Sian Owen is an ordinary activist who has recently been recognised for her tireless efforts in fighting modern slavery and county lines in Bridgwater. She has been shortlisted in the Human Trafficking Foundation’s Anti-Slavery Awards in the Reducing Vulnerabilities category. The Anti-Slavery Awards recognise individuals and organisations in the public, private and voluntary sectors who have gone beyond expectations in fighting Modern Slavery within their field. Sian’s nomination is well-deserved and recognises the contribution of Sian and her team in Bridgwater.
Sian explains how it all began: ‘After attending The Clewer Initiative’s Hidden Voices course, I became the voluntary coordinator of the local action group, leading a “toilet door” sticker campaign and organising a public event to mark Anti-Slavery Day. I invited the local town mayor and he agreed to emphasise the long links between Bridgwater and slavery. I also secured a slot at the Bridgwater Town council development forum with the Police and Crime Commissioner.”
After this, Sian became the project worker for the pilot Victim Support project “Hidden Voices Somerset” and began to work fulltime at a safehouse.
During lockdown, Sian trained village agents online which not only built good relationships, but also resulted in village agents being comfortable to come to her with concerns, which she was then able to take to the police or GLAA.
In May 2021, Sian started a community initiative to build resilience against County Lines in the most deprived communities in Bridgwater. The small group, led with the support of council leaders and police, reached around 800 people. She is now working on a major diversionary project aimed at young people on the key housing estates.
David Maggs, The Clewer Initiative project lead for Bath & Wells says: “Sian is an amazing networker and has recently contacted the Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner to find ways in which some of the work can be furthered. Her face is so well-known and she has made such a significant impact locally that she is often called the “county lines lady” by people who see her out and about. There are many volunteers that have played a key role in this work, but Sian has led, inspired and kept things alive in very difficult circumstances.”