Tag: Savera UK

Debbie with Savera UK team members Chelsea, Lauren and Jenny

Student Spotlight: Debbie, International Public Health Student

As our regular ‘Student Spotlights’ show, we often welcome student placements into our support team to learn about what we do and how we operate. However, this month Savera UK welcomed Liverpool John Moores University student Debbie into our communications and outreach team.

Debbie aimed to bring “a can-do attitude, an extra hand and some ideas” to the charity during her time with us, and she certainly achieved this.

During her placement, Debbie supported us in raising awareness of ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices through research, blog writing, content creation and even attending in-person outreach events.

In our interview, we find out more about Debbie, what she expected from her placement and what she learned from her time at Savera UK.

Thank you Debbie for all your support, we loved having you with us!

Debbie with Savera UK team members Chelsea, Lauren and Jenny
Debbie with Savera UK team members Chelsea, Lauren and Jenny

First of all, Debbie, tell us a bit about yourself.

I am from Malaysia, and  I am currently studying a MSc International Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University. I chose this course because I was beginning to see firsthand the opportunities and challenges in public health across different cultures and countries. That drove me to learn and be equipped on how to make a change. So when the door opened for me to study abroad, the stars aligned!

Away from my studies, I’m drawn to art in its various forms, from digital illustrations to batik prints. I also have a small postcard collection featuring watercolour paintings and hand-drawn art from my talented, artsy friends!

Why did you choose Savera UK for placement and what did you come hoping to learn?

Savera UK stood out to me as a charity that was passionately sincere, skillful, creative and brave in championing a cause that is often considered a taboo. Importantly, ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) crosses the intersections of gender equality, human rights, violence and criminal justice, an interplay which relates closely with my dissertation. This placement gave me the opportunity to see and experience the nuts and bolts of the fight towards and the possibility of change.

In addition to growing my knowledge of HBA, I was looking forward to develop my confidence to speak up about HBA in person and on social media. I was also keen to learn how to create spaces for survivors to be heard in creative yet safe ways (like Samia’s Story in the Savera UK 2020/21 Impact Report).

I was also interested  to hear from the support team about their experiences in supporting those at risk of HBA and to better understand how communications integrate with fundraising and partnership development in a charity setting.

What did you get involved with during your placement?

I was involved in learning from and assisting Nikki and Lauren from the communications team. This included researching organisations, professionals and potential partners involved with HBA here in the UK, creating social media posts and writing a blog post about how Savera UK’s one-to-one support team addresses the mental health of clients. My placement also coincided with the Mental Health Awareness Week which was brilliant, as I had the opportunity to join Lauren to host a stall at the LCR Combined Authority Mental Health and Work Summit. Additionally, I also got to sit in on weekly communications meetings and the monthly staff meeting which I found really insightful!

What surprised you about the role?

I must say that I was blown away by how much goes on just within the comms team, evident from the weekly communications meetings. For my specific role, Chelsea provided me with an overview of what to expect prior to the placement and both Lauren and Nikki also briefed me well at the start of my placement. These were really helpful in giving me an understanding of what Savera UK does and the role of the comms team.

What did you enjoy most about the role and did the placement meet your expectations?

I thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in the day-to-day activities of the comms team, learning on the job and interacting with the rest of the team. My placement with Savera UK exceeded my expectations! Not only did I learn more about HBA, I also got to gain insights into what the one-to-one support team does and experienced firsthand the integral role of communications within the organisation. I also found the on-going training, support and feedback I received from both Lauren and Nikki throughout my placement really helpful and valuable.

What was your most important learning from your placement?

It’s been an absolute privilege to be immersed and gain insights into the macro and micro view of how a charity runs. I observed how when everyone is clear of and committed to the why, they are driven with the what and the how. I also appreciated the opportunity to listen in and experience the intersecting role communication plays, from creating awareness, data and analytics to partnership development and funding applications. That has been my most important learning.

What was the most memorable thing that you did during your placement?

The most memorable would be the conversation with Bea from the one-to-one support team. That helped me in two ways, firstly, to understand the support team’s role better and then learning how to communicate that to a wider audience to create awareness, be it through a blog post or in-person at the Mental Health and Work Summit.

Based on your experience working with Savera UK, what do you think are the biggest challenges facing organisations supporting survivors and those at risk of harmful practices?

I think that scaling up and funding this important work and creating more awareness of these hidden practices are perhaps the biggest challenges. Supporting survivors and those at risk of harmful practices remains a crucial need, as does engaging with the ecosystem of people and partners, from the public to schools and the media.

What are your future plans? 

I’m working towards completing my course in International Public Health at LJMU by the end of August this year. I hope to work with a non-profit organisation involved in improving the lives of women and girls at risk, including refugee and migrant women, when I return to Malaysia.

How will you use your practical experience with Savera UK going forward?

Having learnt about how gender inequality, violation of human rights and violence intersect in my course, working at Savera UK allowed me to experience how theory translates into practice and how change is possible. I am now more confident of speaking up about HBA and harmful cultural practices. Additionally, I am looking forward to apply what I have learnt from the comms team, including planning, forward thinking, collaboration as well as communicating sensitive stories creatively and safely, in my future role. Thank you, Savera UK for such a rich and meaningful experience!

Savera UK Founder and CEO, Afrah Qassim

Savera UK Founder and CEO finalist for Merseyside Women of the Year Awards 2022

Savera UK Founder and CEO, Afrah Qassim
Savera UK Founder and CEO, Afrah Qassim

Savera UK Founder and CEO, Afrah Qassim, has been announced as a finalist for Merseyside Women of the Year Awards 2022.

Afrah was previously awarded ‘Humanitarian of the Year’ at the 2012 Merseyside Women of the Year Awards, when her work for establishing the Savera UK service in Merseyside was acknowledged. Thanks to her continued hard work alongside the dedicated Savera UK team, she has again received recognition, this time for extending the service to include a one-to-one support service in Merseyside and Cheshire and a national helpline.

Afrah is among eighteen courageous and inspirational women who have been acknowledged for making a difference in the region.

Afrah said: “I am so thankful to everyone who has supported us, past and present, in getting to this point, especially our committed team who are equally as driven and passionate to end ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices as I am.

“None of this work would be possible without them, and their continued support in tackling these issues.

“Thank you to the judges of Merseyside Women of the Year Awards for making me a finalist, and to my nominator. Having this work acknowledged helps remind me of the important reason I do it.”

The overall Merseyside Woman of the Year 2022 will be selected from all finalists, following a public vote (contributing 50% of the overall score) and being marked by the organisation’s judging panel against its criteria, contributing the remaining 50% of the final score.

You can vote for Afrah here until Friday, 10th June 2022: https://merseysidewomenoftheyear.co.uk/finalists-2022/

Supporting Survivors’ Mental Health as Savera UK

The Savera UK Support Team

Following Mental Health Awareness Week, Savera UK is shining a light on the impact that ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) has on the mental health of our clients and how our one-to-one support team offers them hope and practical help.

Support Team Manager Bea explains what a day in the life of the team looks like, how they support clients to navigate the mental health challenges they face as a result of HBA and how the team makes mental wellbeing a priority.

“When a phone call comes in through our national helpline, the individual is usually at high risk and it is then our role to deescalate their risk,” Bea explains. “Referrals may also come in through schools, hospitals or social services. Our first concern is their safety and if they need to be moved immediately from a dangerous or unsafe environment. So, we conduct a risk assessment and work alongside other professionals to create a safety plan for them,” she adds. “We always follow the One Chance Rule. We believe that there might be only one chance to speak to the potential person at risk or survivors, and therefore, just one chance to save a life,” she emphasises.

Those at risk of HBA will always fear for their safety, especially where their families hold extreme beliefs about these practices and are supported by some members of the wider community. Even if a client has escaped their abusive environment, families and community members will go to great lengths to try and find them. Navigating HBA means that working in a partnership with other professionals, such as the local authorities, social workers, social support, domestic abuse services and child protection services, remains crucially important.

Trauma and shame

From a mental health perspective, the team has observed how clients often struggle with trauma and shame from the various forms of abuse they have endured. Bea shares: “Some of our clients have neutralised the trauma they have experienced and accepted it as part of their culture so that they become functional in their daily living.” Others may demonstrate disassociation when they are not ready to face reality and withdraw due to fear of the repercussions of disclosure. This in turn, affects them psychologically. In addition, our clients, who are mostly women, often face the continual feeling of being disempowered due to the hierarchical nature in their family’s culture and beliefs, where the father or husband must be honoured, and end up becoming like servants to their patriarchal figures. Taken together, this may explain why some clients struggle with suicidal feelings.

Bea shares: “Many of our clients come in feeling fearful and so, we seek to create a safe space for them to relax and talk. That said, it does take time to build trust, usually two to three sessions before they start to open up. Our work is always client-led, so it depends on what they are most comfortable doing and when, that way, we don’t impose anything on them. Empathy, understanding and patience are so vital, irrespective of culture.”

Ready to advocate

There are times when a client has had their situation downplayed by other parties, prior to coming to Savera UK. So, when they do come in contact with the one-to-one Support Team, Bea and the team are quick to assure the clients that they are ready to advocate on their behalf wherever it is needed, for example ensuring they are receiving the right financial support or safety measures, accompanying them to GP appointments or meetings with immigration.

Savera UK clients are always central to the support team’s work. They ensure that they offer clients their full attention and always demonstrate that ‘I stand by you’ and ‘I believe in you’. “We do this to provide the support and validation our client needs, to empower them and give them the courage they need to speak up,” Bea explains passionately.

Reducing social isolation

Savera UK also provides weekly drop-in activities and programmes to reduce the social isolation clients face. Past sessions have included “Embodied Healing” to manage trauma and activities such as kickboxing, cricket and a clothing bazaar. The team also signposts and liaises with various agencies to provide necessary support for clients. This ranges from refuges, social services, legal services to therapy and counselling services.

“We work with services and professionals who are trained in trauma-informed practices to help our clients in their journey. ,” Bea explains. Even so, she acknowledges that there are times when the client may decide to return to their perpetrator, and sadly, the trauma circle and cycle of abuse continues. “Our role then, is to continue to be available to them. As such, there is no start and end point; our cases are never closed and remain fluid for each client.”

Improvements in mental health

When asked to share about an improvement in mental health that Bea has observed in a client, she immediately mentions a client who – after three months in communication – told her: “It was because of you that I can now do this.”

“I always believe that it only takes one person to believe in you for you to feel empowered,” Bea adds. “That is what someone did for me and I want to continue pour belief into other women as well, be it my team or our clients.”

With all that the one-to-one support team does, Bea recognises that wellbeing at the workplace is incredibly vital so that the team can continue to give their best to support Savera UK’s clients. As such, to support the team’s own mental health and wellbeing, every support worker has monthly access to clinical support, weekly check-ins, they are encouraged to take regular breaks and can look forward to a therapy room that will be made available to both support workers and clients in the near future.

“I take pride in my team and what we are doing. We are committed to change the narrative of our clients and stand up against culturally specific abuse and violence,” Bea says. “For me, every life impacted, and every person empowered is a success. My dream is that one day, one of our clients will be the next Bea or HBA support worker, because they have the lived experience and that will be so powerful!”

If you or someone you know is at risk of HBA or harmful practices, or if you need advice on these issues, you can get help here.

You can call the Savera UK national helpline on 0800 107 0726 (operates weekdays between 9am-5pm).

Interview conducted and blog written by Savera UK placement student, Debbie

Get Involved: Setting the Story Straight – HBA and Media

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:

For survivors or members of affected communities: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/SUK_Survey_Survivors

For professionals: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/SUK_Survey_Professionals

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.

Payzee Mahmod Savera UK Ambassador

Savera UK celebrates introduction of new law banning child marriage

Payzee Mahmod Savera UK Ambassador

Savera UK welcomes the news that the minimum age of marriage will be raised from 16 to 18 in England and Wales.

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill, introduced to UK Parliament by MP Pauline Latham OBE, has passed through Parliament and today received Royal Assent, meaning it has become law.

Savera UK ambassador and forced marriage survivor, Payzee Mahmod, has been instrumental in bringing the law to Parliament by tirelessly campaigning alongside organisations including IKWRO.

Payzee’s sister, Banaz, was forced into marriage when she was aged 16. Banaz was the victim of an ‘honour’-killing after ending the violent and abusive marriage.

Ahead of the Bill passing its third reading, Payzee wrote: “Struggling to put in to words what this means. I feel so many emotions. This is real life change.

“This is for me, for Banaz, for any child impacted by child marriage.

“Today tears of joy roll down my face because I know what this means for girls like me.”

Under the new law children will not be penalised, but adults found to be facilitating the marriage could face up to a seven year jail sentence and a fine.

The law will also apply to marriages which are not registered with the local council.

Savera UK CEO, Afrah Qassim, said: “We cannot thank our incredible ambassador Payzee enough for her tireless efforts to see this Bill brought to Parliament.

“This law has the potential to change the lives of thousands of girls for the better and it’s encouraging to see the impact one campaign can have on an entire country.

“At Savera UK, we continue to provide support for those at risk of, and survivors of, forced and child marriage, so this law will have a very real impact on our work.

“We continue to encourage young girls to talk to someone if they fear they are at risk of forced marriage.”

If you are affected by forced marriage, ‘honour’-based abuse or other harmful practices, you can call the Savera UK helpline on 0800 107 0726 (weekdays 9am – 5pm).

‘Embodied Healing’ helps Savera UK clients manage trauma

Over the last three weeks Savera UK clients have been taking part in sessions on ‘Embodied Healing’. The sessions have been delivered by one of our student placements, Aleesha, who is studying a masters in psychotherapy.

‘Embodied Healing’ incorporates a number of techniques, including guided meditation and breathing exercises, to help alleviate the physical impact trauma can have on the body. Aleesha said: “When people experience trauma it’s really held in the body and their nervous system is at the whim of that response. The specific breathing techniques I’m teaching are a type of trauma release and that’s a type of therapy as well.”

The sessions take part in six separate sessions, and involve clients focusing on different breathing techniques. Aleesha practiced with the clients the ‘box technique’ and ‘pranayama’, which she explains are ayurvedic, meaning originating from Indian medicine. She said: “I’m teaching very specific breathing that activates the vagus nerve.”

In the most recent session, Savera UK clients were invited to visualise and draw their version of a safe space. Aleesha said: “We’re building a sense of safe-space imagery so by the end of the programme they have a very easy image to go to in their minds that is sensorial.

“The overall objective is to teach a few skills they can use, provide tools for their tool belt that will allow them to care for and advocate for themselves.”

She said: “[Last week] we did a trauma therapy activity, where people were in pairs and I said ‘show your person a movement that shows how you’re feeling’. One did a position like they were sleeping. I then asked ‘have your partner show us how you feel’. One woman said: ‘I’m realising that when I’m looking I see sleepiness, for her it might mean sadness or exasperation. It shows me it takes time to listen to someone.’”

Aleesha, from Singapore, recently moved to the UK to study for her masters degree, having worked with trauma victims in different settings for two years. Most recently she worked on trauma-informed workshops for survivors.

As well as leading trauma workshops and sessions, Aleesha has undertaken research and helped inform policy, contributing to Singapore’s first ever gender equality review. She said: “I was a researcher for sexual violence across institutes in Higher Education. On the ground work is very important to me but I’m conscious it needs to be both [policy and frontline work].”

Aleesha said her background in policy work means she is “constantly adapting” and “recognising that needs could be assumed, but it’s really dependent on the person”.

Discussing her student placement, Aleesha said she knew it was the “perfect” organisation for her to be involved with. She said: “I used to work with marginalised communities, victims of sexual violence and women of colour and this [placement at Savera UK] gave me the opportunity to do both.”

Aleesha explained she has continued to adapt the sessions based on the response from clients. She said: “I feel like this was the best session.”

She added: “Merfat [a Savera UK support worker] is the best human, she’s so, so supportive. She has really let me take my time and make mistakes. I’m just learning sometimes the simple things have a lot of value.”

Speaking about the clients, Aleesha said: “I have seen the way they hold each other, speak to each other. Women of colour, they bond together. It has been very beautiful to just be around it.”

Savera UK Clients Celebrate International Women’s Day 2022

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.

Savera UK clients include both those at risk of, and survivors of, ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA), forced marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM) and other harmful practices. These practices are violations of human rights and are borne from deep-seated patriarchal ideologies which oppress women.

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.

Savera UK clients enjoyed a delicious feast at the International Women’s Day celebration

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.

Student Spotlight: Taylor and Jackie, Social Work Students

Savera UK regularly welcomes student placements so they can learn about what we do, how our team operates and the work involved in advocating for those at risk of ‘honour’-based abuse and other harmful practices.

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.

International Women’s Day 2022: Help #BreakTheBias with Savera UK

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”.

This year’s theme resonates closely with Savera UK’s organisational mission. We are a leading charity tackling culturally-specific abuse such as ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and other harmful pratices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage. All of these issues are rooted in societies based on patriarchal ideologies and at their heart lies gender inequality.

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.

For more information on International Women’s Day visit: https://www.internationalwomensday.com/

To find out how you can get involved in Savera UK’s work, visit: https://www.saverauk.co.uk/what-can-you-do/get-involved/ 

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