A new concept in girl power has hit Belfast — with those who trade in human misery in its sights.
Urban Angels are a group of women helping other women to break free from the human trafficking that is now rife across the UK — including Belfast.
Spokeswoman Kelly McKenzie says: “We have all heard the horror stories of young girls being offered jobs in other countries and being stripped of their passports once they arrive at their destination. These girls are forced to service up to 40 ‘clients' a day, being beaten, drugged and worse if they don't comply.
“Urban Angels is an organisation which raises money for five charities which help these girls, not only by rescuing them, but by restoring their dignity and helping them to rebuild their lives. In the past we have run fashion shows and clothes swap evenings to raise funds with the last event raising over £2000.”
The group’s latest venture is a temporary ‘pre-loved’ dress shop on the Dublin Road, next to Cancer Connect and opposite the Movie House Cinema. The shop opened on July 5 but it closes this Friday (24th) so time is short for those looking to find something special and support the cause.
“We have a fantastic range of clothes at really affordable prices,” says Kelly. “All proceeds will go to the five charities supported by Urban Angels.”
The group know that the funds they are raising are being put to good use by the charities — A21, Hope for Justice, Mercy UK, Ugandan charity Watoto and Compassion. “We are just a group of approximately 20 local women who couldn't remain indifferent when we read about what was happening to young women right on our doorstep,” explains Kelly. “We are just ordinary girls, mums, teenagers who recognise that together we are stronger, we just all do what we can and the result is brilliant team work.”
Meanwhile Junior Minister Robin Newton has called on the Irish government to do more to stop child trafficking. He said an EPCAT report identified Ireland as a transit point for smuggling children into the UK. He says children as young as three are being bought and sold while hundreds of young people disappear from state care every year.
“Efforts have been made to maximise protection measures for Northern Ireland but the Irish Republic must take action to bring itself up to the standards of other European countries,” he added.