Campaigning against child exploitation, helping Fairtrade become a household name, and working with some of the UK’s main overseas development agencies, Eileen Maybin, who has died of cancer aged 65, was dedicated to fighting injustice. Dedicated, savvy and strategic, she made a lasting impact on some of the most important social issues of her time as a media liaison specialist at Christian Aid, the Fairtrade Foundation and Muslim Aid.
Born and raised in Strabane, in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, Eileen was the third of four children of Hugh Maybin, a garage owner, and his wife, Mary. She grew up amid the Troubles which, as one childhood friend, Elaine Smith, recalls, “ignited in Eileen a profound sense of justice and fairness”. She cut her professional teeth in the newly created Zimbabwe in the 1980s, as bureau manager at Agence France-Presse, learning about everything reporters need to run their stories. She and I worked together at AFP, and remained fast friends through the years.
In 1992 Eileen became Christian Aid’s Asia journalist, beginning nine years of focused campaigning. Her groundbreaking report Pulling the Rug on Poverty led Christian Aid to join the call for a label to identify carpets made without exploiting children – a move that helped bring about the Rugmark. This was the first of many “Christian Aid Week reports”, a concept Eileen created to highlight injustices overseas to push the UK government for action.
In 2001 Eileen joined the Fairtrade Foundation and helped win high-profile coverage. Over 10 years, sales of products carrying the Fairtrade Mark grew from £30m to £1.32bn. “After some years, 9 out of 10 people in the UK knew about Fairtrade,” says former Fairtrade Foundation chief executive Harriet Lamb. “That is Eileen’s Fairtrade legacy.”
Eileen became media manager at Muslim Aid in 2017, securing constructive coverage after extremist attacks at London Bridge and Finsbury Park. She devoted herself to the charity’s Mind the Gap report, released a year after the Grenfell tragedy, to focus on the voluntary organisations filling the void left by the lack of official direction. The report, and Eileen, influenced the launch of the National Emergencies Trust – the first time the UK has offered a single point of contact for victims during a domestic disaster.
Eileen’s outstanding record of campaigns was matched by her warm, chatty personality and culinary talents. She had retired this year and hoped to spend more time with family and her many friends. As one of them says: “The world will miss Eileen, but it’s a better place because of her.”
Eileen is survived by her brother, Charley, and sisters, Jenny and Mary.