It is with sadness and regret that Hibiscus Initiatives announces that its Chair, Rachel Youngman will be stepping down with immediate effect to focus on her cancer treatment. A Trustee since November 2015, Rachel has led the Trustee Board since her appointment as Chair in July 2016 and has overseen the charity through the creation of its shift to playing a greater role in influencing policy change and the new five-year strategy. She has been particularly committed to women held in immigration removal centres and how Hibiscus can support and champion their rights in an increasingly hostile environment.

The Board will be led for an interim period by Co-Chairs Rosalyn Akar Grams and Annette So, both of whom have been Trustees since February 2021.

Rachel said: “I am sad to be leaving Hibiscus at this point – it has been a privilege to be Chair. I am incredibly proud of where the organisation is with an exciting and bold new strategy centred around the needs of women. The women we work with often have limited recourse to support and services. Yet they never cease to inspire. Our work connects them with the support they need as well as creating the space and opportunity to develop their own voices and push for systemic change. “

Kate Shurety, interim CEO, said: “The Board and staff team are grateful to all that Rachel has given us over the years, in particular her calm leadership, strong direction and long commitment to the women’s sector. We are also fortunate to have a talented and committed Board, and two experienced Trustees who will be sharing the Chair on an interim basis for the next few months.”

Introducing our new co-chairs

Rosalyn Akar Grams is a practising solicitor with over 20 years’ experience in asylum, immigration and human rights cases. She has acted for clients throughout the asylum process from the initial application stage through the appeal stages right up to the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. For many years she represented women at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in the then fast track system. She has written articles on access to justice and has been consulted by organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Justice on issues related to the UK asylum system. Rosalyn has experience both in private practice and within the charity sector where she has held management positions since 2014. She is currently Managing Director of Legal Practice and Children’s Rights at Coram Children’s Legal Centre.

Annette So has a wealth of experience in international human rights and criminal justice reform, specifically in relation to the death penalty. Over the last decade, her work focussed on the charity sector, where she was responsible for organisational development including strategic planning, fundraising, financial management and charity governance. Annette is a qualified solicitor in England and Wales, and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Annette is currently Deputy Director of the Criminal Justice Alliance (of which Hibiscus is member of). She is also a trustee of The Rights Practice, a charity that helps put human rights in practice in China and Asia.