Sima Modhvadia, an Independent Child Trafficking Guardian(ICTG) with Barnardo’s National Counter Trafficking Service, has been awarded ECPAT UK’s Children’s Champion Award for 2022. The award is made in recognition of Sima’s outstanding work with more than 50 young people over the past three years  and her exceptional nurturing and empowering approach.

Following open public nominations, a panel of experts including young people with lived experience of trafficking from ECPAT UK’s Youth Advisory Group scored the shortlisted nominees against our three core criteria of child-centredness, kindness and advocacy. For the first time this year, we involved our previous Children’s Champion Winner and Maria Demosthenous was also involved in the panel decision making.  

Sima provides immediate advocacy support through social care, immigration and criminal justice systems whilst ensuring the child understands fully what is happening and has their voice heard in decision making. The panel was impressed with Sima’s trauma-informed approach to her work, using a range of activities, techniques and environments to engage young people, and her persistence in trying to acquire items for young people to support and develop their individual interests, talents and skills.  

During Covid19 ‘lockdowns’, Sima was instrumental in setting up virtual groupwork programmes ensuring all children had the opportunity to join in, contribute and belong. She recognises that children and young people are active agents and experts in their own lives and develops trusting relationships to ensure that their rights are met. A recent example shared with the panel was described as ‘fierce advocacy’ which resulted in a young person in the criminal justice system being released from custody to a foster placement.  Sima ensured he had clothes and a prayer mat and Quran for Ramadan, and advocated for a robust safety plan, ensuring he understood what it meant and seeking his input in terms of what he felt would help him feel safe.

In addition to our Children’s Champion for 2022, this year we are recognising the achievements of two runners up as ‘highly commended’ by the panel:

  • Aika Stephenson, Co-founder and Legal Director of Just for Kids Law for her tireless commitment to trauma-informed legal representation and direct advocacy support for child victims of criminal exploitation
  • Lyndsay Cundall, Solicitor and Laura McDonald, Paralegal – a ‘double act’ team at ATLEU representing children and young people in prison and who have been released.

At an event to announce the winners in London, foster carer John Stokes was also given a special mention for his commitment and support and vocal advocacy of young people victims.

Patricia Durr, CEO of ECPAT UK, said

“We’re delighted to announce ICTG Sima Modhvadia as our Children’s Champion Award Winner for 2022 in recognition of her consistent daily work ensuring trafficked children are supported and access their rights. All child victims of trafficking should have access to an Independent Child Trafficking Guardian but sadly this is still not fully rolled across the whole of England as it should be – Sima’s work shows us just why it is so important that this is remedied urgently.

Strong and persistent advocacy, focused on a child’s best interests and involving them in decisions about them is empowering and protective reducing risks of further exploitation and harm.

“It was a really tough decision for our panel, which included our members of our Youth Advisory Group. It was inspiring for the panel to read the nominations as it is for all of us to know that there is so much commitment, dedication and brilliant child centred and trauma informed work focused on children’s rights happening as our incredible runners up demonstrate too.

“Congratulations to Sima and our runners up for their truly well-deserved awards.”

About the ECPAT UK Children's Champion Award 

The ECPAT UK Children’s Champion Award is an annual award presented to one individual or organisation that has shown outstanding commitment to children. Past winners include:

  • Garden Court Chambers, for their substantial work advocating for the rights of trafficked children and developing the law to protect child victims for over a decade. 
  • The Scottish Guardianship Service, for its child-centred model of practice with unaccompanied and separated and trafficked children in Scotland.
  • Lord McColl of Dulwich CBE, for his dedicated fight for a system of independent guardianship for trafficked children over many years.
  • Kalvir Kaur, a leading children’s solicitor and former Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year, who has specialised in cases of trafficked children.
  • Nadine Finch, barrister and leading children’s rights advocate, who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to children’s rights.
  • The Row for Freedom team of five young women, who gained two world records by rowing unaided across the Atlantic Ocean to raise awareness of child trafficking


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