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.

June 2019

Ms Ganiatu Martins

Chair of AFRUCA

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

Dr Tsitsi Chawatama

Vice Chai
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