Author: laurenwise

Savera UK CEO and Founder Afrah Qassim, and Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, John Dwyer

Savera UK and Cheshire PCC conference and vigil to remember ‘honour’ killing of Shafilea Ahmed

Savera UK, a leading charity working to end ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful practices, will join forces with Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, John Dwyer, on Wednesday 12th July to remember Warrington teenager Shafilea Ahmed, who was murdered by her parents in an ‘honour’ killing 20 years ago.

Shafilea was murdered in the lounge of her family home in Great Sankey, Warrington, on September 11, 2003, for refusing a forced marriage and becoming ‘too westernised’, in the eyes of her family and some members within her community.

The Day of Memory is held each year on July 14th – Shafilea’s birthday – and is intended to remember those lost to ‘honour’ killings and HBA. The day also aims to continue to raise awareness of often ‘hidden’ culturally specific forms of abuse and other harmful practices, including female genital mutilation (FGM), forced/child marriage, virginity testing, breast ironing and conversion practices.

The event will be delivered with Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, John

Savera UK CEO and Founder Afrah Qassim, and Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, John Dwyer
Savera UK CEO and Founder Afrah Qassim, and Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, John Dwyer

Dwyer, as part of its ongoing partnership. Earlier this year the Commissioner secured more than £321,000 of additional funding to help those at risk of ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) in Cheshire, enabling him to enhance his partnership with Savera UK to address and raise awareness of HBA and harmful practices.

A conference will take place at Warrington Town Hall in the morning (10am), with a panel of esteemed guests discussing the issues of HBA and harmful practices, the challenges faced by professionals working with those at risk and the work being done to end these practices.

Speakers include Afrah Qassim, CEO and Founder of Savera UK, John Dwyer, Cheshire PCC, Jaswant Narwal, CPS, Chief Crown Prosecutor, Thames & Chiltern and lead on forced marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM) and ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA), Superintendent Jon Betts, and Saliha Rashid and Khatra Paterson, both survivor ambassadors for Savera UK. The discussion will be hosted by Aislinn O’Dwyer, Savera UK Chair and Chair of East Cheshire NHS Trust and there will be a Q&A session for attendees.

Following the discussion’s conclusion (12:45pm), a short vigil and ribbon-tying ceremony will take place at the Golden Gates, with drumming and poetry performances, before a minute’s silence will be held in memory of Shafilea and all those lost in the name of ‘honour’.

Savera UK’s team will be sharing information with the public after the vigil, alongside Cheshire PCC’s ‘Safer Streets’ team and representatives from the Crown Prosecution Service.

Afrah Qassim said: “It is 20 years this year since Shafilea’s life was taken from her, simply for wanting to make her own choices in life. There is no ‘honour’ in this behaviour and no excuse for abuse.

“Although progress has been made over the past two decades, there are an estimated 12 – 15 ‘honour’ killings in the UK each year and tens of thousands more are harmed due to HBA and harmful practice. There is still limited public and professional awareness about HBA and harmful practices and how they can affect anyone regardless of ethnicity, background, gender identity or sexuality.

“These abuses are still happening here in the UK, and it is our collective responsibility to stop them. Our partnership with Cheshire PCC allows us to share our knowledge and skills with professionals in Cheshire and provide life-saving direct intervention services to survivors and those at risk. Together we will end these practices for good.”

John Dwyer, Police & Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, said: “I’m really pleased to be working closely with Savera UK to find and support the hidden victims of HBA in Cheshire. There is no excuse for abuse, and nobody should be in fear for their life just because they are trying to live their full potential.

“Bringing partners together at this event is a great way to refocus our work to root out and stamp out HBA. The best way we can honour Shafilea’s memory is to redouble our efforts to prevent the kind of abuse which she suffered.”

Jaswant Narwal from the Crown Prosecution Service said: “We want to support victims of this unacceptable violence; both honour-based abuse and forced marriage are illegal, and where our legal test is met, we will not hesitate to prosecute.”

Register for this event here.

The cover of Savera UK's Impact Report which reads 'Our Impact'

Savera UK launches Impact Report 2022/23

Savera UK exists to end ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful practices. This is our mission and the area in which we seek to always make an impact.

Each year, we look back on our work, measure our success and share our findings with our funders, partners, peers and supporters in our Impact Report.

That future is a world without HBA and harmful practices.

Today, Savera UK has published its third annual Impact Report. In it we look back on the service delivered in 2022/23 as well as the accomplishments and successes.

Over the past 12 months we have not only delivered our direct intervention services, education programmes and campaign work, but we have also redeveloped our visual identity, redefined our messaging and created our three-year Business and Communication Strategy, which tells the Savera UK story so far and looks forward to our vision for the future.

Between April 2022 and March 2023 we…

  • Safeguarded and advocated on behalf of 178 active clients
  • Spent 4,046 hours working to help those at risk of, and survivors of, ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices find their ‘Savera’ (meaning new beginning)
  • Engaged 10,354 people through Savera UK events and campaigns
  • Reached 4,383 professionals via training and awareness courses, education and awareness sessions, events and conferences about HBA and harmful practices

We invite you to explore our latest Impact Report and see the progress that has been made, hear from our survivors, our supporters and learn more about our future plans and how you can join us.

Read the Impact Report here. 

Savera UK Volunteers Macy and Krinal

Meet Savera UK Volunteers Macy and Krinal

This Volunteers Week, Savera UK is highlighting the generosity of those who give up their free time to join the organisation in working towards its mission of ending ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful practices.

We spoke to Savera UK volunteers Macy and Krinal to discuss their experience at the charity and what they enjoy about volunteering.

Hi! Please tell us a bit about you.

Hi, I am Krinal! I am a MSc Investigative & Forensic Psychology student at University of Liverpool. I enjoy watching true crime documentaries and shows and it’s almost a year since I have moved to Liverpool from India.

Hi, I’m Macy, I have a first class degree in Forensic Psychology which I did at Leeds University. I also have experience in research, collecting data and report writing and aspire for a career in mental health. I am currently working in the food & hospitality industry.

Why did you choose to volunteer for Savera UK?

Krinal: As someone who comes from a culture and country that has witnessed a lot of cases of ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA), the work that Savera UK does resonated with me. It does such good work to help those who are facing HBA, which most people are unaware of or do not know how to help. I wanted to contribute and help empower those at risk in the safe space they are provided at Savera UK.

Macy: I chose to volunteer at Savera UK because I am passionate about supporting human rights, particularly women’s rights. As Savera UK safeguards and advocates on behalf of many women of colour I thought this would be very fitting for me. I also wanted to get some experience working in a setting that helps people with their mental health.

How long have you been a volunteer with the organisation, and how often do you volunteer?

Krinal: I have been volunteering for two to three weeks at Savera UK now and I volunteer once a week three to four hours.

Macy: I have been a volunteer for just over a month and I volunteer for a couple of hours a week, usually on a Friday.

What does your role involve?

Krinal: My role mainly involves supporting clients with recreational activities or learning activities that they are interested in to help support their interests. It also involves supervised training for interventions with survivors of HBA.

Macy: I assist in running client led sessions. We do fun activities such as go to the park, go to the museum, dance classes and watching films. I also help keep the client spaces tidy and bring the clients refreshments.

What has been the best part about volunteering with Savera UK so far?

Krinal: I think it is seeing clients be so happy and feeling a sense of happiness myself. Plus, Savera UK staff are probably the best colleagues I could have asked for. They are all so supportive and welcoming – you feel like it is a second home.

Macy: I feel I have made really positive relationships with some of the clients and I really enjoy the sessions.

What have you learnt since becoming a volunteer for Savera UK?

Krinal: I have a long way to go before I am truly well-versed in helping and intervening with survivors, but I think it is how I am more sensitive and attuned to how to behave and converse with them that does not involve sympathy but just care. I have also learned about supervising the activities.

Macy: I have learned a lot about harmful practices and ‘honour’-based abuse. I have also learned about different cultural practices including food and religious celebrations.

Do you think others should apply to volunteer with Savera UK?

Krinal: Yes. Anyone who is interested in helping end ‘honour’-based abuse or even just helping those at risk receive support should apply to volunteer with Savera UK because their work is meaningful, and it impacts so many women’s lives. It is an enriching experience.

Macy: I definitely think others should apply to volunteer for Savera UK because I feel I am gaining a lot of experience and it is a really rewarding role, especially after a good session with the clients. All the staff are really friendly and it is a great environment to be in.

Thank you Macy and Krinal, we’re so pleased to have you as part of the team! Are you interested in becoming a volunteer at Savera UK? Apply to become a volunteer here.

Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Fortune, Social Work Student

At Savera UK, students are regularly welcomed as part of university placements. Here they learn about the work the team is doing to end ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful practices and how the organisation operates.

Between February and May we were joined by Fortune, who is studying a Masters in Social Work at Liverpool Hope University. Read about her experience with us below!

Hi Fortune! How did you first hear about Savera UK?

The university introduced me to Savera UK for placement, best thing ever!

What has your day-to-day role been like?

My daily routine included working directly with Savera UK clients, who are at risk of HBA and harmful practices. This involved advocating for them and checking on their emotional and welfare needs, making sure that needs were met on time. I would refer and signpost clients to other relevant organisations where necessary and share information with other professionals to find the best solutions for clients’ specific needs, and to reduce risks caused by HBA and harmful practices.

Of all your tasks, which has been your favourite?

Advocating for clients and meeting their emotional needs has been the most exciting task for me. It gave me joy and satisfaction to know that I have been positively impacting people’s lives and making a difference. This has helped me to promote social justice, anti-oppressive and anti-discriminatory practices that liberate people from all forms of abuse and give them independence and safety in life.

What were some of the more challenging aspects of the role?

Dealing with people from diverse backgrounds requires highly sophisticated communication and interpersonal skills. This is because each client has a different set of needs that requires a unique problem-solving approach. There is no universal mechanism to solve people’s problems, there is need to come up with person-centred specific solutions to solve these problems. This challenges the support worker to think outside the box and apply different theories and methods to help the people in need.

What can be done to help with those difficulties?

Savera UK has made and is on a mission to continue make a huge impact in people’s lives. What the organisation has done and is still doing can never be taken for granted, so it is recommended that the organisation keeps on doing the amazing work.

What has been aspect of the role that has surprised you the most?

I was surprised with the fact that Savera UK is just an amazing team of very humble and professional people. The treatment I got made me feel welcomed, warm and that I was part of an amazing family. They valued my contributions, ideas and also trusted my ability to hold cases and offer a 1-1 service to clients. The team is amazing, full of people with positive energy and love. I have never found myself struggling because everyone was ready to guide, assist, review and help me in the most amazing ways.

Did your placement at Savera UK live up to the expectations you had before starting?

To say expectations were met is an understatement; I have been equipped for Social Work practice, I have gained sophisticated knowledge and skills on how to work with clients from diverse backgrounds. I have been exposed to the most challenging and yet exciting Social Work experiences. I am very proud of the Savera UK team because they focus on the core aspects of diversity, social justice, anti-oppressive and anti-discriminatory practices.

What will be your main takeaway following your placement with us?

Everything, just everything I have been exposed to for the past 70 days; multi-agency working, professionalism, empathy, dealing with diversity, understanding the needs of the clients and carrying out risk assessments, all forms of HBA and harmful practices. I have gained unquestionable skills and experience during this placement and that will help shape my future practice.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for charities supporting those at risk of harmful practices?

The biggest challenge for charities in offering advocacy and emotional support to those at the risk of harmful practices is that in most cases these harmful practices are embedded in long-standing and ancient cultural practices, which many people and communities have accepted to be part of their daily norms. It requires more effort and resources to educate the people on how these practices are an infringement to human rights and how important it is for people to abandon such practices and liberate themselves or their loved ones. Another challenge is that it may be difficult for other professionals or agencies to fully accept or recognise the work of the charities that help those at the risk of harmful practices. Sometimes there is lack of understanding of these harmful practices and how detrimental are to those at risk.

How can this be overcome?

We must continue to educate the communities and individuals about how harmful some cultural practices can be while carrying out aggressive awareness campaigns into schools and communities so that most people are equipped with the appropriate knowledge on how to tackle such problems should they face them. There is need to seriously keep on engaging with other professionals and agencies to make sure that information sharing is prioritised and there are clear communication lines on what exactly needs to be done by all.

What are your plans for the future?

My plan for the future is to continue with Social Work practice and to continue to safeguard and advocate for those at risk of, and survivors of, HBA and harmful practices.

What did you enjoy the most about your time at Savera UK?

I have enjoyed every bit of it. I have loved working with humble, professional and supportive people. They have made my 70 days ecstatic and short. I could not ask for anything more, the team is amazing and very rich in knowledge of HBA and harmful practices. They know what needs to be done, when and how.  Thank you very much Savera UK, for your warmth and support, you have equipped me with professional knowledge no one can take away for me. I am very proud of and have so much respect for you. Wishing you great exploits all the time!

Cheshire PCC Partnership

Savera UK extends service with funding from Cheshire PCC

Savera UK has been awarded funding from Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, John Dwyer, to extend its service into the region and to help end ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful practices in Cheshire.

More than £321,000 has been awarded to Savera UK by the PCC through a successful application for the Government’s Domestic Abuse Perpetrator Interventions Fund. The funds will allow for training of professionals when spotting the signs of HBA and harmful practices and will equip them with the right tools when working with those at risk.

Through the funding Savera UK’s Direct Intervention Team will grow and the charity will work to build new partnerships with organisations in Cheshire in order to raise awareness among professionals and communities.

John Dwyer, PCC for Cheshire, said: “I am delighted to secure this funding and that the partnership with Savera UK is growing. Educating and empowering practitioners to spot the signs of HBA and respond appropriately and confidently to those at risk is extremely important.

“By raising awareness of HBA and harmful practices, we can help to break the taboo around the subject, providing support for people who feel there may be no other way out.

“In my Police and Crime Plan, I make clear my commitment to helping those who have a greater risk of becoming a victim of crime. I believe this enhancement of the project being delivered by Savera UK will help safeguard and support survivors and help them to continue with their lives.”

Afrah Qassim, Founder and CEO of Savera UK, said: “I would like to thank the Police and Crime Commissioner for this opportunity to grow our relationship, supporting the development and delivery of Savera UK’s specialist services within in Cheshire. Since 2016 the charity has delivered one-to-one safeguarding and advocacy to those at risk and survivors of HBA and harmful practices, while campaigning to end these violations of human rights for good.

“Misconceptions about HBA and harmful practices can put those experiencing these types of abuse at further risk, both directly and indirectly. We have seen first-hand how professionals working closely with those at risk can be unaware of the level of danger.

“Our specialist team works tirelessly to challenge decisions which risk putting survivors in further danger.

“It’s through these experiences we know how vital education is in ending HBA and harmful practices for good. Through delivering education and training sessions in Cheshire thanks to this funding, we will raise awareness among professionals, young people and the general public to help safeguard those at risk.

“Focusing our work in Cheshire, knowing we will be able to reach more people at risk and raise further awareness is an exciting prospect and helps us continue to work towards our vision of a world without HBA and harmful practices.”

To learn about ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices, visit the Savera UK Learning Hub. 

If you are at risk, or if you are a professional in need of advice, you can call Savera UK’s specialist helpline on 0800 107 0726 (operates 10am – 4pm). Always call 999 if you are in immediate danger.

Referral forms for individuals and professionals are available here.

Mental Health Awareness Week

Blackburne House delivers trauma therapy workshops to Savera UK clients

This Mental Health Awareness Week, Savera UK is highlighting the impact ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful practices can have on mental health. Often Savera UK clients experience trauma as a result of ongoing abuse, which can manifest in different ways.

As the result of a new partnership with Blackburne House, Savera UK is able to offer clients trauma therapy workshops. During the sessions, conducted over a 10 week period, clients learn about their trauma, understand its physical manifestations and practice methods of managing it.

Fiona, Lead Counsellor, explains because of the impact trauma can have on the body, much of the work they’re doing is physical.

She said: “It’s about feeling safer inside yourself. Trauma recovery works in stages. It’s very practical things we’re doing, like noticing muscle tension. All the work is physical, somatic work to give you the feeling of being in control and making your own choices. These exercises help develop different neural pathways.

“Our job is to provide the knowledge and skills so clients can go away and experiment and begin to notice ‘What does my body feel?’ ‘How is my breathing?’, ‘Am I in a state of distress?’. If you are, it’s key to notice it and interrupt it.”

Clare, a counsellor also leading the sessions, said: “We’re stimulating the nervous system into a chilled, relaxed state.”

Two sessions in with Savera UK clients, Fiona says they have already been laughing and “seem to be enjoying it”. Clare added: “When they’re all laughing they are making connections with each other, and it’s some of those things we don’t always appreciate.”

Fiona explains trauma is “grounded in neuroscience”. She said: “When you’re in trauma or distress you spend a lot of time in your body feeling panicky, you might not be sleeping or looking after yourself. This impacts your mental health, your decision making – it affects everything.”

Clare said: “By moving, doing something to the spinal cord and breath you’re activating the vagus nerve that shuts down when experiencing trauma.”

Because the threat of HBA and harmful practices can be lifelong, survivors may experience ongoing trauma over a long period of time, which can have different effects depending on if a person has been able to process it at the time, and can impact recovery.

Fiona said: “It’s about your history, so if you’ve had an adverse childhood experience as well as trauma as an adult it’s more complex. Different things happening over a period of time can also result in complex PTSD.”

The knowledge taken away from the sessions aren’t just helpful for clients, Fiona added, explaining “they can go home and teach their kids how to self-regulate”, “passing on these facts can be really important for kids”.

As well as the trauma therapy workshops, yoga teacher Nu from Blackburne House will be delivering trauma informed yoga sessions, which will help ease muscle tension and encourage reconnecting with the body in a calm state.

Thank you Fiona and Clare, we look forward to catching up with you both as your sessions progress!

If you are at risk of ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices, you can contact Savera UK’s helpline on 0800 107 0726.

Students at Surrey school raise more than £2,000 for Savera UK

Students at Charterhouse School in Surrey have fundraised more than £2,000 for Savera UK to help end ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices.

Boarding house pupils Sasha Schukken, 16, Phoebe Hornett, 16, Alessandra Barroso Kosanovic, 17, Tatiana Barroso Kosanovic, 17, Isabella Duc, 16, Alexandra Oerlemans, 17 and Bea Harrall, 17, hosted a cheese and wine event for parents and fellow pupils where they educated them on Savera UK’s mission.

Savera UK is a national charity working to end ‘honour’-based abuse and other harmful practices, including female genital mutilation, forced marriage, virginity testing and breast ironing. The charity safeguards and advocates on behalf of those at risk while tackling the root-cause of the issues through campaigning and awareness-raising.

The students explained they heard about Savera UK from their House Master and other pupils in their house. Speaking to Savera UK the students said: “We thought it aligned with our views and that it was an important message to speak about and fundraise for.”

The team, who raised a total of £2,114.45 for the charity, took entrance fees for the event in their school hall. They also made a poster and explained Savera UK’s mission to attendees. They said: “It was a great experience to organise an event and have it go smoothly. Raising the money for a good cause also made the experience more gratifying.”

Speaking about their favourite part of the event, the team said: “Setting up the event for the parents was a great experience.” The team “had fun setting up the cheese boards” and organising the fundraising event.

Asked if they would encourage others to take part in fundraising, the team said: “I would encourage it as it creates leadership opportunities while raising money for a good cause that you believe in.

“Having a fundraising activity going very smoothly is also very satisfying because it’s a very good visual representation of our hard work. Raising a good sum of money also makes it worthwhile because we do make an impact with our donations and makes the whole experience fulfilling.”

Afrah Qassim, Founder and CEO of Savera UK, said: “I am overwhelmed by this generous donation from the pupils at Charterhouse School. As a charity we are dependent on the generosity of others in order to continue our work to end ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices. This money will not only help us in safeguarding and advocating on behalf of those at risk, but in our mission to campaign for a brighter future where these practices are no longer carried out.

“On behalf of the whole Savera UK team we would like to say a huge thank you to Sasha, Phoebe, Alessanfra, Tatiana, Isabella, Alexandra, Bea and all those who attended the event and donated to Savera UK.”

If you are a school, or a young person who wants to get involved in Savera UK, take a look at Savera UK Youth! Our Youth programme holds creative projects and campaigns throughout the year to help develop young people’s skills and encourage you to become part of the team raising awareness of harmful practices. To support Savera UK’s work, find out how your donation can make a difference by clicking here.

A picture of Somaiya Begum

Savera UK statement as uncle jailed for murder of Somaiya Begum

Mohamed Taroos Khan has today been jailed a minimum of 25 years after he was found guilty of murdering his niece, Somaiya Begum.

The 20-year-old was found dead in Bradford 11 days after she went missing from her home on Binnie Street on June 25, 2022.

The student’s uncle, 53, denied murdering Somaiya but admitted perverting the course of justice by disposing of her body and trying to burn her mobile phone.

Somaiya, who lived with her grandmother and another of her uncles, was murdered following the activation of a Forced Marriage Protection Order, which is a legal document that can protect individuals from a forced marriage in the UK or from being taken abroad to be married. The order will also help to bring them back to the UK if they are taken out of the country.

Prosecuting, Jason Pitter KC said there were “fault lines” in the family, partly about “the way in which members of the family interpreted their cultural or religious obligations”.

A jury heard Somaiya’s father, Yaseen Khan, was “incandescent with rage” following the failed forced marriage and has left the UK. He had previously been convicted of threatening Somaiya with a knife, punching her and threatening to kill her.

In his sentencing remarks, The Honourable Justice Neil Garnham said it was not possible to identify a motive for Khan’s murder of his niece and Khan claimed he “did not share the views of [his] brother Yaseen about the role of women or obligations for her to marry her cousin in Pakistan”.

Her uncle was yesterday convicted following a trial and has today been jailed for life with a minimum sentence of 25 years at Bradford Crown Court.

Following the outcome of the trial, Afrah Qassim, CEO and Founder of Savera UK, said: “The details of Somaiya’s death are harrowing. Somaiya was a bright, brave woman who had the right to live freely without fear. Today we remember her as the smart, courageous student she was while renewing our pledge to end ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices.

“Somaiya should be with us today, having enjoyed the freedom she gained after bravely standing against the wrongful beliefs imposed on her by her controlling father, who placed the concept of ‘honour’ above her worth. We must be clear that ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices are not a part of culture, or any religion, but violations of human rights. Culture is something beautiful to be celebrated, and is not an excuse for abuse. We welcome the decision by The Honourable Justice Neil Garnham to sentence Somaiya’s uncle, Khan, to life imprisonment.

“Our thoughts go out to those affected by Somaiya’s death, including her courageous family members who gave evidence during the trial. In her memory, and in the memory of everyone lost to ‘honour’-based abuse, we will continue vital work to safeguard and advocate for those at risk, and campaign to end ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices for good.”

Savera UK’s specialist team is available to provide you with advice and information. Everything you tell us is confidential, unless we believe your life is in danger or you are at imminent risk of harm. Our helpline line is 0800 107 0726 (Monday – Friday, 10am – 4pm).