On Tuesday 27 November, members of our programmes team based in Surrey were invited to attend an event at the Houses of Parliament with charity partners True Honour. Assistant Programme Manager, Rebecca Williamson, has written a blog about her experience of the evening.

True Honour has been one of The Challenge’s charity partners on our NCS programme for three summers in a row. They have helped our young people create incredible social action projects around honour-based violence through drama pieces and podcasts. Honour-based violence describes any violent crime or incident which may have been committed in an attempt to protect the reputation of a family or community.

Recently they invited my team to attend an event at the Houses of Parliament. The evening focused on celebrating the successes of the charity and was dedicated to the memory of victims of honour-based violence, including a relative of the founder of the charity, Sarbjit Athwal.

Since 2014 there has been a 53% increase in honour-based violence cases reported to the police, yet only 5% of these cases are referred to the Crown Prosecution Service, with just 2% resulting in convictions. To help combat this, Sarbjit set up the charity, True Honour, in 2015 with the aim to help and support victims of honour-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation. After Sarbjit’s sister-in-law was killed, she was the first person from a family connected to an honour-based killing to speak in an open court in an attempt to challenge the feelings of shame behind honour-based violence. Today, she bravely uses her experience to raise awareness of this often hidden abuse and delivers training to public services in understanding, identifying and dealing with these cases.

The event took place in a committee room in Westminster Hall which was full of important figures from UK agencies, parliament and community groups – and us! The event started with speeches from Yasin Mohammed MP, Sarah Wood, barrister and ambassador of True Honour, followed by Jon Boutcher, chief constable Bedford Police. They spoke about their involvement in Sarbjit’s family’s case and the future conversation surrounding honour-based violence. Rather than finishing the event with a typical question and answer style session, several members of the audience praised True Honour for the amazing work they’ve done to help others in breaking the silence and standing up for justice.

It was a real privilege to attend the event with Sarbjit Athwal and Ola Kolade

After reading Sarbjit’s extremely hard-hitting book ‘Shamed’, which tells the story of her experience of an honour-based killing, I find I am always dazzled by her strength to deal with the things that she has been through. I have a huge amount of admiration for the way she has dedicated her life to tackling this type of violence, which is so often invisible. It was a true privilege to be invited.

True Honour is the perfect example of a charity that we love to work with at The Challenge. So far, they have worked with three NCS teams of young people who’ve learnt about and produced educational material including leaflets, videos and podcasts on the complex issues surrounding honour-based violence, female genital mutilation and modern slavery. These subjects can be very challenging but the teams really got behind the message and delivered powerful campaigns.

We look forward to working with True Honour again in summer 2019 and watching the next project take shape.