Leading by example: When funders take on safeguarding
27 September 2021
“How are you leading by example? How will you hold your partners to account and to which standards?”
This was the question that the Children’s Rights and Violence Prevention Fund (CRVPF) had to ponder when it started to work on its child safeguarding measures. Asked by its safeguarding partner, Impact and Innovations Development Centre (IIDC) Uganda, the questions highlighted how it is necessary, even for organisations who do not work directly with children, to make child protection a priority of their work.
In 2015, CRVPF, led by director Fassil Mariam, was set up as a regional intermediary organisation to support partners working in Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia. CRVPF currently supports more than 152 small grassroots organisations that address issues such as child sexual abuse, violence against children, and the empowerment of girls and young women.
Given its focus, CRVPF was well aware of the high child protection risks of its partners’ work and paid attention to potential safeguarding incidents with its partners. But at Oak, we also “encourage funders to take on safeguarding within their own organisations as well”, says Steina Bjorgvinsdottir, Oak’s manager of child safeguarding.
To this end, in 2018, Oak offered CRVPF safeguarding support from Impact and Innovations Development Centre (IIDC) Uganda. IIDC provides capacity-strengthening services – including safeguarding – with a regionally contextualised approach, making it a good fit for CRVPF. As it entered discussions with IIDC and considered the questions asked, CRVPF realised that as an intermediary organisation, it had to set the pace. Afterall, the concept of safeguarding children is directly connected with CRVPF’s values, experience, and mission.
Since then, CRVPF has worked with IIDC to organise training modules and mentoring support for its staff. The first two out of three training modules focused on raising awareness and implementing a safeguarding policy within the organisation. Fassil made sure that he was fully available and present throughout the process. IIDC found that this demonstration of personal commitment from leadership was “a great source of motivation for staff” and “ensured ownership and accountability”.
Roll on 18 months, and despite some ups and downs due to Covid-19, CRVPF now approaches safeguarding differently, and there has been important and lasting changes, especially in regard to communication, recruitment, and reporting. As a CRVPF staff explains, “Before we use children’s stories in our information materials, we must get consent. It’s a must. We now undertake child safeguarding reference checks for all our staff, volunteers, and consultants. We are focused on promoting reporting by children and now, we publicise the hotline whenever we are out there.” With these simple steps, CRVPF ensures its work is much more child-safe and communicates to its partners and the public that safeguarding is its priority.
CRVPF knows it has come far but many challenges remain: What are staff roles when child protection issues in communities are identified? How can it build the safeguarding capacity of its grassroots partners? What can it do to prioritise child-safe partners? Regardless, with a proactive approach to safeguarding and continuing support from IIDC and Oak, CRVPF will rise to these challenges. Oak is proud to be part of CRVPF’s mission in promoting children’s safety in every aspect of its work.
You can find out more about Oak’s approach to child safeguarding on our website and in our Child Safeguarding Policy. If your organisation is an Oak grantee and interested in receiving child safeguarding support, please get in touch with your programme officer.