Working with survivors of and individuals/communities affected by ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful practices, Savera UK often encounters a lack of understanding or the perpetuation of unhelpful myths and stereotypes that means harmful cultural traditions such as HBA, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage remain hidden or misunderstood.
We also frequently see these myths and stereotypes reflected in the media. Media – whether television, radio, print or digital – has the power to shape opinions and ideas. It can influence our opinions on issues, the way we see different communities and how we see ourselves.
If accurate awareness around harmful practices is to be raised and they are to be challenged, representation is vital as it can break down barriers, dispel myths, create role models and even inspire.
Savera UK is currently working on a project, supported by Lloyds Bank Foundation, to explore representation of harmful practices such as HBA, FGM and forced marriage in the UK media, and how journalists interact with survivors, affected communities and the professionals that work with them.
Through a set of surveys and an online event, we aim to create a set of media guidelines, informed by the experiences of survivors, to help journalists work better with professionals and survivors, to end the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes and improve representation.
We are currently seeking the thoughts, experiences and opinions of survivors, members of affected communities and professionals who work in this space, to help inform these guidelines. To participate, please click the relevant link below:
The deadline to respond is by 5pm on Monday 23rd May.
If you would also like to register interest in attending our free webinar: Setting the Story Straight: Challenging and informing media representation of ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices – click here.
In March, Savera UK marked International Women’s Day by holding a celebratory lunch for our amazing clients, who continually overcome hurdles in the face of adversity and are testament themselves of how we can #BreakTheBias caused by gender inequality.
While Savera UK supports people of all genders, the majority of our clients are women, which is why it’s important for us to celebrate International Women’s Day and the strides that continue to be made to eliminate harmful practices and gender-based abuse.
To celebrate the day, Savera UK brought together the women we support for a Middle Eastern banquet where we celebrated their strengths, while looking towards a brighter future for all women.
Speaking about the lunch, one Savera UK client said: “I enjoyed that I was able to meet together with other women who are from diverse backgrounds and to watch how they felt happy with the gathering.” She also added: “I felt honoured for being valued on that day.”
Savera UK support worker Emma said: “It is important to remember how fantastic women are and to celebrate our strengths on a day like International Women’s Day.
“It counters the narrative that many of our clients have been led to believe within their communities, which can hold misogynistic and harmful attitudes towards women. It is great to help them build their confidence and see their strengths that have often been overlooked or even shamed.”
Describing the atmosphere at the lunch, Emma said: “it felt like a celebration, it was lovely, united and positive” adding that it was “very rewarding to be able to offer some normality” and “made all the preparation worth it”.
Unfortunately social work student Taylor, who helped organise the event was unable to attend, but we would like to thank her for her work in bringing together the event.
This year we welcomed Taylor and Jackie to the team, who both began social work placements. Taylor is already half-way through her placement while Jackie has only recently joined. We’re delighted to have you both on board and wish you the best of luck with your placements.
Taylor and Jackie share with us the reasons behind choosing to study social work (and children’s nursing, in Taylor’s case) and tell us a little bit about themselves.
Tell us about yourself!
Jackie: I’m originally from a small village in between Sheffield and Chesterfield (it’s a lot easier to say from near Sheffield though!). As well as studying my Masters, I also work in Domiciliary Care and love it! I enjoy the football too and work at Anfield and Goodison on match days as well as going to watch it.
I love animals and my favourite animals are pandas. I have a big collection of them and it seems to be getting bigger by the week. I’m very outdoorsy and love going to new places and travelling. I have a passion for doing charity work and raising money for different charities and organisations. Before the pandemic, I did a sponsored skydive for Western Park Cancer Charity and raised over £1,000. I’m hoping to be able to join more charities like this now Covid has settled down and jump out of my comfort zone some more.
Taylor: I’m a 23-year-old student, I love music. I love going to music concerts and being in that atmosphere. I have a big family so I enjoy doing activities with them such as bowling, the cinema and fun days out.
Why did you choose to study your course?
Jackie: I never knew what to do and what I wanted to study to be honest. I studied Drama and Special Educational Needs for my undergraduate degree which stemmed from studying Drama, English Literature and Philosophy and Ethics at A-Level where I wanted to be a Dramatherapist.
However, looking after my dad when he became terminally ill had a big influence on what I wanted to do. After reading up on social work and having the chance to be an influencing factor in making a change in people’s lives, I knew that was the thing I felt was missing in deciding what I wanted to do which is why I chose to study my course.
Taylor: I did hairdressing after I left school. After two years I decided I wanted to do something different, so I decided I wanted to be a Nurse. I was accepted on a course which allowed me to explore both professions of a nurse and a social worker. With this [Savera UK] being my first social work placement, I have really enjoyed seeing the role of a Social worker in action. My course will allow me to gain a career where I am able to work as an integrated professional and help individuals holistically.
What will your role be at Savera UK?
Jackie: My role at Savera UK as a student on placement will essentially be getting involved in what the support team do, including making referrals, attending meetings, providing support to clients and observing the team’s day-to-day work.
What are you looking forward to the most?
Jackie: I’m looking most forward to getting stuck in and being able to apply what we’ve been taught in university into practice. I’m looking forward to seeing how things operate and how to look at cases and work on and with them.
What do you hope to bring to the team during your placement?
Jackie: During my placement, I hope to bring my energy and personality to the team as well as some of my thoughts and input on things.
Taylor, how are you finding your placement at Savera UK now you are half-way through?
Taylor: I am glad that I got a placement as amazing at this, the staff at the organisation are phenomenal at their jobs. This given me an opportunity to learn about ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful practices. Speaking to my peers and seeing professionals working alongside Savera UK it’s clear not everyone is aware of HBA.
Before beginning your placement, what did you hope to learn?
Taylor: I like learning new things and developing my knowledge which is what I hoped to get from Savera UK. I have learnt so much already only being half way through my placement. I like to believe I am a quick learner when I have been shown what to do, which I hoped would help me during my time here. I didn’t have an expectation of what I was going to learn as I wasn’t aware of the work Savera UK did but I am pleased to say I have learnt so much.
What have you learnt already?
Taylor: While being at Savera UK I have been able to participate or complete a number of tasks and undertake training sessions which have developed my skills and knowledge about culture, sexual abuse and children’s sexual exploitation. I have referred clients for different types of support such as completing MARACs and referring clients to councillors. I have written supporting letters for clients to support asylum or to continue their studies. I have also been able to see professional strategy meetings and uploaded client information from police and other professional referrals.
What do you hope to learn as you continue your placement?
Jackie: I’m hoping to develop my skills as a social worker and increase my knowledge on things that I may not be too sure about.
Taylor: I feel this placement will allow me to spot signs of HBA and harmful practices while I get further in my career and educate others on my knowledge around HBA.
Thank you Jackie and Taylor! We’re so pleased to have you both as part of the Savera UK team.
Today (Tuesday 8th March 2022) is International Women’s Day and this year’s theme, #BreakTheBias, calls on people globally to strive for a “gender equal world” that is “free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination” and where “difference is valued and celebrated”.
Although anyone can be at risk of harmful practices – and Savera UK supports survivors of all genders – it is important to highlight on International Women’s Day the majority of people that we support are women. Those at risk of harmful practices face bias and discrimination in their own homes and communities and even in finding and accessing services, due to a lack of understanding around culturally-specific abuse, which often means the signs can be missed.
This International Women’s Day, the team at Savera UK pledges to continue to #BreakTheBias by raising awareness of the issues, challenging harmful stereotypes around these issues and supporting and advocating for survivors and those at risk of harmful practices.
We still have a long way to go to tackle gender inequality and as long as gender inequality exists, so too will gender-based violence and abuse. If we work together to eradicate this, more women will be free to exercise their human rights, and have the opportunity to thrive and achieve their full potential.
In her first blog for Savera UK, an anonymous client explains her experience of ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA), why we don’t talk about this kind of abuse enough, and why looking at the bigger picture, as well as the most extreme cases, is important in gaining a better understanding.
When I hear the words ‘honour’-based abuse, I immediately picture a fierce-looking middle-aged man, wearing a dhoti (a form of sarong that outwardly resembles loose trousers) holding an axe, ready to strike this young woman who is cowering on the ground as death stares her in the face. This image stopped me, for decades, from accepting that ‘honour’-based abuse is a problem in my culture. In fact, it stopped me from recognising that I, too, was a victim.
I worried, and not without good reason, that this image perpetuated classist and racist stereotypes of brown men, and especially those hailing from rural areas. From that worry, I assumed, incorrectly this time, that to accept that ‘honour’-based abuse was a real problem in my culture would give credence to the idea that men from my culture are barbaric and uniquely predisposed to crimes passionels (crimes of passion), an idea that had gained so much currency in the first decades of this century. Especially when I joined the first wave of international students in the US since 2001, I felt it was necessary to bring nuance to this picture. The racist and classist stereotyping had far-reaching consequences for me, personally, as it pushed me into a corner from where I could not defend myself against the abuses of my own culture. But that is, perhaps, a story for another time.
Looking back at this experience, however, allows me to understand one reason why the larger British society is reluctant to talk about ‘honour’-based abuse. In the world where anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and even Nazi revivalism abound, it is difficult, and even risky, to acknowledge anything negative about a vulnerable group. I have seen simple appeals for donations for refugees devolve into a clash of civilisations narrative. In this context, it is easy to believe that there is more than just apathy that is holding back British society from acknowledging ‘honour’-based abuse.
But my good intentions did not save me from being victimised. Nor will the society’s collective strategic tactfulness save the countless young people of all genders who are being forced into marriages or otherwise abused in the name of so-called ‘honour’.
As mentioned earlier, I was so fixated on the axe-wielding, paan-chewing male abuser image, that I was blinded to my own abuse. Probably similar to how constructions of domestic abuse as only physical abuse keep a lot of victims from recognising the emotional, verbal or financial abuse that they are experiencing. Something that has worked in the latter case is expanding our understanding, at the societal level, that abuse can present in more subtle forms, such as coercive control. In the same way, we need to nuance our understanding of ‘honour’-based abuse, and to learn more about how it works.
In my case, I was not abused by my father, but by my mother. No one held a gun to my head, but life seemed unliveable, and I was constantly fantasising about using one on myself. I was not forced on to a plane and sent away. Instead, I was groomed from childhood into thinking that moving permanently away from my family would be dishonourable. In speaking of my experience, I do not wish to speak over the women who do face these very blatant threats to their lives, safety and freedom. Instead, I wish to point out that very often society hears about only the most extreme cases, and that those cases are merely the tip of the iceberg. ‘Honour’-based abuse, like all forms of abuse, works at multiple levels in many insidious ways.
To really protect those vulnerable to ‘honour’-based abuse, we need to understand the bigger picture within which this abuse takes place. We need to develop a better collective understanding of the mechanics of this form of abuse. And our allies in wider British society need to listen to us when we say that ‘honour’-based abuse is a problem.
If you are at risk of HBA or want advice, please contact the Savera UK helpline on 0800 107 0726, Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. Savera UK is closed from 5pm Thursday, 23rd December 2021 until Tuesday, 4th January 2022. For support during this period click here.
Savera UK founder and CEO, Afrah Qassim, said: “On Friday we moved one step closer to ending child marriage in England and Wales.
“The Bill will not only raise the minimum age of marriage and civil partnership in England and Wales from 16 to 18, but it will also criminalise all marriages involving a child, including religious marriages which are not formally registered.
“We celebrate and welcome these life-saving and transformative changes, which will help organisations like Savera UK hold perpetrators of these practices to account, support survivors and give them back the opportunities and choices that child marriage often cruelly strips from them.
“Along with Karma Nirvana, IKWRO and campaigners like our survivor ambassador Payzee Mahmod, we will continue to support and advocate for those at risk of child marriage and work to eradicate the practice globally.”
We provide a safe environment for those at risk of these practices regardless of their age, gender, sexuality or culture. Anyone can be affected by HBA, which is abuse perpetrated in the name of so-called ‘honour’. The abuse carried out can range from isolating/imprisoning an individual and ostracising them from a community to being killed, or what is known as a so-called ‘honour’ killing.
The people who are at risk of HBA and other culturally specific harmful practices may be vulnerable as a result and in need of specialist support from professionals who have an in-depth understanding of the issues and the effect they can have on survivors.
At Savera UK our clients are at the forefront of all our work, and when seeking donations we want to make sure the money is being used in a way that addresses the needs of survivors and helps them process their experiences.
That is why we’re asking for your help.
We continue to improve our services based on feedback from our clients, who have expressed a wish for us to expand the emotional support we offer by providing therapies and working with specialist therapist professionals who have a good understanding of HBA, forced marriage, FGM and other harmful practices.
Savera UK wants to provide clients with services that actively work to ensure cultural sensitivity and demonstrate an understanding of the issues our clients may be facing. These specialist therapies will involve modern and alternative therapies including art, drama and music, which have been proven to help clients explore difficult memories. Importantly these types of therapies often don’t require a lot of talking, meaning those clients who do not speak English as a first language are easily able to engage.
These therapy sessions will be focused on trauma and attachment, with a particular focus on the relationships between parents and children which can become negatively impacted by harmful practices. We hope to aid the rebuilding of relationships that have been affected by these practices during Theraplay sessions. Theraplay is a form of therapy that involves the parent and child being guided to form positive attachments through patterns of playful, healthy interaction.
We can’t provide these supportive therapies to our clients without your help.
To be able to conduct these sessions for clients with professional therapists, we need to raise £1,500, which will then be matched by the National Emergencies Trust Local Action Fund.
The increase was identified following freedom of information (FoI) requests for data on the number of HBA cases to constabularies across the UK. Twenty-eight out of 39 constabularies responded to these requests, revealing that numbers of such cases have risen from 884 in 2016 to 1,599 in 2020.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP), the UK’s fourth-largest constabulary, was unable to respond to the FoI request due to the installation of a new IT system, potentially leaving a large gap in true figures.
Savera UK CEO and founder, Afrah Qassim, said: “Last year, 83 percent of referrals into our service were individuals at risk of ‘honour’-based abuse, so this significant increase in cases across the UK is sadly not surprising, but it should be a wake-up call to all of us, including police, social services and educational establishments.
“While increased reporting and people reaching out for help is a positive development, we know from working within affected communities that this is only the tip of the iceberg. Signs of these forms of abuse are too often missed by statutory services, or not dealt with in an appropriate manner, which is why many at risk may not feel like they can come forward for help.
“We agree with Imran Khodabocus from the Family Law Company, who is calling for improved education around ‘honour’-based abuse and other harmful practices, such as forced/child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) and we also stand with theorganisations calling for a fresh review of policing of honour-based abuse by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has only served to exacerbate these issues. During lockdown, calls and referrals to Savera UK increased by 30 percent. We remain committed to supporting survivors and those at risk, regardless of age, culture, sexuality or gender, as well as working with schools and universities, professional services and police forces across the UK to improve understanding and education around these issues.”
Savera UK, a leading charity that tackles culturally-specific abuse such as ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA), forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), has joined forces with Zonta Club London (part of Zonta International) to create an activism toolkit to support the global ‘Orange the World’ campaign.
For the second consecutive year, the two organisations are partnering to raise awareness of gender-based violence and abuse in the UK and around the world. The toolkit provides individuals and organisations with resources and downloadable assets to participate in the UN’s annual 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, which takes place between the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls on 25th November and Human Rights Day on 10th December.
With themes for each day ranging from remembrance, allyship and knowledge, to inclusion, advocacy and action and a bank of resources including social media assets, links to local and national charities and support services and a calendar of local events, the organisations hope that the toolkit will encourage and make it easier for even more people to engage with the campaign later this month.
Both charities highlight that this year’s campaign is more vital than ever, as violence against women remains devastatingly pervasive in our society. In the 28 weeks following the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard on 3rd March this year, 81 other women were killed in circumstances where the suspect is a man. A recently-released government survey also found that 97% of 18–24 year-old women have been sexually harassed, while 80% of all women have been sexually harassed in public.
Savera UK CEO and Founder, Afrah Qassim, said: “The statistics about gender-based violence are shocking yet, sadly, no longer surprising. Across their lifetime, 1 in 3 women – around 736 million – will be subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence from a non-partner. This figure has remained largely unchanged over the last 10 years.
“It has never been more important for people to take action against gender-based violence. However, last year, we realised that people wanted to engage and support the Orange the World campaign, but didn’t always know how to or perhaps couldn’t find the resources they needed.
“Our Orange the World 2021 toolkit is a starting point for people. A place where they can find information and ideas for ways that they can take action to tackle gender-based violence and abuse. We have worked with our partners, Zonta Club London, Liverpool City Council and a range of other city partners to highlight the work being done in the city region and beyond and how people can get involved.
“Activism takes many forms and even the smallest steps, such as learning about certain forms of gender-based abuse or identifying yourself as an ally can have an enormous impact.”
Zonta Club London President, Anne-Li Stjernholm, said: “As organisations Savera UK and Zonta Club London are very much aligned on our aim to promote a world without violence against women and girls and this partnership is very valuable for us. We hope it will last for many years to come and that we can expand our reach. Speaking with one voice makes our message so much stronger.”
Zonta International and Zonta Foundation for Women President, Sharon Langenbeck, added: “As the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic, instances of gender-based violence are on the rise. Now, more than ever, it is essential that we work together to end violence against women and girls.
“Through the Zonta Says NO to Violence Against Women campaign, Zonta clubs around the world are uniting to raise their voices to bring awareness to this issue and advocate on behalf of gender-based violence survivors.”
As part of the campaign, civic buildings and iconic landmarks across the Liverpool City Region and beyond will also once again illuminate orange as part of the campaign, to highlight the issue of gender-based violence/abuse and as a symbol of hope for a future without fear of abuse or harassment for women and girls.
Last year, partners in the city region united to illuminate civic buildings and iconic landmarks including Liverpool Town Hall, Cunard Building, St George’s Hall, World Museum in Liverpool, Greystone Footbridge in Knowsley, the Mersey Gateway Bridge in Halton and Merseyside Police Headquarters, while Premier League football team, Everton FC, also lit Goodison Park stadium in solidarity with the campaign.
The Orange the World campaign takes place between Thursday 25th November 2021 and 10th December 2021. To download the toolkit and see how you can get involved, download the PDF from www.saverauk.co.uk/orange-the-world-2021/
From Thursday, 25th November to Friday, 10th December, we’re #SpeakingOut against domestic violence, rape and harassment, as well as hidden harmful practices like ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA), female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage.
We want to rally people to take action to ensure our towns, cities and homes are safe spaces where everyone can live without fear of violence, abuse or harassment. There is no excuse for abuse.
Throughout the 16 days, we’ll be using themes to represent ways in which we can all become better activists, and on Day 13 we’re encouraging you to discuss important resources with your community.
To help aid these discussions, Savera UK and Zonta Club London have included a list of great resources you can start with below.
The War on Women by Sue Lloyd-Roberts
This memoir was written by multi-award-winning journalist Sue Lloyd-Roberts, whose career spanned four decades. Each chapter explores the lives of women living in different and the atrocities they face. In the book Sue, who died shortly after writing it, explores Ireland, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, covering topics including FGM and forced marriage.
Savera UK support worker Emma said: “I found it a really useful snapshot into how far women have come but more importantly, the journey many countries and communities need to make. It was very well-written, easy to follow and gave a good brief insight into different ways women are oppressed.”
The Prosecutor by Nazir Afzal
This book by Savera UK patron Nazir Afzal OBE offers readers a look into the workings of the criminal justice system and his experience of prosecuting complex and harrowing cases. Nazir is the former Chief Prosecutor for North West England and an expert in de-radicalisation. He campaigns on issues around child sexual exploitation and gender-based violence. His book is described as a “searing insight into the justice system and a powerful story of one man’s pursuit of the truth”.
On Violence and Violence Against Women by Jacqueline Rose
Another recommendation from Zonta Club London is On Violence and Violence Against Women by Jacqueline Rose which asks ‘Why has violence, and especially gender-based violence become so much more prominent and visible across the world?’ The book tracks the multiple forms of today’s violence – historic and intimate, public and private – as they spread throughout our social fabric, offering a new, provocative account of violence in our time.
See What You Made Me Do by Jess Hill
Dianne from Zonta Club London also recommends picking up this book by investigative journalist Jess Hill, who is seeking to change the question from ‘Why doesn’t she leave?’ to ‘Why does he do it?’ In the book, she unpacks power, control and domestic violence while putting perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse in the spotlight.
Gypsy Boy by Mikey Walsh
Gypsy Boy is a memoir by Mikey Walsh, who grew up in the culture of Romany Gypsies. This book, recommended by Savera UK support worker Emma, explores gender roles and expectations and ‘honour’-based abuse. It also covers the perception of sexuality being detrimental to one’s ‘honour’.
‘The Community Safety Podcast’ by Jim Nixon
In this podcast host Jim Nixon, a community safety professional and former police officer, interviews various guests and discusses ways in which communities can be made safer. In one episode, recommended by Savera UK support worker Emma, he speaks with Caroline Goode, a former Detective Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police who worked on the investigation into the ‘honour’-killing of Banaz Mahmod.
In the episode, which lasts for one hour and a half, Caroline discusses the police failures in the case and what efforts she personally made to see justice brought.
‘Honour’ ITV Programme
This two-part series portrays the investigation into the murder of Banaz Mahmod, who was the victim of an ‘honour’-killing. Keeley Hawes plays DCI Caroline Goode (mentioned above) and the series offers an insight into the complex nature of ‘honour’ killings. You can watch this on ITV Hub here.
‘A Survivor’s Plea to End Child Marriage’ by Payzee Mahmod
Sister of ‘honour’-killing victim Banaz Mahmod and Savera UK Ambassador, Payzee Mahmod delivers a powerful TED talk in which she explains her own experience of child marriage at the age of just 16.
Payzee details the tragic marriage, which prompted her to self-harm, and her small acts of rebellion in efforts to escape before her divorce at the age of 18, which she underwent while arranging her sister’s funeral.
Unorthodox is a series on Netflix which examines the intricacies of forced marriage and gender roles in the Hasidic Jewish community through the eyes of an Orthodox Jewish woman who flees to start a new life abroad.
Savera UK support worker Emma said: “I think this is very important because it shows HBA in a community that most people wouldn’t affiliate it with so it offers a counter-narrative.
“I find counter-narratives important to prevent prejudice and racist narratives as people often associate HBA with specific cultures when it actually transcends many different communities in different ways.”
‘Empower a girl, transform a community’ by Kakenya Ntaiya
This TED talk sees Kakenya discuss her work empowering vulnerable girls to bring an end to harmful traditional practices in Kenya. You can watch the talk in full here.
‘End Violence against children for a better future for us all’ by Howard Taylor
In this 10 minute TED Talk Howard Taylor discusses the huge numbers of children who experience violence at home, at school, online or in their communities. Taylor talks about why we have an unprecedented opportunity to end this violence and create a better future for every child. Watch the TED talk here.
Works by Jasvinder Sanghera
Both Savera UK and Zonta Club London recommend taking a look at various pieces of work by Jasvinder Sanghera, an ‘honour’-based abuse and forced marriage survivor and campaigner.
The first is Shame, a true story in which Jasvinder, founder of charity Karma Nirvana, explains her experience of ‘honour’-based abuse. When she was fourteen her parents told her she would be married and when she refused they disowned her. This autobiography is the story of what happened after she ran away from home to escape from a world where ‘honour’ was paramount.
Savera UK support worker Emma said: “It’s interesting because the perpetrator is her mother so it offers a narrative that many people wouldn’t expect.”
Dianne Jeans from Zonta Club London also recommends Jasvinder’s works Daughters of Shame and Shame Travels. Jasvinder’s charity, Karma Nirvana, works to fight HBA and has helped establish refuge centres for South Asian men and women fleeing forced marriages. To learn more about the work Jasvinder does you can watch her TED Talk on “Fighting forced marriages and ‘honour’-based abuse” by clicking here.
We would love to hear the resources you have come across, send them to @SaveraUK on social media and we may include them here.