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AVA staff

Donna Covey CBE Chief Executive

Donna has been Director of AVA since December 2014. She started her career in the Trade Union movement, specialising in equality and diversity issues, and spent 10 years as a member of the TUC General Council. She has run a number of third sector organisations, including Asthma UK and the Refugee Council. She has written extensively on health, equality and human rights issues. In 2013 Donna was awarded the CBE for services to equality and human rights. She is the executive chair of IRISi, the social enterprise delivering IRIS, the gold standard Domestic Violence intervention for General Practice.

Eva Kestner Resource Director

Eva joined AVA in March 2017 after several years working in front line politics in Scotland and London. In these roles she predominantly worked on issues around inequalities and health, including leading on a consultation on achieving women's equality. She has previously ran a parliamentary office and enjoys developing her skills in financial management. She holds a MSc in public communication management and is currently undertaking a diploma in economics.

Joanna Sharpen Director of Policy & Projects

Jo is currently on maternity leave as of July 2020. Jo is a qualified youth worker with person centred counselling training. She is a qualified trainer with a BSc (hons) in Psychology and an MA in Women and Child Abuse. She has worked at AVA since 2006 and is a nationally recognised leader in the field of children and young people affected by gender based violence and abuse. She has written national guidance for the home office and numerous toolkits and training packages.

Jennifer Holly Training and Project Manager

Jennifer has worked in the violence against women sector for over fifteen years as a frontline practitioner, researcher and trainer. Over the past decade she has acquired extensive knowledge of developing and delivering services to women affected by so-called multiple disadvantage. She is a champion for the creation of services that are trauma-informed and gender-responsive. Jennifer has an MSc in Gender and Social Policy and a PgDip in Psychology. She is a qualified trainer.

Dr Lucy Allwright Project Manager

Lucy has been working in the violence against women and girls sector since 2008 in a variety of frontline, training and policy roles in both the charity and public sector. She is an experienced researcher, project manager and trainer with a particular specialisms in multiple disadvantage, trauma-informed practice, and expert-by-experience participation. She is committed to creating space and platforms for women to have a voice in creating change. She holds a PhD from the University of Warwick and is one of the co-founders of activist group Sisters Uncut.

Ruth Atkinson Project Manager

Ruth has been working in the VAWG sector for several years; her roles have focused on research, policy and project management. She is committed to challenging gender inequalities, taking an intersectional approach. She has managed a range of complex national projects and independent evaluations, with a particular focus on health systems and health policy. Ruth is Co-Chair of Imkaan - an organisation focused on ending violence against BME women and girls and holds an MA in Human Rights from UCL. Ruth’s work on young people’s disclosure of abuse was published in the Child Abuse and Neglect journal in 2019.   

Hannah Sansom Trainer

Hannah has worked in the Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) sector for the past 10 years. She is an experienced frontline practitioner, trainer and VAWG prevention & response programme manager. Much of her work has been within refugee contexts in Africa, Asia and Europe. She has also managed a domestic abuse support service in the UK. Hannah has an MSc in Refugee Studies and conducted research on the barriers to disclosure of sexual violence within the UK asylum process.

Maria Dardagan Funding Support Officer

Maria joined AVA in August 2019 after several years working as a fundraiser for a charity assisting asylum seekers and refugees. Before that she ran a community organisation working with Filipino migrant workers, in particular, domestic workers, care givers and nurses in the UK to organise and fight for equality and inclusion.

Ellie Cox Training & Communications Officer

Ellie joined AVA in November 2018 after interning in various women's and education charities. For the last two years she was managing a charity shop in North London, transforming it into one of Time Out's 10 best charity shops in London through developing its marketing, social media and events. She holds a Masters in English Literature with specialisms in Feminist Theory and Children's Literature.

Cordy Ruck Policy and Project Officer

Cordy joined AVA through the charityworks placement scheme after completing her MA in Migration and Diaspora studies and BA in Social Anthropology, both of which she pursued with a focus on migration, multiple disadvantage and the female experience. During her studies she spent two summers working with refugees in Greece, as well as working with the homeless in various capacities.

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