Women’s charity Poppy Project desperately in need of funding
Summary of story from The Guardian, 17 April, 2011
Mansa, a 33-year-old Ghanaian woman who days ago was close to being deported from the UK, has no doubt that the Poppy Project saved her life.
“I was ready to kill myself if I had gone,” she said. “I didn’t know what else I would do.”
Hundreds of other victims of sex trafficking in Britain may not be so lucky.
Shortly after midday last Monday, an email confirmed that ministers were withdrawing funding from the charity, which pioneered specialist services for victims of sex trafficking, and is the biggest and most established organisation of its kind (see WVoN story).
The government decision immediately prompted a campaign by luminaries such as Professor Liz Kelly, the chair of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, and urgent appeals for donations to help the project continue supporting victims of trafficking.
The withdrawal of funding means that the charity requires £450,000 in donations by the end of June to continue.
The impact of the funding cut on trafficking victims – an issue that David Cameron says is a “key priority” – is potentially catastrophic, according to the organisation’s case workers.
Abigail Stepnitz, the national co-ordinator for the Poppy Project Eaves charity, said that the decision was “politically motivated”.
“The government doesn’t like someone who will rock the boat. We were a problem for them in that sense,” she said.
Since the charity joined an oversight board two years ago, assessing the government’s compliance on tackling trafficking, it has successfully appealed 17 UK Border Agency decisions on identification of trafficking victims and forced countless reassessments.
Within the charity’s south London headquarters are the tools of rehabilitation. Trafficked women learn English, how to write CVs, computer skills and how to eat healthily.
Between shifts on the emergency referral and advice hotline, Leigh Ivens and her colleagues escort women to see doctors, meet Home Office officials and solicitors.
They may eventually escort them to court to testify against their trafficker. The charity has secured more than 500 years in convictions against traffickers.
“But really it is about getting women to the stage where they have their freedom back,” said Ivens, who this week will adopt another role – campaigning to raise the £1.8m a year required to help women like Mansa.
Last week’s decision has crystallised concerns that the coalition government does not regard sex trafficking as a priority – regardless of Cameron’s pledges. Stepnitz points to letters from officials, which concede that, while the rape experienced by victims is “unfortunate”, it does not qualify them for government help.
WVoN comment: When I think of the money readily available for royal weddings and such, this makes me feel sick to my stomach. Please help the Poppy Project raise the funds needed to keep this brilliant charity afloat by making a donation.