Savera UK is celebrating its 10th birthday. For ten years, the organisation has supported some of the most vulnerable people in society at risk of ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful practices such as forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM). We have supported hundreds of clients out of abusive environments into their Savera (‘new beginning’) and we continue to challenge and speak out to eliminate these practices for future generations.
Happy birthday Savera UK, here is to many more!
Savera UK’s History
Savera Liverpool was ‘born’ on 11th August 2010 out of a consultation and piece of research within black and minority ethnic (BME) communities, around the impact of domestic abuse and mental health. ‘Savera’ means ‘new beginning’ in Hindi, a theme that is symbolic of the support the charity provides.
The work began as a result of the work of the Black and Racial Minorities (BRM) Communities and Domestic Violence Group, a group established by Afrah Qassim, a Community Development Worker with the Liverpool Primary Care Trust (PCT). The group had representatives from a wide range of diverse communities and a number of key agencies working to address the issues of domestic abuse across Liverpool.
During 2009, this group commissioned a research project to identify the issues and the impact of domestic abuse, amongst Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities, in the city. This project identified that there was significant domestic abuse and harmful practices within the BME communities, and highlighted a gap in service provisions to meet these needs.
Savera Liverpool was established in 2010 to meet those needs, and worked, within Liverpool and Merseyside, in a totally voluntary capacity until 2016. It became a fully registered charity in 2012. The metamorphosis of ‘Savera Liverpool’ to ‘Savera UK’ came as a result of the demand for services from a wider geographical area. The organisation ensured to address, challenge and provide the tools to tackle cultural taboos such as forced marriage, female genital mutilation and ‘honour’-based abuse.
Savera UK’s Achievements
The early years of Savera Liverpool were spent highlighting the taboo subject of domestic abuse and harmful practices within BME communities, and challenging professionals who believed this was not an issue within the city. In 2009, Afrah Qassim, supported by other local agencies and the Forced Marriage Unit, organised the first ever Forced Marriage Conference, which was heldin Liverpool Town Hall and attended by over 100 people.
As a result of this conference, a number of needs were highlighted. These included training for professionals, and developing a Forced Marriage protocol to support professionals when working with clients affected.
The work continued to develop and, working in partnership, a city-wide Forced Marriage and Honour-Based Abuse Steering Group was established in 2009 and chaired by Afrah Qassim. Savera was one of the main contributors to the development of the Forced Marriage Protocol for Liverpool and, a year later, it was developed into a Merseyside Forced Marriage and Honour Based Abuse protocol, as the group included all areas of Merseyside.
In 2012 Savera set up a voluntary Helpline that became key support and advice for services, and also to those at risk of domestic abuse and harmful practices. The Savera UK Helpline now is one of the main mechanisms for individuals to reach out for help from across the UK.
Since the establishment of the one-to-one service in 2017, Savera UK has supported hundreds of individuals and families at risk of HBA and harmful practices and it assists many professionals on a daily basis. The organisation has also focused on raising awareness on HBA with young people and present education sessions in schools so young people know about the issues and where to go for help.
Written by Shauna Lacy