This summer, Savera UK will be hosting free art, poetry and photography workshops for young activists in the Liverpool area aged 11-25.
Each year Savera UK Youth members take part in creative workshops with facilitators where they’ll develop skills like team-working and creative thinking as well as learning about art, poetry, and photography.
The project will focus on the impact of ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful practices, including forced marriage, virginity testing and breast ironing. During the sessions you will learn more about the issues from the CEO of Savera UK, a charity which works to end HBA and harmful practices. You will also have the opportunity to speak with survivors to discuss their experiences and ask questions.
Members will then take part in art, poetry and photography workshops with facilitators Ali Harwood and Andrew ‘AB’ Abrahamson, where they’ll learn how to tell a story creatively and technical skills of the craft.
You’ll work with like-minded young people to join together and create an exhibition of work, which will be toured across schools in Merseyside from September 2023 to help raise awareness of ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices.
The workshop is perfect for those in the Liverpool area who are interested in social activism and art, poetry and photography.
If you would like to join us, please find a timetable for the projects below:
Thursday, 3rd August
Introduction to HBA, discussion with survivors
Tuesday, 15th August
Introduction to storytelling through art
2pm – 4pm
Thursday, 17th August
Art and Poetry
2pm – 4pm
Tuesday, 22nd August
Art and Poetry
2pm – 4pm
Thursday, 24th August
2pm – 4pm
Tuesday, 29th August
2pm – 4pm
Workshops will take place in Liverpool, and the location will be confirmed once you have registered.
To register, please complete this form. We hope to see you there!
This International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation Savera UK Youth Advisory Board member Ayo Folarin interviewed female genital mutilation (FGM) survivor Shamsa Araweelo to talk about her experience and the work she is doing to raise awareness and help end FGM for good. Read Ayo’s interview with Shamsa below.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a procedure in which the female genitals are partially or totally removed, without health benefits or medical reasons. This is a violation of human rights and as a survivor of the practice, Shamsa Araweelo is working to raise awareness by talking about her own experience. Shamsa is currently training to become a police officer. She shared with us how she is still facing consequences from the procedure she had undergone 16 years ago, and despite her personal traumatic experience she is driven to advocate for change, with the aim to see FGM eradicated one day. Something that we all wish to see happening.
One of the campaigns Shamsa is passionate about, is changing the name of FGM to ‘female genital cutting (FGC)’. Explaining her reasons, Shamsa said she feels FGM doesn’t take into consideration how survivors might feel and perceive themselves as being “labelled mutilated”.
Shamsa, who is also a survivor of forced marriage, said: “The name doesn’t really change anything, the practice is still just as horrendous – you’ve just described them as mutilated.”
She shares her fears on how survivors may not seek professional help if they are constantly referred to as being mutilated, speaking on her personal experience. Shamsa explained struggled with it while growing up, which prevented her from attending her GPs, a gynaecologist or even the emergency room.
As we continue our conversation, we went more into depth on how FGM has affected Shamsa on a psychological and physical level. She said: “I was really insecure. I was terrified of speaking to anybody about it because there’s ‘shame’ linked to that procedure, if you talk about it it’s ‘shameful’, if you try to get it changed it’s still ‘shameful’. Keep it and just suffer basically.” Her wider family were the perpetrators, with Shamsa’s mother strongly against FGM, but out of the country when it took place.
Talking about the aftermath, she tells us she did not resent her family members who carried it out. Shamsa said: “I was just confused. When I got to realise that it was a crime essentially and a child abuse, sexual abuse, I started to question my family.” She was also able to confront her family member who held her down during the procedure when she was only six, to which they responded, ‘‘it is something we all did, we did not know any better” showing a lack of understanding of the gravity of what had happened.
Shamsa said: “I had to really sit back and think I’m talking to somebody who is traumatised and who has never had any type of help in any way, shape or form. There isn’t anything that I can say that will make them apologise or feel any type of sympathy or empathy as to what they did to me. It was very hard for me to deal with.”
Speaking about living with FGM, Shamsa refused to be intimate with anyone for a long time due to the procedure. She speaks on the hardship, of being sexually assaulted especially when FGM had been performed, causing great pain and a sense of violation.
Shamsa is still currently suffering due to FGM, which made her attend her GP, sharing that doctors and nurses do not get a lot of training, even though the practice is illegal in the UK. Shamsa describes the lack of training among professionals as a form of discrimination and institutional racism. She tells us she has encountered professionals who may not even know what FGM looks like, raising the question on how protection can occur for those who are at risk or a survivor. Shamsa speaks on the importance of more training for medical professionals, even if they number of victims of FGM is low, it is still vital.
As well as calling for more education for professionals, Shamsa tells us even survivors she has spoken to who have undergone the procedure haven’t recognised FGM as a crime. She said: “Some didn’t even know that it was wrong and they live in the UK, because it’s so normalised and if you live within a community that normalises a type of abuse, you’re never going to think that it’s wrong until you hear somebody say it. Only when I started talking about it she said she never thought it was wrong – she’s 24-years-old.”
“I was absolutely gobsmacked but I shouldn’t be surprised because there’s not really much education on the topic. People talk about it because they want the attention and then it just dies out completely and the survivors are left to deal with the implications for the rest of their lives. No one is going to help, defend, so it continues to be normalised, it continues to be normal.”
It might be presumed that a survivor of FGM would receive support around their mental health and wellbeing, however, Shamsa reveals how she receives more support from her social media platforms – TikTok and YouTube, with viewers having the drive to educate themselves. She said: “I’ve received the most amazing support I could never have imagined. The kindness, men, women, doesn’t matter sexual orientation there is pure kindness.” Her videos and socials create a sense of community and empowerment for survivors, as they are able to see the support she gets opposed to hate, encouraging them to speak out without fear or receiving judgement, but worth being in recipient of love and respect.
Shamsa feels like professional support is “not accessible” for survivors and often finds survivors do not want to keep seeking support, as they are passed around so much, from one organisation to another. She shared her personal experience with us and said: “I was told to call an organisation. I did. They said ‘Okay, tell us your story’”. Shamsa explained she felt uncomfortable going into detail about her experience and instead asked for support, however they simply provided her with another number to call.
We asked Shamsa, as a trainee police officer what gaps she felt there were in the judicial system around cases of FGM, and what steps could be taken. She said trust between survivors, doctors and police needs to be built and made stronger, adding, it is hard for police officers to get involved in crimes against FGM, as they require medics to identify that an individual went through it recently, before they can intervene. Shamsa deems education on FGM among professionals and within communities as really important in ending the practice.
Shamsa talks to us about the discussions she has had about FGM with her seven-year-old daughter, who she describes as a “young activist”. Shamsa said, although the topic was not brought up by her, she spoke openly about the procedure she had to go through, to which her daughter replied “But mummy that’s so horrible why would they do that to you?” Shamsa said: “I was so proud of her. It was really sweet to see she understands.” Her daughter is now teaching her peers and teachers in school on what FGM is, showing how you can speak out on harmful practices at any age.
Shamsa ends with saying how women who had to endure FGM “are so strong, for not only have endured FGM, but having to live with the complications, and going to school, having full time jobs, having children, raising those kids and trying their absolute best to function.”
Written by Ayo Folarin, Savera UK Youth Advisory Board.
Savera UK Youth aims to raise awareness and educate other young people about ‘honour’-based abuse, forced marriage and female genital mutilation (harmful practices). As part of this campaign, we premiered our ‘Orange Brick Road’ film, at Liverpool John Moores University on Monday 14th November 2022, before it was released online. We hope to reach a wider audience, educating
people of all ages about harmful practices.
Before the film began, guests were welcomed into the room; the walls filled with Savera UK Youth’s poetry, art and photography. Displaying our art around the room showed our guests the different creative techniques we use to get our message across.
Savera UK Patron, Nazir Afzal OBE (Former Chief Crown Prosecutor for the North West, leading nationally on child exploitation, violence against women and ‘honour’-based abuse cases), shared his reasons for collaborating with Savera UK. Nazir echoed the importance of raising awareness and why educating others about harmful practices in school is vital.
Dr Hannah Baumeister (Lecturer of Law at Liverpool John Moores University) also joined us. She explained her journey to studying and researching harmful practices and how such practices are often treated by the law.
As we introduced our ‘Orange Brick Road’ film, the Youth Advisory Board (YAB) shared our stories about volunteering with Savera UK and the importance of the work.
We’d like to thank the Merseyside PCC for kindly funding this project, and to our partners Liverpool John Moores University and John Moores Students Union, Nonconform, Natalie Denny and Andrew ‘AB’ Abrahamson.
The premier came to an end with a question and answer session, and a commitment to continue raising awareness.
You can follow what Savera UK Youth and the Youth Advisory Board are up to by checking out our Instagram @SaveraUKYouth. If you would like to join Savera UK Youth, please contact [email protected].
Written by Hannah Gloudon, Savera UK Youth Advisory Board Vice Chair
On Monday, 14th November the Youth Advisory Board (YAB) we will be joined virtually by Savera UK Patron and Former Chief Crown Prosecutor for the North West, Nazir Afzal OBE, Savera UK CEO Afrah Qassim and Liverpool John Moores University Lecturer in Law Dr Hannah Baumeister.
Together speakers will discuss the complexities surrounding ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices and the importance of education in tackling them.
Nazir Afzal OBE, Savera UK patron and former Chief Crown Prosecutor for North West England
Nazir Afzal OBE is the Patron of Savera UK and the Former Chief Prosecutor for North West England. Nazir was also appointed the Chancellor of the University of Manchester in August 2022. He is an expert in de-radicalisation and a senior British lawyer who campaigns on issues around child sexual exploitation and violence against women.
Afrah Qassim, Founder and CEO of Savera UK
Afrah is the Founder and CEO of Savera UK, a leading national organisation tackling the causes and effects of harmful practices including ‘honour’-based abuse, female genital mutilation and forced/child marriage. Afrah is also the Chair of the Liverpool Arab Arts Festival.
Dr Hannah Baumeister
Hannah is a Lecturer in Law at Liverpool John Moores University and a Savera UK Advisory Board Member. Her research interest and expertise is in sexual and gender-based violence and Hannah’s doctoral research analysed the politics behind the international criminalisation of war rape and forced marriage in times of armed conflict. Her broader research interests also include the intersections between forced marriage and modern slavery.
Savera UK Youth Advisory Board
The Savera UK Youth Advisory Board (YAB) is a group of 16-25 year-olds dedicated to raising awareness of ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices. Presenting this event will be YAB members Ayomide Folarin, Malcolm Thwala, Adele Leung, Hannah Gloudon and Elias Folarin.
If you’re unable to attend our physical event, we invite you to join us online on Thursday, 18th November at 2pm for the online showing of the ‘Orange Brick Road’ video. Register here.
This project has kindly been funded by Merseyside PCC and supported by Liverpool John Moores University and Liverpool John Moores Student Union.
The #ENDFGM Exhibition was created by Savera UK Youth and is intended to help people learn about the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM). Attending the exhibition is not only a matter of curiosity but, it could potentially save lives. Our event provides insight into this matter by illustrating the issue through the various exhibits that are on display. It also gives a good indication of the current impact of FGM and what action is necessary for a brighter future. The hope for the #ENDFGM Exhibition is to encourage individuals to contribute by, for example, sharing a post on social media or by joining our campaign to eradicate harmful practices like FGM.
The exhibition was set up for UK Parliament Week in November 2019, in order to bring attention to harmful practices, particularly FGM. We are grateful to the International Slavery Museum and Merseyside PCC Emily Spurrell, for supporting Savera UK Youth in allowing us to spotlight our message as we mark International Zero Tolerance Day for FGM 2022 (Sunday, 6th February).
So, what is female genital mutilation (FGM)?
FGM is a procedure that involves the total or partial removal of the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. FGM causes injury to the female genital organs and has no health benefits; additionally, it can cause major psychological trauma.
The person carrying out the procedure often is not medically trained and does not use sterilised equipment. It is also important to note that often times the people close to the person receiving the procedure, family and/or community, are regrettably involved.
What is the aim of the #ENDFGM Exhibition?
This exhibition is incredibly important in informing people about what FGM involves and the effects it can have. Using a combination of visual imagery and written pieces was imperative for us as the use of a variety of methods is useful when trying to portray a message to a large and varied group of people, as different individuals have different ways of learning.
How do you expect people to campaign against an issue they are unaware of? That’s the question that came to our minds when trying to lay the groundwork for the Savera UK Youth campaign to #ENDFGM. Knowledge is one of the most valuable things we have in our society as without shining a light on a topic it is very difficult to get people involved, and the support of the general public is vital for us to accomplish our goal to permanently eradicate FGM.
The exhibition was created after Savera UK Youth worked with photographer Andrew ‘AB’ Abrahamson to learn valuable photography skills and members also wrote poetry and created stop-motion animation videos after sessions with artist Joanne Tremarco and poet and Savera UK survivor ambassador Kiara Mohamed (learn more about these workshops here).
About the exhibition, a member of the Savera UK Youth Advisory Board said: “It is unbelievable how far we have come with this exhibition, to think that it began with the National FGM Centre. During the years, my knowledge around harmful practices has improved, and we have had the opportunity to express this through poetry, performances and photography.
“Those pieces of art have been created with the hope to inspire and encourage others to acknowledge those practises, using a different approach, as we are aiming to raise awareness among young people. We strongly believe that using art to do so is more powerful than just words, helping us to convey our message and encourage others to join us into our journey of speaking out.”
We hope you join us in our endeavour to #ENDFGM and learn more by visiting the #ENDFGM Exhibition at the International Slavery Museum, where it will be on display between Friday, 4th February and Sunday, 27th February 2022.
Written by Elias Folarin, Savera UK Youth Advisory Board
Savera UK Youth is looking for volunteers aged 11-25 who are passionate about making change.
With Savera UK Youth you will play an important role in raising awareness of ‘honour’-based abuse, female genital mutilation, forced marriage and other harmful practices through a variety of projects, campaigns and events.
We support our team by helping develop their existing skills and gain new ones as they speak out about these issues alongside us.
As a Savera UK Youth volunteer you are invited to take part in projects which can help you develop important skills for all young activists including public speaking, writing and organisation. We also welcome our Savera UK Youth members to share their own expertise and skills to help in the fight to eradicate harmful practices.
Youth Advisory Board
Savera UK’s Youth Advisory Board (YAB) is a team of between eight and 10 young people who are the decision makers and project leaders within Savera UK Youth. They attend monthly meetings and bring life to each project and campaign, working together to deliver performances, events and to think up new ideas on how we can better raise awareness and continue to work to eradicate ‘honour’-based abuse and other harmful practices.
The YAB provide a valuable youth perspective to Savera UK and regularly report to the Savera UK board. As a member of the YAB you will learn and develop valuable skills in leadership while advocating for a cause you are passionate about.