Women's Aid chief Katie Ghose steps down in wake of complaints

The charity gives no reason for her departure, but Ghose has been criticised recently for comments she made at a Ukip conference meeting in 2015

Katie Ghose (Photograph: Shutterstock)
Katie Ghose (Photograph: Shutterstock)

The chief executive of Women’s Aid has stepped down after complaints about comments she made in support of the UK Independence Party in 2015.

A statement released by Women’s Aid yesterday said Katie Ghose had left "by mutual agreement with the charity’s board" on Wednesday.

The statement did not give a reason for her departure, but Ghose, who joined the charity in July 2017, has faced criticism in recent weeks over footage that emerged of her speech to a fringe event at the Ukip conference in 2015, in her former role as chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society.

During the speech, she praised the party’s "passion for a new way of doing politics" and referred to the Douglas Carswell, then a Ukip MP, as "an outstanding MP".

Her remarks have been widely condemned by black, Asian and minority ethnic women’s groups and by a former Women’s Aid trustee.

The London Black Women’s Project wrote repeatedly to Women’s Aid, saying her comments and apparent support for Ukip made her "untenable" as the charity’s chief executive, according to tweets by Amrit Wilson, a race and gender activist.

Karen Ingala Smith, who served on the Women’s Aid board from 2002 to 2013, issued a statement condemning Ghose’s comments and apparently threatening to remove Nia, the charity for women and children that Ingala Smith now runs, from Women’s Aid membership.

In the statement, Ingala Smith acknowledged that in the course of campaigning it was sometimes necessary to work with people with opposing views, and this was not the same as supporting them.

But she said Ghose’s support for Ukip in the clip appeared to be "effusive", offered "enthusiastic encouragement" and represented "something more fundamental" than an error of judgement.

"Surely one of the requirements of the appointment to the role of chief executive of Women's Aid was that the post holder should be a feminist," she said.

"No feminist could believe that women and girls would be better off with more Ukip MPs, including women subjected to men’s violence and especially women from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

"As chief executive of Nia, I cannot allow us to be members of a federation where the umbrella body puts protecting its own above working towards a safer world for all girls.

"I will not look on and say or do nothing, and I hope that neither will the board of Women's Aid. Feminist leadership is incompatible with racism and with leaving racism unchallenged."

Ghose is a barrister with a background in human rights and immigration.

She was director of the British Institute of Human Rights before moving to the ERS in 2010.

In a statement on Facebook, Ghose said leading the charity had been a huge privilege. 

"Promoting race equality was at the heart of my leadership of the charity and I brought issues of racial prejudice and discrimination to the fore," she said.

"I’ve always worked with people from all political parties and none to progress the causes I care about, including those whose values I do not share. I am very proud of what I’ve achieved in this job and in all my previous ones."

In the statement announcing her departure, Women’s Aid said Ghose had led the charity through a period of growth in its profile, impact and partnerships.

"She has achieved a huge amount in her time with us and used her considerable leadership abilities to achieve influence in Whitehall and Westminster, not least our successful campaign to safeguard housing benefit for women’s refuges," the statement said.

"The trustees thank her for her commitment, hard work and professionalism and wish her all the best for the future."

A spokeswoman told Third Sector the charity was unable to comment further for legal reasons and declined to give details on the plan for appointing Ghose’s successor.

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