Katie Ghose has left Women’s Aid “by mutual agreement” after facing criticism for speaking at a UKIP conference when she was chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society.
The charity issued a short statement this week confirming the departure but did not specify why she had left. Ghose issued a statement on Facebook saying that “promoting race equality was at the heart of my leadership”.
Ghose joined Women's Aid in 2017 after seven years as chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society. She previously worked as the director of the British Institute of Human Rights between 2005 and 2010 and was an independent commissioner on the Independent Asylum Commission between 2006 and 2008.
A video of Ghose speaking at the 2015 UKIP conference has been circulating on social media in recent days, prompting people to raise concerns with Women’s Aid.
The charity has not responded publicly to calls for clarification about Ghose’s ties to UKIP.
Critics had suggested that her comments at UKIP’s conference amounted to support for UKIP and questioned whether this was compatible with the feminist principles of Women’s Aid.
In the video, Ghose says: “It’s a great privilege to be speaking to be speaking to you, thank you Mark [Reckless, then a UKIP member who was chairing the session] for your strong leadership on voting reform agenda and for chairing this important discussion.”
She goes on to talk about a “passion for a new way of doing politics shown by people in this party” adding that “over the past year we have seen a surge in UKIP backing for our campaign for a voting system where seats in Parliament match how people vote. I want to thank you for your support”.
She also referred to Douglas Carswell as an "outstanding MP", and praised him and Nigel Farage for championing political reform.
In an article for the Guardian, Amrit Wilson, a writer and activist on race and gender issues, said she refused to share a platform with Ghose after discovering the video, and the London Black Women's Project wrote to the charity.
She said: “With Ghose’s departure, Women’s Aid should take the opportunity to acknowledge not only its abysmal failure in the context of recruitment, but its other deep-rooted problems.”
‘Promoting race and equality was at the heart of my leadership’
In a statement on Facebook, Ghose said she was proud of what she had achieved at Women’s Aid and that she had “always worked with people from all political parties and none”.
She said: “I am a lifelong feminist and it has been a huge privilege to lead a charity that does so much to empower and protect women when they are at their most vulnerable. I have been honoured to work with such an inspiring staff team and to support so many local domestic abuse services who change lives and save lives.”
Ghose added that: “At Women’s Aid, I was one of a handful of minority ethnic women leading a major charity in the UK, and I took special pride in listening to, learning from and supporting other black and minority ethnic women. 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.
“For over 25 years I’ve worked to champion the human rights of groups facing discrimination and disadvantage, including refugees fleeing violence and persecution, vulnerable children, older people, people shut-out from our democracy and survivors of domestic abuse.
“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 - and I've had amazing support from so many of you along the way.”
Women’s Aid statement
In a statement, Women’s Aid said: “On Wednesday 6th February 2019, Katie Ghose left Women’s Aid by mutual agreement with the charity’s board.
“Katie, as chief executive, has led Women’s Aid through a period of growth in our profile, impact and partnerships.
“She has achieved a huge amount in her time with us and brought 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 trustees thank her for her commitment, hard work and professionalism and wish her all the best for the future.”
Women's Aid declined to elaborate on its statement or reveal who is now leading the charity.