On Wednesday 12 July, Merseyside-based national charity, Savera UK and Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire John Dwyer held a conference and vigil in Warrington to discuss the issues of ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful practices, the challenges faced by professionals working with those at risk and the work being done to end these practices.
The day also enabled delegates to remember Shafilea Ahmed and others lost to ‘honour’ killings and abuse, prior to the official Day of Memory on the 14 July – Shafilea’s birthday – by tying orange ribbons to the Golden Gates in Warrington.
Delegates heard from Afrah Qassim, Founder and CEO of Savera UK, John Dwyer, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, Jaswant Narwal CPS, Chief Crown Prosecutor Thames and Chiltern and lead on forced marriage, female genital mutilation and ‘honour’-based abuse, Superintendent Jon Betts, from Cheshire Constabulary and Savera UK Survivor Ambassadors Saliha Rashid and Khatra Paterson.
After the conference, The Mayor of Warrington, Councillor Steve Wright, opened the vigil before Savera UK Direct Intervention team member, Merfat, encouraged attendees to place themselves in the position of Savera UK clients through a powerful description of their experiences, to help people better understand the impact of HBA and harmful practices on individuals.
Savera UK Survivor Ambassador Saliha Rashid delivered an emotive reading of Shafilea Ahmed’s own poem Happy Families, revealing the torment she suffered before her murder, before Survivor Ambassador, Khatra Paterson, closed the ceremony with a short tribute and minute’s silence. Guests were each invited to tie an orange ribbon to the Golden Gates, as a symbol of remembrance and hope for the future, for a world without HBA and harmful practices.
Police and Crime Commissioner, John Dwyer said: “The conference was fundamental in bringing together professionals, who may come into contact of vulnerable and at-risk people of this type of abuse and raise awareness of what is happening.
“There were a number of survivor stories told during the event, and you could literally hear a pin drop. It was a harrowing reminder of why we were there.
“I want Cheshire to be at the forefront of the change and help Savera UK meet their aim of eradicating ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices. I’m going to pull together a working group to enable this to happen. I’m encouraging you all to watch this space.
“To do this, I need to know what the knowledge gaps are when it comes to this issue. I’m currently running a survey to find out what people know about this topic. I urge you all to take a few minutes and share your views with me.”
CEO and Founder of Savera UK, Afrah Qassim, said: “Twenty years since Shafilea Ahmed was murdered by her parents in an ‘honour’ killing, it is vital that we recognise and accept that ‘honour’ killings, ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices still happen today, in the UK and around the world. It can affect anyone, regardless of age, culture, sexuality, gender, or ethnicity. It is a collective issue and one that we must work together to end.
“We thank those who attended our conference and vigil on Wednesday, those who support our mission and our brave clients and survivor ambassadors, who have bravely shared their stories and given a voice to the issue.
“Our Day of Memory conference had opened and continued important conversations about what we have achieved and what still needs to be done to help survivors and those at risk of HBA and harmful practices. While progress has been made, there is still much to do, and we will work relentlessly to end HBA and ‘honour’-based abuse for good.”
The survey on HBA and harmful practices is available for you to take here . It should only take a few minutes to complete. The survey will close on 30 September 2023.
Image credit: Andrew AB Photography