Savera UK Youth continues to speak out during pandemic

There’s no doubt that 2020 has been a challenging year and we’ve all had to quickly adapt how we work and communicate with each other. During the pandemic, Savera UK has continued its one-to-one service, supporting those affected by ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful practices and saw a 30% increase in calls to the helpline. Savera UK not only gives help and advice to those who need it, but it also campaigns to eliminate the practices as well. One of the ways this is done is by working with young people.

As Campaign and Youth Engagement Officer for Savera UK, I work with groups of young people who want to make positive change. The aim of Savera UK Youth is to give a voice to their generation, allowing them to empower, inspire and educate their peers, while developing invaluable personal skills. The youth programme began from a UK Parliament Week project in 2017 which gave students at Calderstones School the chance to not only learn about harmful practices, but also lead on vital discussion at a ‘Question Time’ style panel event. Not only was this a chance for young people to learn about HBA and other harmful traditional practices, but it also allowed them to gain valuable experience in teamwork and public speaking, which they would be able to use later in life.

To continue the project, we engaged with young people through schools, communities and youth groups to take part in subsequent projects including holding the first youth led conference around harmful practices in the North West, creating a short interactive film about forced marriage as well as launching an exhibition to raise awareness about female genital mutilation (FGM). The Savera UK Youth platform gives young people an opportunity to speak out against harmful practices and issues that matter to them.

2019 saw the establishment of the Savera UK Youth Advisory Board (YAB), a youth-led youth-focused panel that provides a youth perspective on the organisation and develops future youth projects and engagement. Despite the pandemic, Savera UK Youth Advisory Board reached its maximum membership this year and has continued to raise awareness and speak out about harmful practices.

Taking their engagement online, the group hosted an online quiz about HBA for the National Day of Memory with Savera UK Celebrity Ambassador, Maya Jama. The event included guest speakers, Survivor Ambassadors Payzee Mahmod and Kiara Mohamed. The YAB also worked together to enter an essay competition by Nazir Afzal and the HARM Network, which they were shortlisted in from entries across the world. This year, they also won a National Crimebeat Award which we celebrated via Zoom to recognise their achievements.

This year’s challenges have meant that the fight to eliminate harmful practices and violence against women and girls has become a little further out of reach. FGM and child marriage is on the rise due to poverty and lockdown measures. Those at risk of HBA have been trapped at home with perpetrators and found it difficult to get support. It is important, now more than ever, to continue the conversation around harmful traditional practices so that those at risk know that they are not alone and that we persist in making steps towards positive change.

I continue to be inspired by the commitment of the young people who are constantly creative in their approach to tackling these extremely difficult dialogues with young people. The pandemic has not quietened their voices or dimmed their light, and they remain dedicated to speaking out about harmful practices. They will be launching their own Instagram platform @SaveraUKYouth this month to continue to raise awareness about these issues and encourage other young people to join their campaign.

For more information about Savera UK Youth, go to their website

By Shauna Lacy