Independent on Sunday's Happy List 2014 (NOT the Rich List): Aneeta Prem, anti-slavery campaigner


Jochan Embley
Saturday 24 May 2014 17:29

Three women made the national news last year after decades - in one case a lifetime - of being kept secret from the outside world.

Inside an ordinary looking house in Lambeth in London, three women had been living a life of servitude for around thirty years.

But when one of them saw Aneeta Prem, founder of Freedom Charity, talking on television, they found the courage to ring her up and ask for help.

The captive woman was attracted to the name of the charity, but also to Aneeta herself - the London magistrate had a face she thought she could trust.

After what was a "traumatic and very difficult" phone call between Aneeta and the woman on the inside, a channel of communication was tentatively established.

A week of phone calls followed in which Aneeta was able to gain the women's confidence, which in turn allowed police to trace the location of the house and eventually help them escape.

The publicity surrounding the case led to a spike in interest in Aneeta's charity, which she set up in 2009 to raise awareness of forced marriage, family violence and human right abuse in the UK. The website received 2.5m hits in the 36-hour period after arrests were made in connection with the three women.

"I believe small charities have the power to make global change," she has since said. "The power comes from being able to have a human face, from having a can do attitude, and from being willing and able to react quickly and collaboratively.

"The tricky part comes, as I am beginning to discover, when the power attained brings demand so great that the small charity needs to expand. How is that done without losing the charity's personality and integrity?"

Its work, however, thankfully continues. Informative material is placed in schools and school programmes run. The charity also reached out through social media its web site as well as through its helpline, which is manned 24 hours a day seven days a week to help victims of forced marriage and their friends.

The full list of people who make life better for others
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Carmel Allen and Josephine Drew, charity founders
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Jean Bishop, buzzing fundraiser
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