Tag: Aislinn O’Dwyer

Savera UK celebrates partnership with Pilotlight

Savera UK celebrates partnership with Pilotlight

Savera UK, a charity working to end ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, is celebrating its recent partnership with business strategy programme Pilotlight.

Pilotlight is a charity pairing teams of business advisors, referred to as ‘Pilotlighters’ with charities for coaching and mentoring during strategic opportunities and challenges.

Over 10 months, Savera UK’s CEO and Chair met with its own dedicated team of three Pilotlighters and its project lead to develop the charity’s business strategy, vision and mission. Through the sessions each specialist Pilotlighter helped Savera UK consider ways to improve organisational aspects of the charity through open and honest discussions on strengths, weaknesses and past performance.

Savera UK’s CEO, Afrah Qassim, and Chair, Aislinn O’Dwyer, discussed with their team of Pilotlighters what makes Savera UK unique in its operations and delivery, and set strategic goals to clarify the next steps for the organisation.

Following the sessions, Savera UK is now looking ahead to its next period of growth as we continue providing vital direct intervention services for those at risk of HBA and harmful practices while protesting these human rights violations through campaigns and awareness-raising.

Fiona Wilson, a senior leader in the private sector and one of the Pilotlighters, said: “I believe I speak for the Pilotlighters if I say that Savera UK is on a big journey, but it is very capable, resourceful, and has great potential. To have been invited into its world and the work that it does, and to have seen its progress and the impact it has – it has been a privilege!”

Afrah Qassim, CEO and Founder of Savera UK, said: “This was an opportunity that came at the right time as we looked to develop the next stage of Savera UK. Each Pilotlighter provided us with a different perspective from their own area of expertise, helping us pre-empt potential challenges and gain clarity on the charity’s goals. There was total commitment from both sides, which ensured we achieved our goals set at the beginning of the programme of setting the organisation’s vision, mission, values and planning our three-year strategy.

“Personally, I have found this experience invaluable as it has allowed me to explore and evaluate my own perception of the organisation as the CEO and given me important advice on leading a team at time of change and development. By being challenged on Savera UK’s strategy, development and operations we came out of the programme with a level of insight that has prepared us for our next steps as we work to end ‘honour’-based abuse and other harmful practices.

“Thank you to all the Pilotlighters who have supported Savera UK as we embark on this next chapter.”

The High Sheriff of Merseyside

Savera UK Meets The High Sheriff of Merseyside

On Friday 23rd September, clients, and staff members from Savera UK met with the High Sheriff of Merseyside, Ms Lesley Martin-Wright JP DL to discuss the charity’s work, challenges, and upcoming campaigns.

The Office of High Sheriff is an independent, non-political Royal appointment that lasts for one year. Ms Martin-Wright was installed in office in April 2022 and at her installation, she made three pledges that outlined her key priorities – to work with young people to help them achieve their potential, to support mental health and wellbeing and to offer advice and support around domestic abuse.

The High Sheriff, who also sits on the board of Savera UK Funder P H Holt, instigated the meeting to support work on her priorities while in office, learn more about what Savera UK does and find ways to help us continue our work.

At the meeting, the High Sheriff heard from Savera UK clients, who shared how the service had helped them through both practical and emotional support, and from Malcolm, a member of the Savera UK Youth Advisory Board, who explained how the charity supports young people to educate their peers about ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful practices, while also allowing them to develop valuable skills.

CEO and Founder, Afrah Qassim and Chair of Savera UK’s Board, Aislinn O’Dwyer also explained the origins of Savera UK and highlighted the ongoing need for a specialist service in Merseyside tackling culturally specific abuse and harmful practices including forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM).

“When we were first established in 2010 there was nothing at all that addressed this issue,” Afrah said. “Cases of HBA and other harmful practices were being recorded as general domestic abuse and survivors and those at risk weren’t getting the specialist support they needed.”

More than a decade on, in 2021/22, Savera UK supported 136 new referrals into the service, who were either survivors of or at risk of HBA, and a total of 202 active clients. However, the team knows that these numbers are still only the tip of the iceberg.

While understanding of HBA and harmful practices has increased, Savera UK’s support team – who work with statutory and voluntary services to support and advocate for its clients – still face significant challenges, describing the service as “a small river flowing through a glacier, chipping away to break down barriers” – citing barriers including lack of understanding, lack of education and fear.

Drawing on 30 years’ sitting as a magistrate, the High Sheriff shared her experiences of hearing the cases of those affected by domestic violence and recognised the unique challenges faced by those affected by HBA and harmful practices, and barriers that people from diverse backgrounds may face in accessing the justice system.

Ms Martin-Wright said: “In my role as High Sheriff I meet with many charities and voluntary organisations who do tremendous work in Merseyside and Savera UK is no exception. It tackles extremely challenging issues with compassion and strength and gives support and hope to some of our region’s most vulnerable people.

“It was an honour to meet some of its beneficiaries, the team that support them and those who are creating campaigns to raise awareness and change attitudes in our communities. I look forward to supporting and raising awareness of Savera UK in its work for the rest of my term and beyond.”

The Savera UK team also looks forward to working with the High Sheriff and thanks her for her time in coming to visit our service and meet our team and clients.

Savera UK pays tribute to those lost to ‘honour’-based abuse and violence

Yesterday (Thursday, 14th July) Savera UK staff and supporters gathered in Liverpool city centre to remember those lost in the name of ‘honour’ during a ribbon-tying ceremony on the national Day of Memory.

The Day of Memory takes place on Warrington teenager Shafilea Ahmed’s birthday. In 2003 17-year-old Shafilea was murdered by her parents for refusing a forced marriage, and becoming ‘too westernised’ in the eyes of her family and community.

Savera UK was joined by speakers who discussed the importance of looking working to eradicate ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful practices so we can look ahead to a brighter future for survivors. Savera UK welcomed Asylum Link Choir, who performed during the event at Pier Head.

Asylum Link Choir perform at Savera UK’s remembrance event as (left to right) Savera UK Chair Aislinn O’Dwyer, Savera UK CEO Afrah Qassim and Chief Superintendent of Merseyside Police, Ngaire Waine, look on

Savera UK Chair Aislinn O’Dwyer chaired the event, and highlighted the importance of partnership working with institutions such as Merseyside Police, before introducing Chief Superintendent Ngaire Waine, to speak.

Chief Superintendent Waine explained the force works closely with Savera UK on cases of HBA and harmful practices, “both operationally and strategically” to support those at risk and bring about prosecutions.

She said: “Recently Savera UK helped us where we had a victim who was an asylum seeker and her friends were very reticent to talk to Merseyside Police. Savera UK came in and spoke to that community and gave them the confidence to speak up for their friend to Merseyside Police. We would have never got that result without Savera UK.

“Strategically Savera UK has helped us doing cross-agency training on harmful practices and also sit on a strategic board about how we can raise awareness about harmful practices. I have to say that is one of our priorities within Violence Against Women and Girls programme of work because we get hardly any reports.

“I agree that is not because it’s not happening, that’s because people aren’t coming forward and don’t have the confidence, maybe just accept it, or normalise it in the communities they’re in. We’re keen at any opportunity to raise awareness, for those who understand it and those who don’t understand it, about what harmful practices are and what the signs are. If there is a victim it might be only one chance for us to intervene, particularly if people are going to be taken out of the country.”

Savera UK Founder and CEO, Afrah Qassim, also spoke during the event about the importance of marking the Day of Memory. She said: “This is the birthday of an ambitious young woman, Shafilea Ahmed, whose life was taken from her at the age of 17.

“She was killed in front of her siblings by her parents. The ‘crime’ she had committed was choosing education over marriage. Her birthday was chosen as the National Day of Memory, to remember her and all those who lost their lives in the name of so-called ‘honour’. Banaz Mahmod, Laura Wilson, Alisha Begum, Arash Ghorbani-Zarin, Samaira Nazir and many, many more.

“We want to remember to celebrate them all, they are not forgotten and on their behalf we are today speaking out, and every single day, we are speaking out.”

Afrah added: “It’s estimated there are 12 honour killings every year, and one every month here in the UK. There is between 8,000-10,000 forced marriages. However, charities like us on the frontline consider the figure to a drop in the ocean. The real scale we do not know.”

“It is an issue that can affect anyone.”

Savera UK Youth Advisory Board (YAB) Member, Ayo Folarin, read poems by herself and other members of the YAB written as part of a workshop after members of the youth programme discussed the impact of harmful practices with survivors. Below is her poem ‘Inspired by Maya Angelou’.


Inspired by Maya Angelou.

Ayomide Folarin

I wake up early morning and I feel like a hero

I feel like I have powers

I feel like I am invincible.

They tried to pin me down like

a rebellious piece of paper

Without knowing that I was a chaser

A chaser of dreams

A chaser for justice

A chaser for a great world.


To receive updates of Savera UK’s events, you sign up to our newsletter by click here.

Text reads 'Day of Memory 2022'

Savera UK to remember victims of ‘honour’ killings at Pier Head

Representatives from Savera UK, a leading charity tackling ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful practices, are set to mark the annual “Day of Memory” for those lost to ‘honour’ killings and ‘honour’-based abuse with a ribbon-tying ceremony at Liverpool’s Pier Head (4:30pm – 5:30pm).

The short ceremony will begin at 4:30pm with introductions and speeches from Savera UK Chair, Aislinn O’Dwyer, CEO and Founder, Afrah Qassim and Merseyside’s Police’s Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) lead Chief Superintendent, Ngaire Waine.

An estimated 12 – 15 ‘honour’ killings take place each year in the UK, yet the figure for this ‘hidden’ crime is just the tip of the iceberg, due to under-reporting of HBA and harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced/child marriage, and a lack of understanding about these issues.

Attendees at the ceremony will be invited to tie orange ribbons to railings at the city’s Pier Head as a mark of remembrance for those lost, to signify a brighter future for a world where HBA and harmful practices no longer exist and to symbolise hope for survivors who have made the brave decision to flee and find their new beginning.

Ayo Folarin, a member of the Savera UK Youth Advisory Board (YAB), will also perform poetry written by the organisation’s youth representatives, after a minute’s silence is held to remember those lost to ‘honour’ killings.

After the ceremony, members of the Savera UK team will be available to discuss the charity’s work and the issues it tackles with members of the public.

Speaking ahead of the Day of Memory, Afrah Qassim said: “It is vitally important that we use this day to not just remember those lost to ‘honour’ killings but also those whose lives are or could be affected by ‘honour’-based abuse. HBA is a hidden crime and one that is often forgotten or not afforded the same level of visibility as other forms of abuse or violence. 

“HBA can affect anyone, regardless of background, culture, age, sexuality or gender identity. This is why Savera UK exists – to support those at risk, to educate people around these issues and work toward eradicating harmful practices for good. We remember those lost, we see those who are affected and we will do whatever it takes to help them find their savera, which means ‘new beginning’ in Hindi.”

Afrah recently won the “Women of Courage” award at the Merseyside Women of the Year awards. She was recognised at the annual event for her work establishing the charity and extending the support provided regionally via its one-to-one services and nationally via the charity’s helpline. 

The national Day of Memory is held annually on July 14th to remember those lost to ‘honour’ killings and HBA. The date was Warrington teenager Shafilea Ahmed’s birthday, but in 2003,17-year-old Shafilea was murdered by her parents for refusing a forced marriage and becoming ‘too westernised’, in the eyes of her family and community.

ACC Ngaire Waine of Merseyside Police at Savera UK and Zonta London's Orange the World launch event

Savera UK and Zonta London join for Orange the World Toolkit launch event in Liverpool

ACC Ngaire Waine of Merseyside Police at Savera UK and Zonta London's Orange the World launch event
ACC Ngaire Waine of Merseyside Police at Savera UK and Zonta London’s Orange the World launch event (Image credit: Gary Lambert)

Yesterday (Thursday, 25th November) Savera UK and Zonta London (a member of Zonta International) hosted a launch event to mark the beginning of Orange the World 2021 and 16 Days of activism centred on ending gender-based violence.

At Lovelocks Coffee Shop in Liverpool city centre yesterday we were joined by speakers who discussed why we must tackle violence against women and girls and what can be done to support the organisations doing this work.

Savera UK Chair Aislinn O'Dwyer at Orange the World 2021 launch event
Savera UK Chair Aislinn O’Dwyer (Image credit: Gary Lambert)

Savera UK Chair Aislinn O’Dwyer chaired yesterday’s panel and explained as we start the 16 Days of activism for Orange The World, we want to raise awareness of the fight against gender-based violence and abuse, which includes harmful practices such as forced marriage and child marriage, ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and female genital mutilation (FGM).

The Lord Mayor of Liverpool Councillor Mary Rasmussen led a moment of silence for those who have been lost to male violence before discussing sobering statistics including how globally, 137 women each day are killed by a member of their own family. The Lord Mayor urged people to continue working together to raise awareness, and ended her speech by saying “All do what you can. We have got to keep going.”

A member of Savera UK Youth read two moving poems, one titled ‘Honour’ and a second titled ‘A Woman’s Mind’.

Savera UK Founder and CEO Afrah Qassim at the launch event for Orange the World 2021
Savera UK Founder and CEO Afrah Qassim at the launch event for Orange the World 2021 (Image credit: Gary Lambert)

Savera UK Founder and CEO, Afrah Qassim, explained the 16 Days of activism toolkit was this year created in partnership with Zonta London in response to feedback last year from organisations and activists who wanted to get involved but didn’t know how.

Our toolkit centres each day on a theme, with actions people can take to get involved. You can find the Orange the World toolkit here.

Assistant Chief Constable Ngaire Waine of Merseyside Police explained the force receives 250 reports of sexual offences every month and outlined the work the force is doing to tackle gender-based violence. She said the force takes domestic violence “very seriously”.

Unfortunately, Merseyside Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell was unable to attend the event but shared a video message in which she explained the scale of the issues we face, including that every minute the UK police are called to an incident of domestic abuse.

The PCC said: “The reality is that gender-based violence and abuse does not occur in a vacuum. It is part of a society that allows misogyny and patriarchal attitudes to fester that leads to these types of behaviours going unpunished. If we don’t address these daily occurrences of harassment and abuse and call it out for what it is, we will never seriously change things in our society for the better.” You can watch the video message in full here.

Finally, Dianne Jeans of Zonta London discussed the important campaigning their organisation does to raise awareness of issues surrounding gender-based violence. She explained day two of the 16 Days of activism, (Friday 26th November), was themed on envisioning, and asked people to share the futures they envision for women and girls by writing them on tags provided and hanging them on the envisioning tree.

Savera UK was deeply saddened to hear later that same evening two murder investigations were launched following the deaths of 12-year-old Ava White and a 47-year-old woman who has not been named.

The events that happened in Liverpool last night do not reflect the world that we want. The world that we envision – and the one that we will continue to fight to create – is one where all women are free to live and thrive without fear of abuse, violence or death.

Our thoughts remain with the victims’ families at this tragic time.