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A PROTESTER upstaged International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt as she gave a speech on sexual abuse in the aid sector today by complaining that those leading the fight against it were being ignored.
Former Save the Children employee turned whistleblower Alexia Pepper de Caires walked onto the platform where Ms Mordaunt was speaking at an international safeguarding summit at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London.
“This platform is not for you today. It is for the people doing this,” said Ms Pepper de Caires.
“A number of us would like to be on this platform, but we have been kept back by the Department for International Development (DfID) and your attempts to control women who are speaking out in this sector.”
Ms Pepper de Caires said she was “disgusted” to learn that Save the Children was to play a major role in the establishment of a new global system of criminal records checks for aid workers while the charity remained under investigation by the Charity Commission.
“The signals were that a number of women who have been more radically vocal about what has been happening were not being reached out to,” she added after being led off the stage.
“I thought all along that this conference needed to be more than just a shiny, glossy piece for the cameras and press to say all the right things are being done.
“It was dishonest, it is ineffective and it won’t result in change.”
Save the Children will sit on the advisory board of a new £10 million global register of criminals working in the aid sector.
The scheme, launched by DfID and Interpol, is supposed to strengthen databases and vetting systems around the world, allowing charities to access records quickly.
Ms Pepper De Caires added: “We do not need fancy new systems, we do not need technology, we need systematic change.
“We need to understand the sexism, racism and abuse of power that happens from the very top of the leadership.”
Asmita Naik, co-author of the 2002 West Africa sex for aid report, said the register would not solve the problem of sexual misconduct in the sector.
“Most of the cases we are talking about don’t result in convictions,” she added.
Ms Mordaunt said she was “very sorry” that some people had felt excluded from the event.
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