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 Bachelor degree in French and Education from the University of Benin, Nigeria.
Born in England and raised in Nigeria, between 1990 and 2003, she worked 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 to run AFRUCA, a UK charity which she founded in May 2001.
As Founder and Chief Executive of AFRUCA, Debbie leads the charity’s work, partnering with others in the UK, in African countries and across Europe to raise awareness of the vulnerability of children to trafficking, abuse and exploitation, provide intervention and share information and intelligence on trends and relevant developments.
Debbie is a noted expert on Safeguarding Children with specialist expertise in African and Diasporan socio-cultural issues impacting on the protection and safeguarding of African children in Europe. Over the past 18 years, she has worked extensively as an advocate and researcher on children’s issues in the UK. She has provided expert advice and training to a number of government agencies including local authorities and the Police on their safeguarding work in relation to children from different African countries. She is a known expert witness and has provided country expert reports in many immigration cases covering social integration and risks of return issues in a range of African countries in relation to child protection and safeguarding, women’s rights and gender violence, human trafficking and exploitation and other human rights issues.
Debbie is a regular contributor to UK government policy on child safeguarding and harmful practices including, witchcraft branding, human trafficking, female genital mutilation, child sexual abuse and related children’s issues through membership of various Government working groups. She has served on the Board of charities and organisations in the UK and abroad.
As part of her role at AFRUCA, Debbie has designed and manages a range of support programmes for children and families in the child protection system which works with over 100 families each year. These include assessment, practical one-to-one family support, emotional well-being and psychotherapy for victims of abuse, including female genital mutilation, witchcraft branding, physical abuse and sexual exploitation.
Debbie has also developed and implemented a range of child abuse prevention and community education programmes in the UK with significant impact on child safeguarding in newly arrived communities across the country. Debbie has delivered papers at conferences and workshops on different subjects in the context of safeguarding children, forced migration and human trafficking. She is a trainer with many years’ experience of working with UK practitioners to develop their skills and knowledge of child safeguarding, African cultural and religious practices and the impact on child welfare and child protection. Equally, she has published a range of reports, manuals and guide-books to help improve knowledge of safeguarding in African communities.
In March 2019, Debbie was appointed a Churchill Fellow and awarded a grant to conduct research on Community as Safety Nets for Child Victims of Trafficking in Ghana and Thailand and provide ideas to help inform and improve UK intervention on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery.
Debbie was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June 2011 for her work with children and families.
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.
Ms Ganiatu Martins
Qualification in Social Work, Post Graduate Diploma in Social Work and Post Graduate Diploma in Management.
Gani has worked for several Local Authorities in various posts. She has worked in senior management roles since 2001 and has been instrumental in successfully leading comprehensive change management of children’s services.
In 2009 Gani was seconded to Government Office North West for England as Safeguarding Advisor, providing advice and support to six Local Authorities to improve their Safeguarding arrangements.
From March 2010 to February 2011 Gani was the Director of Safeguarding and Corporate Parenting at Rotherham Council where she successfully led the Council’s children’s services to make significant improvement from “Inadequate” to “Adequate” Ofsted inspection judgment and removal of the Department for Education Improvement Notice in January 2011.
In February 2011 Gani took up the role of Assistant Director Specialist Services at Salford City Council. She completed several major changes moving child protection services from “Inadequate” to “Adequate” in the Ofsted Inspection of 2012. In 2014 she was promoted to Interim Strategic Director of Children’s Services. She left Salford in October 2014 and is currently working as an Independent Social Care Improvement and Management Consultant. Gani has also led and contributed to several Local Government Association Peer Reviews for Local Authorities
Ms Zainab Clarkson
Zainab Clarkson is the Executive Secretary for The Organisation of Women Networks for Entrepreneurs (Owners) a national network of female entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone which seeks to empower women in business. She is also a founding member of Salone Business Women’s Hub. She has worked extensively in private, public and civil society sectors across UK in Senior Management positions. Zainab is a strong advocate for Race Equality and the welfare of African Women and Children and a recognised expert in the field of diversity issues. She is also a gender and development consultant, researcher and facilitator with experience of working with community based organizations in Africa and UK. She is an IFC Business Edge Trainer, a Campaigner and has written several development articles. She is the Children and Gender Editor and Marketing Director of Voices from the Diaspora Radio Network
Miss Afua Hirsch
Afua Hirsch is a Journalist currently working for Sky News as the Social Affairs and Educational Editor. Before that she practised at the bar for two years and also worked in development for the Soros Foundation with a remit covering the whole West African sub-region. Afua also has a special interest in child protection, child abuse and the West African Diaspora, not just because of her background in development and law but also in her personal interest.
Mrs Janet Latinwo
Janet is a Senior Lawyer currently working in the public sector in the area of child protection. Having been called to the Bar in 2001, Janet worked for the‘magic circle’ firms in the areas of acquisition & mergers, due diligence, reinsurance and compliance. Janet also has experience within the areas of Banking and IT Law, Media & >Entertainment Law and general civil litigation. Janet has held a number of Public Relation & Legal positions within community based organisations over the years, organising high scale events, providing legal advisory roles and high level executive committee participation. As a University of London certified Lecturer of Law Janet also provides training to clients and students on a range of legal subjects.
Janet is also a school Governor and London Co-ordinator for the Williams Syndrome Foundation.
Miss Dorcas Erskine
Dorcas Erskine currently works at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) where she manages a programme that aims to increase the safety of adolescent girls in humanitarian settings in DRC, Ethiopia and Pakistan. Prior to working at the IRC, she led the Poppy Project, an award winning project which support female victims of trafficking. Dorcas is a policy and programme specialist with a technical focus on gender based violence. She has worked at Action Aid Tanzania where as Head of Policy and Programmes she led the roll out of programmes on food security, women’s rights, education and land rights. She has also worked at Action Aid UK where she led the organisations work on women’s rights in conflict afflicted countries and provided strategic direction to the organisation’s public policy work. Dorcas mapped out a career in the UK parliament and in corporate firms before joining the non-profit sector.
Mrs Prospera Tedam
Prospera Tedam currently works as a senior Lecturer in Social Work-Practice at Northampton University and a Programme Leader.
She has worked in both the statutory and the voluntary sectors as a Social worker, Senior Social Work practitioner and Principal Social Worker, since qualifying as a Social worker in 1996. She has worked in various teams, including Initial Assessment teams, Family Support Teams and Adolescent Support teams.
She is also a Panel member for an Independent Fostering Agency which specialises in the recruitment, assessment and training of foster carers from ethnic minority backgrounds.
Mr Simon Vandi
Simon Vandi is an experienced leader and Investment Banking Professional with strong commercial acumen and over 15 years experience in Programme/Project management delivering Regulatory Compliant, Front to Back Office Business solutions in the Investment Banking, Private Wealth, Asset Management, Global Outsourcing and Media Venture Capital Arenas.