Pursuit of justice

PUBLISHED: 11:43 08 June 2015 | UPDATED: 11:43 08 June 2015




When Southend’s Terry Tennens was asked to head up the UK office for International Justice Mission, he had little idea of the adventures around the corner. Now based in Witham, IJM UK is making a huge difference on a global scale

Many of us probably don’t wake up each day wondering if we are going to be safe. But just as we subconsciously know that should we ever need medical attention, a hospital will be there to help, it is also true that should we ever need protection, the police and courts will be there to intervene. Justice may not be a tangible thing, but, in the opinion of International Justice Mission (IJM), what is tangible is injustice.

Terry Tennens is the chief executive of IJM UK as well as a husband and father of two young boys. He was born and raised in Southend on Sea and now lives in North Essex. In 2006, Terry was invited to set up a UK office for the organisation IJM.

For Terry, injustice often comes in the form of violence and for the millions of the world’s poorest people, violence is an everyday threat. According to the United Nations, nearly 36 million people are currently enslaved worldwide. 1 in 5 women is a victim of rape or attempted rape. 5 million people are chased from their homes every year. In total, it is believed that 4 billion people live outside the protection of the law and while the vast majority of these 4 billion people live in developing countries around the world, outside of the UK and outside of Essex, an office in Witham is at the heart of trying to improve their plight.

It was global statistics like these that spurred Terry to leave behind his career in business as CEO of a professional association and focus on making justice possible for our global neighbours, right here from Essex.

‘Back then, the office was my study at home — it was just me and my pet dog,’ explains Terry. ‘But we soon started an office near Colchester. We have been fortunate to grow quickly, including growth across the UK, with offices now in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Manchester. Just recently, our main UK office has moved premises to central Essex, in Witham.

‘The work was slow going initially. Issues like slavery and trafficking weren’t high profile back then. But over the years there has been a shift — a recognition that these forms of abuses exist. For me, raising awareness about the issues of violence was the first major step to making a difference from the UK.’

Of course, the primary work of IJM is international, working on the frontlines in 18 communities around the world, to protect the poor from violence. Much of this work is led from the US by IJM CEO Gary Haugen. In 1994, Gary was a human rights lawyer working for the US Department of Justice when the United Nations asked him to lead its investigation of the Rwandan genocide. As Gary dug through the horrors of that part of history he was struck that what these people needed was not someone to bring them a sermon or food, or a doctor, or a teacher, or a micro-loan. They needed someone to restrain the hand with the machete, and nothing else would do.

Gary consequently launched IJM in 1997. Globally, IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors and strengthen justice systems. Today, IJM’s work is helping to protect 21 million people from violence.

And IJM UK is playing a key part in making this possible. Terry continues: ‘In the UK, we are fuelling the global justice movement to make this work possible. This is primarily through fundraising, to help finance the frontline work. But we are also applying IJM’s unique global experience to strengthen the UK’s own justice system, so we can set an example and use our own laws to protect the poor abroad. We do this through advocacy and campaigns, such as our recent Stop It Together campaign to address child sexual exploitation overseas which has been committed by UK nationals.

‘We are also encouraging UK citizens to personally lead the way in addressing everyday violence, both globally and locally. This applies to residents of Essex too. From advocacy to fundraising, there are many ways individuals can get involved in the work.’

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