Board of Trustees
The Women’s Aid Board of Trustees is responsible for setting the strategic direction of Women’s Aid, ensuring that the charity complies with all its legal and regulatory requirements and that the charity’s governance is of the highest possible standard. The diversity of the Board is currently reflected with representation from all sectors including voluntary management, legal and financial expertise, and equality and diversity professionals. Just over half of the trustees are appointed from Women’s Aid members. As Women’s Aid is a Charitable Company, board members are Directors and Trustees of the Company.
Femi Otitoju, Co-Chair
Femi Otitoju is a lifelong feminist activist and campaigner, who joined Women’s Aid as Co-Chair in 2013 following eight years as Chair of The Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize Group. Femi is the Director of Challenge Training, the equality and diversity consultancy she founded in 1988. Through Challenge, Femi provides training and other personnel development services to a diverse range of organisations throughout the public, private and voluntary sectors.
Femi first became involved in the Women’s Aid movement in the early 80s as a volunteer and has continued to donate her energy ever since. She has previously been Chair of Switchboard, and numerous other LGBT and Black-led organisations. You can follow Femi on Twitter at @pinkfemi
Mary Mason, Interim Co-Chair
Mary Mason is CEO of Solace Women’s Aid, a London based charity working to support women and children affected by all forms of Violence against Women and Girls. With 30 years’ experience in the Women’s Sector and a qualified Solicitor, Mary led the merge of Camden, Enfield and Islington Women’s Aid to form Solace in 2007. The organisation has continued to grow and now runs services across London as well as dedicated borough based services in North and South London. Solace has run North London Rape crisis for the past six years.
Solace has worked closely with London Metropolitan University to publish ground breaking research ‘Finding the Costs of Freedom’ (CWASU, London Metropolitan University 2014) and with Shpresa and CWASU, Changing our heads 2016. Our report, The Price of Safety (2016) into the impact of the housing crisis on women and children fleeing domestic abuse was widely reported on. Solace’s services include: counselling, Rape Crisis, advice, advocacy and support, family and children’s services, refuges, and legal services.
Zlakha Ahmed set up Apna Haq, the specialist BME service based in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, in 1996, which she has continued to manage full time ever since. Apna Haq supports black and minority ethnic women and girls who are experiencing any form of violence against women and girls. The survivor-led organisation has many years of experience in tackling the violence and abuse that BME women are disproportionately affected by and is also active in challenging racism and Islamophobia throughout society. In 2016, Zlakha was awarded an MBE for her outstanding services to the community.
Sarah Hill is CEO of Independent Domestic Abuse Services (IDAS), a Yorkshire based charity working to support victims and survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence. With more than 20 years’ experience of working in the charitable sector Sarah has overseen the growth of IDAS from a small local organisation into the largest regional specialist charity supporting over 5,000 people each year.
Sarah is passionate about working to end abuse and violence against women. She represents IDAS and, most importantly, victims and survivors, at children’s and adults safeguarding boards, CPS scrutiny panels and domestic abuse strategy groups.
She is part of the women’s steering group of ACEVO (Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations) which provides peer support and networking opportunities for women CEOs. In her spare time Sarah is also a trustee for a Bangladeshi Women’s Centre in Leeds.
Naomi Dickson has worked at Jewish Women’s Aid for over 18 years. She started out volunteering at the service before going on to become a refuge manager and then later communications co-ordinator at the service. Since 2014, she has been the specialist support service’s Chief Executive. Jewish Women’s Aid was set up over 25 years ago and is the only organisation in the UK working specifically to provide specialist support to Jewish women and their children who are experiencing domestic violence and abuse. The charity also works to raise awareness about violence against women and girls in the Jewish community
Jo Gough is Chief Executive of RISE (Refuge, Information, Support and Education). She joined the Sussex-based charity as Head of Quality and Business Development in 2011, before becoming Chief Executive in 2017. RISE supports people affected by domestic abuse and violence, providing both crisis accommodation and community-based support. The charity’s LGB&T* service for survivors of domestic abuse was the first in England and they continue to provide one of the few dedicated LGBT refuge and support services in the country.
Victoria Bleazard leads Bristol’s mental health and social inclusion programme. Prior to this she headed up the mental health policy team for the NHS’ regulator, the CQC, where she also led a national review into investigating and learning from patient deaths. This followed seven years with the charity Rethink Mental Illness, directing their campaigns and policy work to increase public and political awareness of mental health.
Victoria is a Health Foundation fellow, and recently gained a Masters in Quality Improvement from Ashridge Business School and undertook a Churchill fellowship in Australasia. Previously Victoria has worked in the Welsh Government, United Nations and European Union and in public affairs roles in Westminster. Victoria has been a Trustee of Women’s Aid since 2013 and is particularly interested in the link between domestic abuse and health.
You can follow Victoria on Twitter at @VictoriBleazard
Becky Rogerson joined Women’s Aid Board in 2013; she is the CEO of My Sisters Place, a position she has held since 2004, and strongly promotes accessible, needs led services for women.
Becky is a serving Magistrate in the Adult Criminal Court and benefitted from a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship in 2011 researching ‘Criminal Justice and Community Responses to Domestic Violence in the Americas’, an experience that has inspired and driven forward new ideas. Becky’s previous experience was in the Prison and Probation Service before moving to the Voluntary Sector in 2001
Jen Gerrard, Co-Treasurer
Jen Gerrard FCCA, DChA, PTTLS is a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (FCCA) and the founder and Managing Director of Gerrard Financial Consulting, a specialist accounting firm for the charitable sector. Jen has over 17 years’ experience working in accounting and finance and has also worked as an accountancy tutor for a leading training provider. Jen was a trustee of Self Injury Self Help (SISH) (2013-2016) the Oswestry Food & Drink Festival and Impact AAS (2007 to 2010). In addition to being a current Trustee of Women’s Aid Federation of England, she is also a trustee of the Southville Community Development Association in Bristol. Jen has been a registered volunteer with Volunteer Bristol for four years and is a Member of the ICAEW Charity & Voluntary Sector Specialist Group.
Jen sits on the South West & Wales Regional Engagement Forum of the Charity Finance Group and makes regular contributions to articles in national publications – most recently Accounting Web Magazine and Charity Finance Focus (produced by the CFG). She is also a regular speaker on charity finance and governance matters.
Her firm is a corporate member of the Charity Finance Group and has been shortlisted in two categories for the Accounting Web Practice Excellence Awards 2016. This is in recognition of the Company’s innovative work with charities and NFPs to streamline their finance functions through adoption of new technology.
Kathryn Tola Awe-Cunningham, Co-Treasurer
Kathryn Tola Awe-Cunningham is the Head of Finance and Resources and Deputy CEO at Leeds Women’s Aid, which she joined in 2003. She is also a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (FCCA). She has 25 years’ of voluntary work experience at strategic level including being Chair of McMillan Adventure Playgroup Association (MAPA), a children and youth centre, for 13 years. She is currently the Co-Treasurer of the Women’s Aid Board of Trustees as well as being the Treasurer at the All Saints Landmark Centre, Bradford, where community inclusive projects continue to improve the life chances of young families, refugees, the elderly, children with disabilities and the unemployed.
Kathryn has 17 years’ experience of the administrative management of complex organisations including change management in the third sector and is a highly motivated financial and management accountant.
Sarah Forster a family law barrister who has specialised in matters relating to children and women for over 20 years. Sarah has a special interest in issues relating to mental ill health and capacity and to those who, by reason of age, gender or infirmity are in a more than usually vulnerable position as litigants.
Sarah is a trained family mediator and recently qualified as a family (children) arbitrator. She is very interested in looking at alternative ways of resolving disputes between family members that do not involve having to go to court. She sits as a deputy district judge in the family court in Central and Greater London. Sarah lives near Brighton and has three adult children.
Yasmin Khan is educated to postgraduate level, currently employed as head of a domestic abuse charity in the North of England. She has over 20 years’ experience of leading on women’s rights/gender based violence, services to young people aiming to raise aspiration, education training and working around mental health. As a feminist she is passionate about equality of opportunity and human right issues and regularly campaigns for change.
Since 2000 she has been instrumental in setting up a range of innovative services for vulnerable people in West Yorkshire in addition to developing national working initiatives for marginalised groups.
She is a confident and strategic thinker achieving organisational vision. She has proven to being an ambassador of Third Sector organisations; sitting on a number of strategic partnerships, she has representation on these partnerships with the aim to influence better outcomes for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in society.
She has previously worked for the Government, Women’s Aid, Housing Association and NGOs.
In 2015 she set up International Intervention,
Rehabilitation and Protection (I-RAP) a charitable secular agency working with children and young people at risk of Child Sexual Exploitation. You can follow Yasmin on Twitter @ykhan100