Jen Williams Josephine Butler award3

Modern slavery activist Jen Williams honoured with Josephine Butler Memorial Trust award

Modern slavery activist Jen Williams has been honoured for her work tackling human trafficking and abuse of migrants, with an award from the Josephine Butler Memorial Trust.

Jen received a £1,000 Fellowship Award at the 16 Days of Activism event in Liverpool Cathedral, in recognition of her social justice work raising awareness of modern slavery and human trafficking across the Diocese.

Also honoured at the event were our partners, Liverpool Cathedral’s emergency food aid charity Micah Liverpool who received a £500 award in recognition of their work.

Jen’s award honoured her work as modern slavery champion and anti-trafficking project co-ordinator for the Diocese of Liverpool, through Together Liverpool, the Tsedaqah Community, and Liverpool Cathedral.

You can watch Jen, an advocate for the Clewer Initiative and Stop the Traffik, speaking about her work in this video form the Vigil for Peace held at Liverpool Cathedral earlier this year:

A Theology graduate of St Mellitus college North West, Jen also runs Sefton Open Table with a monthly LGBTQ+ inclusive eucharist, and has recently begun work as Mission Pioneer developing a community garden and family wellbeing space with the One Programme in Crosby Methodist circuit.

Jen said: “I'm very humbled to receive the award, it honours the work I have been involved with through the Tsedaqah community, with Together Liverpool and Micah Liverpool as well, welcoming strangers and being present with asylum seekers.

“I’m really proud of the work, helping make a lot more people more aware so they can notice and spot modern slavery in their churches and communities. Hopefully I have helped sow a seed and people will remember when they see something.

“Modern slavery really is a problem that is not going away and has probably been exacerbated by the pandemic. People are so vulnerable to exploitation and it takes many forms, in Liverpool predominantly sex work and county lines, drugs gangs and labour exploitation too."

Jen Williams Josephine Butler award
Jen Williams (centre,) with Revd Lyn Mciver (Trustee, Josephine Butler Foundation) and Pauline Lewis (Chair, Josephine Butler Foundation)

Jen advises: “The best thing you can do as an individual is to put the Modern Slavery Helpline number in your phone and ring them anytime 24 hours to voice any concern and it will be logged with police.

"The best thing we can do as churches is to help the police build up intelligence. People come to churches when they are in times of crisis and need, so we do have the intelligence, and we can help spot people who are vulnerable.”

Jen explained she has felt drawn to activism in the area of modern day slavery since 2019 during her year living and working in the Tsedaqah Community, an intentional place to do justice.

Working closely with Diocese of Liverpool Director of Social Justice Rev Canon Dr Ellen Loudon, Together Liverpool, Micah Liverpool, and other organisations Jen took part in the life and ministry of Liverpool Cathedral and Liverpool Diocese.

In 2019, human trafficking was headline news with the horrific deaths of 39 Vietnamese trafficking victims in the back of a lorry in Essex.

At this time, Jen had a profound encounter with an LGBTQ+ survivor at a support group for male trafficking victims. He had been made homeless after coming out as gay to his parents in Bangladesh and traffickers preyed on his vulnerability.

Their conversation has never left Jen, and this work became rooted in his story.

Jen took to networking and reaching out to local organisations in different areas of modern slavery support – safe housing, frontline activism, Merseyside police, and others raising awareness.

She organised a vigil for modern slavery: We See You, which was held online during the height of the pandemic in July 2020, and attended by the current Police Crime Commissioner and with speakers from The Clewer Initiative, Medaille Trust, Stop the Traffik and the Triangle of Hope.

Later in the year Jen welcomed the Freedom Bus to Liverpool Cathedral, a double-decker bus which visits areas vulnerable to trafficking to highlight the modern slavery helpline number as part of the Stop the Traffik campaign.

She also organised an online course training a core group of 15 people to spot the signs of modern slavery, with the Clewer Initiative Hidden Voices programme over five weeks in December 2020 with participants from across the UK and one from Canada.

Jen was involved in the organisation of this year’s Walk for Freedom, a silent protest through Liverpool City Centre for Anti-Slavery Day.

Of the Josephine Butler Foundation she said: “The main thing they are doing is maintaining the legacy of Josephine Butler. She was particularly involved with supporting sex workers and campaigning for policy change, and some of that was around sex trafficking. To me it’s amazing that this is still going on and this campaigning work and legacy is still very much needed.”

Jen said she hopes the church continues to develop ways to communicate an awareness of safeguarding, slavery and trafficking effectively - making it relevant to our own contexts, and to empower us to make a real difference.

How to report incidents of modern slavery and trafficking

Always call 999 if a situation of trafficking or modern slavery is in front of you. If you have any suspicions or are in need of advice you can dial the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121 700 or fill out their online form.

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