Flower power for drug mules

By Lunar Loops · Jun 20, 2006 ·
  1. Lunar Loops
    Interesting charity. This from the Timesonline (UK) (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,8164-2231687.html) :

    Flower power for drug mules

    The welfare organisation Hibiscus was recognised at the Charity Awards this year for its drug trafficking awareness campaign directed at Jamaican women. By Sarah Campbell

    [​IMG]WHAT’S in a name? In the case of FPWP/Hibiscus, the welfare organisation for women prisoners, a great deal, and yet not a lot.
    Olga Heaven is the director of the charity that she set up in 1986 as the Female Prisoners Welfare Project (FPWP) to provide support for women prisoners in UK jails. The organisation added its flowery moniker in 1995 when it began to focus on resettling foreign prisoners, initially in Nigeria. In the Third World there is a huge stigma attached to being in prison, explains Heaven. The charity needed to camouflage its prison connotations if the Nigerian authorities were to take them seriously as a welfare group. “I remember sitting in a hotel and I saw these flowers and asked what they were. Someone said they were hibiscus, so I said we’d call the organisation that.”
    NI_MPU('middle');FPWP/Hibiscus, or Hibiscus for short, is the winner of the education and training category at this year’s Charity Awards, nominated for an education campaign to warn Jamaican women of the consequences of drug trafficking. “At one point we had over 700 women in prison (in the UK) for drug importing, and over 2,000 men, just from Jamaica. The sentencing wasn’t acting as the so-called deterrent it was meant to be. We spoke to the women in prison here and asked what would have stopped them apart from money. They told us that if they had known what the consequences were, maybe they would have thought twice about it.”
    The campaign was simple and effective. An artist friend of the charity designed a poster in the form of a comic strip about Eva, an ordinary, hardworking mother who has come up against hard times. Eva borrows money to pay for medication for her ill mother, and her debtors demand that she carries drugs to the UK as repayment. She gets arrested on arrival, serves ten years, and returns to find that her mother has died and her children are on the street. It’s a typical story for hundreds of Jamaican women.
    Hibiscus saturated Jamaica with the posters, with financial aid from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Home Office and the British High Commission in Jamaica.
    “The posters were displayed in every government building, at airports, in schools, in marketplaces, in hospitals. In a week we put up 75,000,” says Heaven.
    The poster has now been turned into an animation, which is still shown on Jamaican television up to ten times a day. The success of the campaign speaks for itself: in the past nine months no Jamaican women have been arrested for trafficking.
    So does this mean that trafficking has been wiped out altogether? “The business has shifted to Trinidad,” says Heaven. “We launched a campaign there in October.” But isn’t this just chasing the trade around and not dealing with the root causes? “It’s the only thing we can do. It’s frightening that, from a small island of 2.4 million people, there were 700 women in prison in the UK. There were only 140 women in Jamaica’s one prison. Seven hundred women means how many thousand homeless and abandoned children.”
    Tackling the drug trade itself is not what Hibiscus does. “We wouldn’t even think of it,” says Heaven. “They’d wipe us out. The drug trade is an international problem and what we can do is to try to stop the people in the gutters suffering.” Standing on the periphery of the drug trafficking industry doesn’t make them immune to the danger associated with it. The Jamaican office gets threatening phone calls from traffickers. Heaven tells her staff to front it out, and encourages them to adopt her own motherly attitude: “Our concern is the children.”

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