Debbie Ariyo OBE (Founder and Chief Executive of AFRUCA)
Debbie is Founder and Chief Executive of AFRUCA – Africans Unite Against Child Abuse. She holds an Executive Master degree in Public Administration from the London School of Economics and Political Science, a Master degree in Urban Policy from the University of North London and a Bachelors degree in French and Education from the University of Benin, Nigeria.
Born in England and raised in Nigeria, she spent 12 years working in the British Civil Service across different government departments and in different policy posts including urban regeneration, competitiveness, small business development, youth entrepreneurship and enterprise policies. She resigned from the Civil Service in 2003 to run AFRUCA full time.
Now as a multi-award winning social entrepreneur, Debbie is the Chief Executive of AFRUCA. Since its establishment in 2001, AFRUCA has become a reputable children’s charity with employees and volunteers spread across two offices in London and Manchester. With 15 years senior management experience in a number of key areas, she has helped to build the AFRUCA brand and its range of innovative work programmes on the promotion and protection of African children, raising the organisation’s profile as a dynamic children’s charity. Debbie works with others to develop and implement AFRUCA’s business plans and strategies, making it one of the most successful black-led charities in the UK.
Debbie is a recognised expert in the field of child protection and diversity issues with strong expertise in different specialist areas. She is a Trainer, a Campaigner, a Writer, a Researcher, a Public Speaker and a strong Advocate for the rights and welfare of children. As a strong believer in prevention and early intervention strategies in the protection of children, she has produced many guideline materials and safeguarding publications to help raise the skills levels of parents, policy-makers and practitioners to aid child upbringing and prevent abuse. As a community development expert, she has designed and implemented a number of successful innovative community-based programmes to help improve protection of African children. Debbie has presented keynote and workshop papers at many national and international conferences and seminars, sat on many Panels and is a regular media commentator and writer on women and children’s issues and those affecting the African diaspora in Europe.
A successful fundraiser and resource mobiliser, she has raised millions of pounds to help grow AFRUCA’s work across the UK and in Africa. She mentors women and young people setting up and running businesses and social enterprises, sharing with them her experiences of successfully building the AFRUCA model. Debbie is a strong advocate of the need to reform the NGO sector in Africa, based on her experiences of running a successful UK social enterprise.
Debbie is Chair of the Board of Trustees of KEEN London, a charity providing one sports and fun for children and young adults with additional needs. Debbie is also a Trustee of Children England – the leading umbrella organisation for children’s charities in England. She was a founding Non-Executive Board Member of the Independent Safeguarding Authority, the UK agency established to prevent unsuitable people from working with children and vulnerable adults. In 2013 she served as an international observer at the Kenyan Presidential Elections. An expert in Nigerian social and current affairs, she is a known public analyst and writer on Nigeria and provides expert oral and written evidence in Nigerian related UK immigration and asylum court cases.
Debbie is a participant on the 2016 Duke of Edinburgh Commonwealth Leaders Programme – a global initiative bringing together 100 exceptional senior leaders from different Commonwealth countries. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She is also a Graduate and Fellow of the School for Social Entrepreneurs. She has received many awards and commendations for her work and was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for her work with children and families. In May 2014, she was one of 100 Diasporan Nigerians awarded the UK Nigeria Centenary Awards for Excellent Contribution to Society. In April 2015, she was awarded the “100 Africans Making a Difference” award by the African Achievers Awards. In March 2016, she received the Divas of Colour Global Leadership Award. In May 2017, she received a Special Recognition Award by Women4Africa Awards for her outstanding contributions and achievements.
Debbie is a great lover of African art and theatre, enjoys classical music and is a fan of Fela, the Nigerian Afro-beats maestro. She enjoys travelling, exploring the hidden gems in different places visited.