Oxfam whistleblower receives award

Helen Evans, who was global head of safeguarding at Oxfam from 2012 to 2015 and went public last year with concerns about the charity, has been given the UK Whistleblower Award 2018

Helen Evans
Helen Evans

The former head of safeguarding at Oxfam, who helped to publicise safeguarding failures at the charity, has been given an award for her whistleblowing work.

Helen Evans, who was global head of safeguarding at Oxfam from 2012 to 2015, received the UK Whistleblower Award 2018 today from Middlesex University. She went public last year with concerns about the amount of funding available for safeguarding at Oxfam.

Evans appeared in a Channel 4 interview in February after claims emerged of sexual misconduct by Oxfam employees in Haiti in 2011.

The events led to the opening of a statutory inquiry into the charity, inquiries by MPs and increased media scrutiny of safeguarding in the international aid sector.

Evans said in the interview that she had raised her concerns about sexual abuse among Oxfam employees and a lack of resources for safeguarding with the charity’s leadership, but told Channel 4 that the charity’s executive team failed to take appropriate action.

She also accused the Charity Commission of failing to meet or talk with her, a claim the commission denied.

Evans said: "The decision to whistleblow was the hardest decision of my life. The impact on my life and my family’s life has been considerable, but it doesn't come close to the devastating impact of sexual abuse perpetrated by aid workers.

"Despite what’s happened I still believe in the charity sector and have confidence the vast majority of aid workers are there for all the right reasons. The sector must change, though, and never again approach safeguarding with such complacency."

Evans said she would share her award with the organisation NGO Safe Space, which was set up in March 2018 by the campaigners Shaista Aziz and Alexia Pepper de Caires to campaign against sexual misconduct in the aid sector.

Professor David Lewis, head of the Whistleblowing Research Unit at Middlesex University, said Evans’ decision to come forward had led to two major inquiries being launched by the International Development Select Committee.

"It is incredibly difficult to blow the whistle and people who do so often feel they have no option and have tried all other avenues," he said. "It is essential that they are supported and protected during and after."

Oxfam has apologised repeatedly for its safeguarding failures and has spent the past year working to improve its safeguarding practices.

An independent commission set up to improve the charity’s safeguarding measures published an interim report last week, with a final version expected in May.

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