Caroline Kibos is the National Associate for the South Sudan Hub. She is a lawyer with a passion for human rights, peace building, governance, transitional justice and security sector reforms. Caroline has worked in the civil society sector for years, and her interest in safeguarding is to help build a safe work environment where everyone feels comfortable and equal despite holding different positions.
What is safeguarding and what is needed for it? Caroline Kibos, RSH South Sudan Hub National Associate has answered listeners’ questions on air with Miraya FM radio station in Juba. Listen to parts of the recording that aired live on the Miraya Breakfast Show with host Sebit William in January 2022.
“Safeguarding, in very simple terms, is keeping people safe from harm,” said Caroline Kibos, and added that safeguarding also means addressing harm when it happens.
Harm is often caused by staff misusing their power, Caroline explained. It can happen in any organisation, anywhere.
In an organisation, certain people may have more power based on their gender, race, organisational role, disability, sexuality, nationality or education. People with less power can be at greater risk of exploitation and abuse, and “we want to address that misuse of power,” Caroline said.
Answering the host’s question on what is needed for safeguarding, Caroline said that a range of things need to be in place, including:
- Organisational standards: within human resources, programmes and partnerships, and these need to also align with global standards
- Organisational culture and leadership is needed to model the expected behaviour and make sure that procedures are consistently integrated and followed
- Safeguarding policies, procedures and code of conduct: policies state organisations’ commitments; procedures provide details on how commitments shall be enacted; and the code of conduct outlines expected behaviours
- Systems of communication, learning and development: a variety of communication methods to provide people with regular information, staff and partners understand their obligation, people (including community members) know how to report, regular training and continuous trainings for those with specific safeguarding responsibilities
- Integration of safeguarding throughout the entire organisation, from HR to programming.
A listener calling in from Juba asked about repercussions a perpetrator of Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Sexual Harassment (SEAH) would face, especially if they are the head of the organisation.
Once evidence is gathered and a perpetrator is found guilty, they can be relieved of their duties and taken through legal procedures. However, sometimes survivors may not wish for the perpetrators to be punished and that wish must be respected, Caroline said.
The same listener asked what reporting mechanisms are in place for staff or the community where projects are delivered. Accessible and confidential reporting mechanisms like community-based complaint mechanisms for community members and emails/suggestion boxes for staff must be available, Caroline said.
For reporting mechanisms to be effective, the community and staff must be involved in their development. This builds trust and ownership in the system.
Listen to another listener from Malakal saying that most perpetrators of Gender-Based Violence and Sexual Exploitation are men, and that cases happen mostly due to stress or trauma, economic hardships and drug or alcohol abuse. “Most of the bosses in offices are men and they are the perpetrators. How can we bring SEAH to an end?” he asked.
Caroline said that mass awareness is needed to inform people about their rights, reporting channels and harmful cultures that hinder reporting such cases. In so doing such cases will be brought to light and handled properly to see perpetrators punished as a way of deterring others from doing the same and survivors getting justice.
Caroline also highlighted the RSH Ask an expert service. This is free and tailored support available for any South Sudanese civil society organisation. “As the National Associate, I am the first point of contact and where other support is needed, this can be drawn from within our pool of consultants. You can submit a query asking for support with developing or implementing a safeguarding policy or quality assuring a new process.” To send request for Ask an expert please email [email protected].