Tag: Savera UK Youth

Student Spotlight

Student spotlight: Anushka, Social and Political Science Student

For two weeks in December 2022 Savera UK’s Communications and Campaigns Team was joined by Social and Political Science Student Anushka Swannell.

Anushka is a passionate activist dedicated to working towards the prevention of sexual violence. She is particularly interested in how policy can facilitate this work.

Anushka applied to take part in a student placement with Savera UK in order to learn more about ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and how a grassroots organisation makes an impact nationally. You can learn more about Anushka’s experience in the below interview.

Thank you for your hard work and dedication Anushka!

How did you first hear about Savera UK?

In April 2021, Afrah [Qassim, Savera UK CEO and Founder] kindly spoke as a panel member at the University of York Labour (UYLC) Conference event on ‘Intersectionality Matters: Women’s Panel on the Impact of Covid-19’. At the time I was the Gender Liberation officer at UYLC and was utterly inspired by Savera UK’s work and its commitment to helping survivors whilst being dedicated to tackling ‘honour’-based abuse nationally. Since this event, I was truly inspired and have never forgotten about Savera UK. It has been awe-inspiring to be able to help the team over the last two weeks.

What has your day-to-day role been like?

Savera UK has been extremely accommodating to me and has given me so many exciting tasks to help its campaigns and outreach. Throughout the student placement, I have been involved in researching contacts to help propel the outreach of the media guidelines campaign. Additionally, I have helped with social media including posts about Human Rights Day post and the 5k To End HBA campaign. The campaign, engagement and communications team have also been kind enough to let me sit in meetings regarding branding and communications within Savera UK.

Of all your tasks, which has been your favourite?

My favourite task has been researching policy and legislation – with Savera UK’s brand, values and objectives in mind – and sharing my recommendations with the team.

What were some of the more challenging aspects of the role?

The client drop-in was an amazing experience and was incredibly eye-opening, however, I do think the most challenging aspect is knowing that Savera UK’s clients’ have struggled with HBA and/or harmful practices. That said, meeting clients was extraordinary and really highlighted the motivations behind wanting to have a student placement at Savera UK.

What has been aspect of the role that has surprised you the most?

What has truly surprised me the most, is that the Savera UK team have given me tasks and projects to do during the placement which will contribute to their campaigns, work and progress. I am so grateful for this opportunity to actually do some tangible work that will be used as this is not mirrored a lot of time in other placements/ work experience. Additionally, the placement has left me feeling empowered, inspired and ready to help survivors through the public sector. This has genuinely taken me by surprise and is invaluable to me.

Did your placement at Savera UK live up to the expectations you had before starting?

Honestly, I did not have any expectations of what the placement would be like at Savera UK. Nevertheless, the placement has given me so much excitement, skills and work experience in a charity. The placement has gone above and beyond, I am really grateful to the entire team.

What will be your main takeaway following your placement with us?

The major takeaway I will take from the student placement is that there are truly wonderful people in this world making a difference in survivors’ lives and it is not all bleak. The Savera UK team have truly inspired me to get stuck in, in policy to further help survivors. Additionally, it has taught me that my goals and ambitions are not too far away from being destinations. The placement has taught me that real change is happening and is happening now and I am hoping to be part of that change.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for charities supporting those at risk of harmful practices?

I think the biggest challenge cannot be put down to one, so I think it is three-fold. Firstly, it is the incoherence of HBA and harmful practices within government, legislation, local government, social workers, social care, police, emergency services and education/ training. Secondly, it is the damaging stereotypes around HBA and harmful practices that are stunting progress. Lastly, I think it is the lack of awareness and education around HBA and harmful practices. Although these are huge challenges, these are challenges that can be overcome and I know that Savera UK is determined to defeat these challenges.

How can this be overcome?

I think the ways this can be overcome are below:

  1.  Legitimate policy and legislation that sets out a coherent definition of HBA and harmful practices
  2. This definition will be embedded into professional practice and training for emergency services and social and support workers/services as well as medical professionals. This training should be mandatory
  3. Education for secondary and primary school children, which Savera UK has begun with the creation of an education pack for secondary school students. This could be standardised and compulsory within RSE.
  4. Education statutory guidance needs to be stricter on the implementation of this policy and training goes hand in hand with this.
  5. Campaigns, raising awareness, education, and community work will help to alleviate the harmful stereotypes

I am aware that a lot needs to be done but I think this is achievable. I think Savera UK has the resilience, fire and expertise to deliver these outcomes and I would love to be a part of that as much as possible. I cannot wait to see what Savera UK achieves in 2023.

What are your plans for the future?

The Savera UK student placement has motivated me to delay doing a masters degree and go straight into NGO and charity work post graduating with my undergraduate degree. On the way home from the placement, I will be drafting my applications for the Houses of Parliament graduate scheme and the Charity Works graduate scheme.

My ambition is to work in policy to prevent sexual violence through compulsory consent education and training as well as emergency services training on definitions around consent and coercion.

One day I would love to come back to Savera UK and help as much as I can to end ‘honour’-based abuse. I hope to apply for Savera UK’s Youth Advisory Board to start this journey with Savera UK.

What did you enjoy the most about your time at Savera UK?

I enjoyed meeting Savera UK’s team the most and also helping the team with possible policy opportunities as this aligns with my ambitions and passions the most.

Genuinely would like to thank the entire team for welcoming me to well into the team and could not be more grateful for the experience.

Thank you for your incredibly kind words Anushka, it has been wonderful having you as part of the team and we wish you all the best in your future!

Savera UK Founder and CEO, Afrah Qassim

Savera UK CEO reflects on 2022 and remembers those lost to ‘honour’-based abuse

As we come to the final weeks of 2022, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on what Savera UK has achieved in the past year. It feels as though it was only last week when we celebrated the start of 2022, while at the same time it’s been a long year with plenty of progress made. I’m so proud of the work we have achieved, despite facing challenges along the way as I’m sure is a similar story for many of you. I first want to congratulate and thank the Savera UK team for their endless commitment and passion to Savera UK. I would also like to thank the Savera UK Board, Advisory Board and Youth Advisory Board for their amazing support and commitment. Our funders and supporters, who are key in helping us end ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful practices. Without your involvement and support, we would not have been able to accomplish so much in the last year – thank you.

This year Savera UK Youth conducted fantastic awareness-raising work including relaunching the #ENDFGM Exhibition in partnership with the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool as part of International Day for Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation and releasing their educational film ‘Orange Brick Road’ as part of UK Parliament Week. Alongside the video, Savera UK Youth created an education pack including activities to help teachers and those working with young people guide discussions on harmful practices.

Savera UK one-to-one direct intervention team has provided advocacy and support to many of our clients and also delivered empowerment activities including self-confidence building, dance and self-defence classes. It has also provided wellbeing support through weekly drop-in sessions and provided emotional and financial support through the Smallwood Community Grant.

This year Savera UK’s work was also recognised in the Third Sector Awards, for which we were nominated in the ‘Small Charity, Big Achiever’ category. I am incredibly grateful to those who nominated me for the Merseyside Women of the Year Awards 2022, and I was overwhelmed to be awarded the Woman of Courage Award sponsored by Courage and Sparkle. Liverpool-based Savera UK Youth members were also recognised in the Steve Biko Awards, for their diligent work raising awareness of harmful practices during the pandemic.

Earlier this year I was invited to join The Queen Consort at a reception at Buckingham Palace to mark International Elimination of Violence Against Women Day. While there I was able to discuss the important work our team does to safeguard and advocate on behalf of people at risk of HBA and harmful practices. We also published our first research paper talking about HBA ‘A descriptive study of survivors, perpetrators and abuse characteristics’, which you can read here.

My personal highlight of the year was the launch of Savera UK’s ‘5k to End HBA’ fundraising campaign, which was launched with a march through Liverpool city centre to shine a light on HBA and stand in solidarity with survivors.

We are very proud had the opportunity to take part in the Pilotlight programme, which allowed us to focus on our strategic plan and future development. The partnership encouraged me and the Savera UK Board to challenge ourselves and to consider the organisation’s challenges. Thank you to all the Pilotlighters we worked with. We are delighted to end the year in announcing our new and exciting partnership with Cheshire Police and Crime Commissioner.

Once again, thank you for all your continued support and believing in Savera UK and the work we do.

I ask for us all during the festive season, to reflect and think of all those whose have lost their loved ones, and those who are still living and at risk of HBA and struggling to ask for help.

Afrah Qassim,

CEO and Founder of Savera UK

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.

Savera UK CEO Afrah Qassim reflects on 2021 as “a small but mighty organisation”

Savera UK founder and CEO Afrah Qassim

“It feels like a long time since we celebrated the end of 2021 and welcomed 2022. Already we have lots to look forward to and I hope it’s the same for you. I want to take this opportunity to reflect on Savera UK’s 2021, including our achievements and obstacles. The beginning of 2021 brought new challenges from the outset, as the team were forced to work from home as a result of lockdown restrictions. Originally we thought we would be able to work from the office, but the lockdown forced us to pack up and organise homeworking in just one day after the Christmas holiday. At the time this news felt unbearable and to be honest I am not sure how I managed to keep calm and resilient, however we were able to support the team and ensure Savera UK continued to operate at its best regardless.

The challenges continued throughout the year with changes in staffing, recruitment and the increase of service demand while at one point operating with just a team of three. Despite the obstacles, the Savera UK team continued with business as usual.

Overcoming challenges and achieving our goals only happens when you have a strong team with excellent communication and more importantly the passion and commitment that the Savera UK team shows.

They never gave up and we supported one another to ensure our clients were given the best service. The organisation is fortunate enough to have a Chair and Board that continues to support us and guide me and the team every step of the way. As the CEO and founder of the organisation I am extremely grateful and proud of the team and the Board. As a small, but mighty organisation together we have highlighted ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices and made groundbreaking advances in how these cases are managed, including creating protocols here in Merseyside.

I want to thank our team from the bottom of my heart. I also want to thank our funders, fundraisers and supporters in championing us and the work we do, we wouldn’t have come this far without you.

We achieved so much last year, but there are a few highlights from 2021 I want to share. Savera UK released its first Impact Report, which will now be delivered on an annual basis. Between June 2020 and June 2021 we reached over a 1,000 individuals via training and awareness and supported over 140 individuals that at risk of ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices. This may seem small to some, but to us it’s a huge change in seeing those at risk feel safe to come forward for help and support and to know that services finally understand the risk and call it to what it is. There is still a long way to go, but we have made an extraordinary change here in Merseyside and hope to achieve more here and other areas in the future.

While supporting clients Savera UK also delivered a number of events, including one developed and led by Savera UK Youth, who for the first time put together a Community Panel ‘Question Time’ style event. This came in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard and a rise in violence and abuse against women. Savera UK Youth felt they needed to see what our communities and faith leaders were doing to doing to address the issue and how they were working towards eradicating violence and abuse. All questions raised at the panel were sourced from young people.

Watch survivor stories from Savera UK clients (1200 x 150 px)

Savera UK has always strived to make International Women’s Day special and bring women from all backgrounds together with activities and partnerships. In 2021 unfortunately we weren’t able to host in-person events, but instead marked the day with a women only online event. The day was a great success with over 70 women from local communities attending. Alongside the event we created a community booklet magazine using the 2021 International Women’s Day them of ‘Choose to Challenge’, in which women from the community to wrote about their everyday activism. The booklet also shared recipes written by Savera UK clients to encourage families to discuss activism while bonding over the creation of a delicious dish.

Last year Savera UK launched the ‘One Chance Rule’ video, explaining the belief that there could only be one chance to save a life when a disclosure is made, and the importance to act on that. We also launched survivor videos after working with BBC Radio Producer Ngunan Adamu, who held sessions with our clients and encouraged them to bravely share their stories of what it’s like to be a survivor of ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) as part of our ‘Orange the World’ campaign.

This is just a snapshot of the work Savera UK achieved in 2021, there is lots more information on our website which details all of our events, blogs and reports. We are so excited to see what 2022 will bring and where Savera UK be this time next year.

For now I want to thank you all again for your continuing support and championing our work and we welcome all the new supporters and partners to work together to keep this agenda moving and continue to break the silence.

Do speak out and challenge attitudes that consider harmful practices as their culture or norms to practice.”

Afrah Qassim

Founder & CEO  

Savera UK Youth #ENDFGM Exhibition 2022

Savera UK Youth exhibition calls for end to female genital mutilation (FGM)

Savera UK Youth #ENDFGM Exhibition 2022

An exhibition of multimedia artworks created by a group of young people campaigning to eradicate the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), has opened in Liverpool to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM (6th February).

Savera UK Youth created artwork and photography to commemorate the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which was first launched at a conference in London held by the National FGM Centre. After speaking with survivors of female genital mutilation and learning more about the practice from Savera UK, the young people then worked with artist Joanne Tremarco and photographer Andrew ‘AB’ Abrahamson to learn valuable image-making and photography skills through a series of workshops.

In these workshops the young people learned how to translate what they had heard into powerful imagery, through sessions with Joanne making collage, assemblage and animation. Then, using the practical skills and knowledge about the rules of photography shared by AB, they took disposable cameras away to interpret their understanding of FGM through photography.  These photographs, which can be seen on display as a stand alone series, approach the subject matter from a more abstract and emotional point of view,  informing the staged SLR photographs that carry a more explicit #EndFGM message.

Following further workshops with artist Joanne and survivor Kiara Mohamed, who is a poet, the young people created poems, song and text related to FGM, in response to what they had learned from the survivor stories and from Savera UK. The young people also learned important skills about showcasing their work, such as how to hang an exhibition and how to write about their artwork to communicate its meaning as well as skills in performance and presentation.

The works seek to educate people about FGM and challenge harmful traditions that violate human rights, while separating it from culture and religious practice, with which is it often wrongly conflated.

The exhibition will run from Friday 4th – Sunday 27th February 2022, in the ‘Make Space’ exhibition space at the International Slavery Museum, located on the 3rd Floor.

Hannah Gloudon from Savera UK Youth, said: “We are so excited to finally be exhibiting our work, which was originally created in 2019 and was due to be exhibited in 2020.

“The pandemic saw schools close and leave many vulnerable young people at risk of FGM. Last year, UNICEF stated that 2 million additional cases of female genital mutilation likely to occur over next decade due to COVID-19*

“It has never been more vital for us to speak out against FGM and empower our peers to do the same. Education is key to meeting our aim of being the generation that eradicates harmful practices like FGM and we hope that our #EndFGM exhibition raises awareness and encourages other people to join us in speaking out.”

Lois South, Education Demonstrator at the International Slavery Museum, added: “The work that Savera UK does is so incredibly important, and it is an honour to work with them to highlight and raise awareness about FGM and other harmful practices.

“The art that members of Savera UK Youth have created is beautiful, emotive and  powerful, and we hope that through this exhibition, we can collectively shine a spotlight on what is often a misunderstood subject.

“As a museum, our mission is not only to raise awareness about transatlantic, chattel and other forms of enslavement, but we are also a campaigning museum that actively engages with contemporary human rights issues.

“We hope through this exhibition we can make a difference and educate people about this sensitive yet important issue.”

Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell said: “FGM has no place in today’s society. Not only is it illegal, it’s life-threatening, and it leaves young victims in agony facing long-term physical and psychological challenges.

“Raising awareness of the risks and signs of FGM within our communities, and among key agencies and professionals, is vital if we are to protect girls from harm. I welcome the launch of this innovative exhibition curated by Savera UK Youth which aims to educate people about the impact of FGM and encourages them to speak out.

“While FGM is a deeply sensitive subject, there are no cultural, religious or medical reasons that can ever justify a practice that causes so much suffering. We need everyone to understand FGM is child abuse, it’s illegal and it must be eradicated.”

While FGM and other harmful practices, such as ‘honour’-based abuse and forced marriage remain ‘hidden’ crimes that often go unreported, Merseyside Police saw an increase of almost 56 per cent in reports of ‘honour’-based abuse in 2021.

The force works closely with Savera UK Youth’s parent organisation, Savera UK, a leading charity tackling culturally-specific abuse such as HBA, forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), by providing life-saving support to survivors and those at risk and campaigning to eradicate the practice for good.

Merseyside Police lead for Protecting Vulnerable Persons, Detective Superintendent Steve Reardon, said: “Statistics from Merseyside Police show that in 2021, 54 incidents of ‘honour’-based abuse were reported to the force, which is an increase of 24 on the 12 months to March 2021. Considerably fewer incidents of Forced Marriage and FGM were reported, indicating that under-reporting of ‘honour’-based abuse and other harmful practices remains an issue in the region.

“There are currently 24 FGM Protection Orders in place in Merseyside, protecting 27 girls, and 36 Forced Marriage Protection Orders, protecting 66 people. While these figures provide part of the picture locally, the true number of those at risk of ‘honour’-based abuse is not known due to the hidden nature of these crimes.

“We appeal to anyone who has been a victim of ‘honour’-based abuse to contact police. You will be supported with sensitivity by specialist officers, and we will help you to receive the support of the dedicated team at Savera UK.”

For help and support you can contact the Savera UK helpline on 0800 107 0726 (9am – 5pm, Monday – Friday), you can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or if you or someone you know is at immediate risk, call 999.

*Source: UNICEF https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/2-million-additional-cases-femalegenital-mutilation-likely-occur-over-next-decade

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.