook. Meeting young survivors of FGM and seeing first hand the impact it has had physically and mentally was incredibly eye opening. This allowed me to to truly understand the issue of FGM from a much broader perspective.

What is your experience of having worked on FGM cases?

The majority of the FGM cases I have worked on at Savera UK have all ended positively. They usually include a client that is a survivor of FGM who is worried that their daughter will also be subjected to it. To ensure the clients get what they need, we work closely with other agencies, and when needed, we have been able to obtain an FGM Protection Order (FGMPO). An FGMPO is a family court order that protects someone at risk of FGM, but it does not criminalise a perpetrator unless they break the order. This isn’t something that we do, or is applicable to all FGM cases, and sometimes it is not what the client wants. However, it is a powerful tool that we have available to help people, if it is the right thing for them and their specific circumstances. 

In these cases, the potential risks and signs of FGM are often picked up by healthcare professionals and so the clients that are survivors of FGM are able to access specialist advice in relation to the type of FGM they have experienced. It is common for survivors of FGM to experience trauma as a result of this invasive practice. Savera UK offers specialist trauma informed counselling so they can begin to heal mentally as well as physically. 

What signs should people look out for? 

There are many potential signs that could indicate FGM, but it is important to note that all cases are different and do not follow a specific pattern. Due to the different types of FGM, some individuals may not know that they have been subjected to FGM or even be aware what it is.

Some indicators that FGM may be taking place, might include a planned trip to a country where FGM is prevalent, history within the family of FGM and/or from a community that practices it and conversations around special ceremonies/occasions.

Indicators that it has already happened may include a reluctance to undergo medical examinations, withdrawal and change in behaviour after a long absence, spending longer in the bathroom and persistent urinary or menstrual problems. 

What advice would you give to a member of the public who thinks they know someone who might be at risk of FGM but is unsure what to do, or too nervous to come forward?

Sometimes people might be nervous to come forward as they are fearful of the repercussions. This fear can be due to a lack of understanding or being taken seriously by professionals, not wanting to offend others or be accused or stereotyping.  If you have worries that someone is at risk of FGM, do not discuss this in front of family members that could be complicit in arranging or carrying out the practice. It is best to highlight these concerns to someone outside of the community or family. The best advice I can give to someone who has concerns is to contact a trusted professional. This could be a healthcare professional (GP/Nurse), teacher or children’s services. All these professionals and agencies will have protocols and safeguarding procedures and should investigate the concerns. Any reports made to professionals will be treated confidentially so individuals do not have to worry about coming forward.

If you are unsure whether a person is at risk of FGM but have any concerns at all, you can call our helpline and we will provide the best advice on the next steps to take. Even as a member of the public, the ‘One Chance Rule’, should be followed at all times, so it is best to take action as this could be the only chance to prevent FGM from occurring. 

What can someone do if they are in a different country and they aren’t a British citizen?

There are many organisations in different countries that can provide advice to those that have experienced or are at risk of FGM. Some of these organisations are Womankind, End FGM EU and Forward.

Although there are laws prohibiting/criminalising FGM in many countries in the world, unfortunately contacting the police isn’t always a viable option for individuals. Police services in other countries do not offer the same support as we do in the UK, although it is illegal it isn’t always enforced. This is a wider problem that needs to be addressed. There cannot be a global aim to end FGM while some countries do not criminalise the practice.

If people come from a country or community that practices FGM, it is always important to be an advocate against the practice where appropriate. Educating others and talking about the risks and implications of FGM is vital to the global effort of ending FGM. 

What is something you have learned about FGM that surprises people when you tell them?

FGM is a practice that is controlled and influenced by elders in communities. Although parents and other relatives may not want the girls in their family to undergo FGM, it may still be enforced by the wider community and parents will have no say in this. This can become complicated when trying to protect children at risk of FGM as there are multiple perpetrators to consider, as well as  the parents to guide through external pressure.

How does the Savera UK Direct Intervention team help someone at risk of FGM? 

The intervention provided to someone at risk of FGM is different in every case, and subject to on the needs of the client. Our intervention begins with a referral. This can come from a professional that may have concerns that the client is at risk or a survivor. Individuals are also able to make self-referrals into the DI team, through our website, if they have experienced FGM or believe they/or someone else is at risk of FGM.

From this we conduct a risk assessment to further understand the experience and risks of the specific client. This enables us to create a plan of action and contact the most appropriate agencies. Throughout this process a client’s confidentiality is maintained at all times unless they are at immediate risk of harm, and we work to ensure the client’s voice and wishes are always heard.

At the end of the day, we are there to represent our clients – to always advocate for them and help them to find their new beginning.

If you or someone you know may be at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) contact Savera UK’s helpline on 0800 107 0726, open Monday-Friday, 10am-4pm. If the risk is immediate, call 999. You can also refer someone else or make a self referral online using the links provided.

Event: International Women’s Day Celebration

Join Savera UK with partners for their annual community event celebrating International Women’s Day with the theme of ‘Inspiring Inclusion’. ⠀

This event brings together a diverse group of women, to not just celebrate their achievements but to also address the challenges women continue to face on a daily basis.

Hear from inspiring guest speakers, meet a range of local services, enjoy women-led performances, and much more. ⠀

*This event is now sold out. If you have any questions, please contact Jess at [email protected] or call 07377967275.*

Event in partnership with Rasa Merseyside, University of Liverpool, Maria Fogg Family Law, MRIC- Mental Health Research for Innovation Centre, Liverpool Arab Arts Festival, Mersey Care NHS, WHISC, Mary Seacole House, Ahmadiyya UK, Women Reach Women CIC and Merseyside PCC.

Online Event: FGM & Healthcare Tuesday 6th Feb

Join us to discuss female genital mutilation (FGM) and healthcare at our free online event, in partnership with Oxford Against Cutting.

This online panel discussion will highlight the issue of FGM, its indicators and impact, and look at the responsibilities of healthcare professionals including GPs, midwives, medical students, nurses, and health visitors, while also discussing how specialist organisations can help better equip health professionals to respond to FGM.

Tuesday 6th February


Free, booking required

Click here to book

The event takes place on The International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, an annual event that allows those working to end FGM to celebrate achievements, advocate for the abandonment of the practice and to raise awareness.

Meet the speakers 



Afrah Qassim 

Afrah is the Founder and CEO of Savera UK, a leading national charity working to end ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices including female genital mutilation, forced marriage, virginity testing and breast ironing. Afrah is also the Chair of Liverpool Arab Arts Festival (LAAF) and winner of the Woman of Courage Award by Merseyside Women of the Year Awards 2022.



Khatra Paterson

Khatra Paterson is a Somalian-born, female business owner and mother of two, with a passion for ensuring women’s health and wellbeing. As an FGM survivor and Savera UK Survivor Ambassador, Khatra is keen to raise awareness about how women can promote and maintain their health and wellbeing irrespective of their experiences. Having spent 32 years as a nurse, midwife and health visitor, Khatra’s caring and compassionate side has been well proven. Khatra has overcome trauma to build a thriving and inclusive £2 million business and she remains resolved to make a real difference in people’s lives by supporting survivors of FGM.




Babs Ceesay

Babs is a community nurse based in Oxford and a survivor of FGM. She is a survivor ambassador for Savera UK and an Anti-FGM Facilitator for Oxford Against Cutting. She is originally from the Gambia in West Africa and her passion is to use her experience of FGM to fight against harmful and traditional practices. She has worked with professionals and communities to raise awareness and encourage them to use shared knowledge and understanding to help end the practice.





Dr Sharon Dixon is the primary care representative at the Oxfordshire FGM group and acts as a college representative for FGM for the Royal College of General Practitioners. Sharon is a GP partner in Oxford at the Donnington Medical Partnership. She is a qualitative researcher, having been involved in qualitative research on primary care perspectives on pathways to care across a range of service needs (including using diagnostic tests, safeguarding, domestic violence and abuse, endometriosis, and Female Genital Mutilation), research on understanding and improving equity in research, and research on partnership priority setting for technology development in women’s health. She is currently an NIHR Doctoral Research Fellow, undertaking a mixed-methods research study seeking to improve the evidence base for managing adolescent period pain in primary care. She has been part of a team running a series of patient and public involvement events to explore community and professional perspectives on research and service priorities in FGM, which culminated in a multi-disciplinary conference under the auspices of the Sheila Kitzinger Programme. She has co-developed a learning resource for primary care professionals about FGM and supporting patients and communities who may be affected by FGM. She is a member of the Oxford Refugee Health Initiative project.




Bryony Kendall

Bryony is a Named GP for safeguarding for NHS Cheshire and Merseyside, and the North West representative to the NHS England National Network of Named GPs. She works for NICE on their Women’s and Reproductive Health Suite committees, and is the general practice representative to the National Child Mortality Database. She was involved with a project with NHSE to co-produce a learning module for GPs about FGM, which included development of an Easy Read information leaflet. She is passionate about incorporating co-production and partnership working in NHS care.




Nicola Biggar

Nicola Biggar is Head of Midwifery, Women’s and Children’s Services at East Cheshire NHS Trust and has been a midwife for 18 years, working in a variety of roles within midwifery. She understands the importance of providing high quality care and experience. Her team has seen an increase in the diversity of patients at our Maternity Unit within the trust and wants to ensure that the care they provide is up to date and evidence based.



Aislinn O’Dwyer

This event will be chaired by Aislinn O-Dwyer, who is also the Chair of the Board of Directors at Savera UK and an experienced Non-Executive Director across the health, education, and the voluntary sectors, having previously been on the Boards of Edge Hill University and Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust. She is currently also the Chair of East Cheshire NHS Trust. She is deeply committed to human rights and reducing health and social inequalities. For the last year she has been working with Savera UK CEO, Afrah Qassim, on the development of the 3-year Savera UK strategy, to eliminate honour-based abuse and harmful practices.

Event in partnership with Oxford Against Cutting.

Student Spotlight: Paula, Social Work Student

In September 2023, Savera UK welcomed Social Work student Paula for a work placement as part of her course. Paula joined the Direct Intervention Team, who provide advice, safeguarding and advocacy services to survivors, those at risk and professionals who work with them, as well as offering welfare and wellbeing interventions that help individuals in their new beginning

As Paula’s time with us came  to a close, we asked her to share her experiences during her placement, what she’s learnt and what her plans are for the future.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am a 39-year-old mature student, currently studying my second year of my three-year Social Work course at Edge Hill University. I have two sons and a partner and in my spare time I enjoy quality family time, meeting with friends, walking and reading. This is my first placement for my course and as a mature student I had a really positive experience here at Savera UK.

What was the focus of your work while on placement with Savera UK?

The focus was working directly with people who are survivors of or who are currently experiencing ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices. I have been working with them to risk assess and safety plan, and to provide help in the areas identified as risks that needed intervention.

The role included advocating on behalf of individuals and making sure other professionals involved were aware of the implementations in place for the client. We would signpost to different organisations that could possibly increase wellbeing for them and their families. I would also make sure clients were aware of the regular activity groups and programmes by keeping them posted about dates and schedules, as it is important to encourage them to join us in an attempt to break the isolation many clients experience.

What surprised you about the role?

Not the role as such but the work Savera UK does. I was surprised by the volume of clients and the nature of abuse they had been subjected to  and still experienced here in the UK. I knew what ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) was through my course but I didn’t have a great understanding and was unaware of how many cases of HBA and harmful practices were actually occurring. This role opened my eyes to the severity of it and the need for organisations like Savera UK.

What did you enjoy most about the role?

I really enjoyed being part of the team where from the first day I didn’t feel like a student! Everyone in the organisation made me feel welcomed and respected. I never felt uncomfortable asking any member of staff for help or advice, a big worry of mine that was soon eliminated. My experience at Savera UK has helped my confidence going into new environments, especially in my future placements.

Did the placement meet your expectations, prior to starting the role?

It has exceeded my expectations in every aspect, from working with colleagues and clients to the general role. I was able to grow and progress professionally and personally because of how comfortable I have felt in my surroundings. 

Building deeper relationships with clients was something I wasn’t anticipating. Meeting clients face-to-face made the role much more meaningful and allowed me to get to know them on a more personal level while still keeping professional boundaries. Savera UK works with a wide range of clients from diverse cultures and backgrounds, which meant I often found myself overcoming language barriers to get to know clients better . This was key so I could understand how their mental health and home life was on a regular basis.

What did you learn while working with Savera UK? What was the most important thing you’ll take away from your experience?

I have learnt how important it is to be culturally competent . By working with clients from a wide variety of cultures, I have been able to become a more culturally appreciative individual. Not only in regard to ‘honour’-based abuse but my general knowledge of the history of countries, languages, religions and holidays has increased. Savera UK taught me beautiful aspects from a variety of cultures that I previously was not aware of and now I am able to educate the people around me. Most importantly, my knowledge and understanding of the differences between ‘honour’-based abuse and domestic violence has grown drastically. 

The interpersonal and specialist skills I’ve gained through this placement I will take into my future as a student and professional within the social sector. After qualifying, I can confidently signpost professionals and clients to Savera UK’s specialist services.

What was the most challenging thing that you did during your placement?

The most challenging part was definitely hearing client stories first hand. The first time I was exposed to hearing a survivor’s story of female genital mutilation, I specifically remember finding it very difficult. The team is amazing at supporting each other when dealing with sensitive topics. Witnessing a survivor speak out for the first time motivated me to establish the correct interventions to help clients find their ‘savera’ (new beginning in Hindi).

Based on your experience working with Savera UK, what do you think are the biggest challenges facing organisations supporting survivors and those at risk of harmful practices?

Education and awareness is crucial for all organisations specialising in ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices. Some professionals can lack a deeper understanding of these issues and how to approach them. ‘Honour’-based abuse and harmful practices are complex issues that need specialist teams to advocate for survivors. By spreading awareness, more cases would be recognised as ‘honour’-based which would allow survivors to receive the correct interventions. 

What do you think needs to be done to tackle that?

It is important for organisations to take the responsibility of training and educating internal staff so they know where to go and how to reach out for the correct support. If everyone had an advanced level of understanding they may have the passion I have for the work Savera UK does and the amazing people they help. I feel like I have done that already, after 70 days I feel I have been educating other people on my course. If one person had that knowledge and shared it with 30 other people, imagine how much that awareness would spread.

What was the happiest moment of your placement?

I have loved it all! Even though some days have proved more challenging, there has never been a day I have walked out and thought I didn’t enjoy that day.

The Christmas season was the best! It was nice to provide the clients some quality time with the staff and other survivors. We watched Christmas movies, played board games and generally created an environment for clients to comfortably express themselves. I was able to see the positive impact we have on these individuals which was incredibly rewarding.

What are your future plans? 

After working at Savera UK I plan to complete my Social Work degree and become a qualified social worker, possibly specialising in a different area to what I originally anticipated. The impact of working here has given me a different outlook on my future career from working with the elderly to now wanting to help families and communities.

How will you use your practical experience with Savera UK going forward?

Overall I will be a more empathetic and competent social worker. I will continue advocating for survivors and those at risk of ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices and educating others about the incredible work Savera UK does!

Is there anything else you would like to add/share?

I would like to thank the whole team for giving me this amazing opportunity! I feel like the next person to gain a placement here at Savera UK is incredibly lucky, I honestly wish I could stay for longer! I am confident they will have an amazing experience. 

Joining the team has given me the chance to grow into the student I am today. As a result I want to keep Savera UK as a contact and would love to do more work with them in the future. 

I have developed not just professionally during my time at Savera UK, but personally too. Working with so many brave clients has given me a new perspective on life and has inspired me to do what I can to end HBA and harmful practices beyond my placement.

Savera UK Clients Enjoy Festive Celebrations

Earlier this month we hosted our annual festive celebration, which brought 30 of our amazing clients together with the Savera UK team, to celebrate the season and most importantly have fun. 

The event gave our clients, who have all overcome so much, the chance to get dressed up, socialise and celebrate in a safe, warm and inclusive place. The organisation of the event was led by Direct Intervention Team member Eve, supported by other members of the wider team. 

Held at a safe place, Eve created a special celebration, which for many of our clients was the first time they attended this annual event and learned about the meaning of Christmas and how it is celebrated. 

Clients enjoyed falafel burgers, butternut squash tagine and an all-you-can-eat buffet, accompanied by an assortment of delicious desserts, as well as being presented with fantastic self-care gifts, which included items generously donated by individuals and Lush Liverpool. 

The party also created a space for clients to celebrate their independence and freedom, as well as to share their own experience and culture through clothing, music and traditional dance.

One client said they appreciated “being able to escape” from their stresses at home and “have a dance”.

Eve, who organised the night said: “The Christmas party was a huge success. It was so lovely to see all our clients celebrate together and enjoy themselves, and also see a new side to many of the clients who were getting up and having a dance! The clients can’t wait for the next party, and seeing their happiness on the day has made us very excited to plan the next one.” 

Merfat, the Direct Intervention Team Coordinator added: “The general feedback was that despite the traumatic events they’ve experienced, this annual festive affair is the one day a year they come together as their own Savera UK family. It doesn’t matter if they have been lucky enough to move on in an improved life, they will still come together.”

The Savera UK team is very grateful for the generosity of Lush and also the kindness of those individuals who donated a wide range of gifts for our clients to enjoy. We would also like to thank our funders and fundraisers, without whom we would not be able to make this event happen. Finally, a special thanks to Eve, who organised the day and to everyone who contributed to this very special celebration!

 Wishing you – and all of our clients – a great Christmas season!