Emmanuel Bida Silvas Gaitano is a dedicated and skillful mentor, having worked as a counselor and psychologist at various organisations for 5 years. RSH South Sudan has helped Bida discover passion for yet another important aspect of his profession, safeguarding mentorship for organisations.
Safeguarding has been a topic of interest since the 2001/2002 food for sex scandal in West Africa. Policies have been written and employees sign to upholding these policies, but the question remains: why do safeguarding concerns still often occur in the aid sector?
Keep on reading as safeguarding mentor Emmanuel Bida shares his thoughts on 2 essential steps towards improving the safeguarding practice in small civil society organisations and non-governmental organisations.
A few years ago, I lived as a refugee in one of the camps in Uganda; we generally depended on aid for survival. One of the things that caught my attention was the high level of corruption and aid workers and community social workers asking for money or sex from refugees in exchange for services. Since then, I ask my self what can be done to stop these unethical behaviors, including Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment (SEAH) from happening especially in the aid sector.
The RSH South Sudan mentorship scheme has helped me understand safeguarding from a totally different perspective that will help offer practical steps to improving safeguarding. The first step to improving safeguarding practice is;
Have a robust reporting mechanism in place
“Far more cases of SEAH and abuses will be reported in an organisation that has a functional safeguarding reporting mechanism than in one that does not have one,” said the director of one of the organisations I mentor.
The statement is quite true, for reporting mechanisms to be effective, the employees themselves need to trust the mechanism; organisations should ensure that feedback mechanisms are those that staffs or affected population feels confident to use. If abuse, SEAH or any other unethical behaviors haven’t been handled in the past, employees and beneficiaries will lose trust in the organisation’s ability to address any other cases -- hence suspicious or actual safeguarding concerns may not be reported.
Use the community’s preferred feedback and communication channels, engage with the communities or affected population to determine what feedback mechanisms work best for them. Safeguarding concerns will be less likely reported if the affected population does not know how to use the reporting channels in place.
Ensure that established feedback mechanisms are in a language that the affected population understands -- not everyone understands English, it’s therefore imperative that an organisation gets to know their beneficiaries before establishing a feedback mechanism.
Safeguarding checks before employment
Safeguarding measures should start before an individual begins employment with an organisation. Job seekers should be made to know how serious the organisation takes safeguarding. Safeguarding commitment of the organisation is to be reflected in job advertisements.
Safeguarding should be embedded throughout the entire recruitment process, including reference checks and vetting. These would serve as deterrent to potential abusers.