How to prevent safeguarding issues from happening in your organisation

Written by Nivedita Soni, Director, Pravah India

Please describe the context in which your organisation interacted with AmplifyChange

Pravah has been working with AmplifyChange since 2018. Our organisation has received two Network grants:

  • A Network grant in 2018, focusing on building a coalition to address issues of Early Child Marriage and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in India, through shared programs and campaigns and creating opportunities for cross learning.
  • A Network renewal grant in 2021, focusing on strengthening the coalition by bringing together the diversity, experience and knowledge from the field of work with adolescents and youth on the issues of Early Child Marriage and SRHR in India.

Our team has been interacting with the AmplifyChange technical and financial teams extensively during the due diligence and pre-contracting process. We have also communicated frequently with AmplifyChange during the duration of our grants through reporting, and monitoring calls and visits.

One of the special conditions we had to implement before contracting was to develop a safeguarding policy, which we did.

What do you do to prevent safeguarding issues from happening in your organisation, following the recommendations of AmplifyChange?

In India, guidelines on child protection and prevention of sexual harassment are mandatory and form part of a legal framework that organisations need to implement.

However, nothing is required regarding safeguarding. A few years back, we ran a program with volunteers from the UK and heard about Safeguarding for the first time. The whole team then started thinking about it and having conversation, but we never actually developed a proper policy and documented our processes until we started interacting with AmplifyChange.

Rather than sending us a pre-defined template, the AmplifyChange pushed us to think it through ourselves and we are thankful for this approach.

The due-diligence process really helped us, as it kind of forced us, as an organisation, to build our own understanding about safeguarding and understand what it means for us, in our day-to-day interaction with the young people we work with.

We have developed a proper policy, implemented procedures and appointed a Safeguarding Lead as the person to go to if we have any questions or need to report any issues.

In our policy we have included the following:

  • Important definitions to clarify the different concepts used in the policy, such as abuse, neglect, vulnerable adults, youth
  • The scope of the policies and the responsibilities of each person in the organisation, as well as people working with the organisation, such as volunteers and partners
  • A review of the potential risks that the children and adults we work with may face
  • A clear code of conduct for staff, Board members and volunteers to follow
  • What people need to do if they want to raise a concern
  • A clear process to follow if a concern is raised.

We have conducted mandatory trainings for the Staff (from CEO to interns). The objectives of the training were to:

  • Understand safeguarding in the context of Pravah and its programs
  • Provide clarity to all on how they should engage with children, young people and vulnerable adults when working for, or on behalf of Pravah
  • Share information about the process of reporting safeguarding concerns
  • Understand Pravah’s commitment and the role of each employee with regards to safeguarding
  • Ensure that they are attended by all the Staff, from CEO to volunteers.

All the materials were shared with the Board to ensure they also are informed about safeguarding.

These trainings really increased awareness among the staff and make people realise that they all have a role to play and responsibilities to prevent abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults or children.

How did the implementation of these measures/recommendations from AmplifyChange help you as an organisation? What benefits did you identify?

The whole due-diligence process was an eye opener to our organisation and helped raise awareness in the team about safeguarding. It also opened the floor to conversations within the team about bullying, harassment and neglect.

These conversations were really useful, as a lot of beliefs related to behaviors or the way of seeing others are culturally and socially embedded, and the fact that we started having these conversations really challenged people. They questioned themselves and their way of interpretating things, such as what is right to do, and where bullying or harassment starts.

What are your tips for an organisation facing the same or similar issues?

I recommend to not see the exercise of developing a safeguarding policy as just paperwork, to be compliant with requirements from donors or other institutions. Really try to see it as a way to challenge your team and open the floor to thinking and discussion about why it is so important in the work your organisation does.

I also recommend bringing the Senior Management on board, as you need the involvement and support of the whole organisation for the exercise to be successful.

Make sure you read information available to you, to increase your understanding and knowledge and see how it can be embedded into the programs your organisation implement.

The safeguarding policy is not just a document you write down for compliance reasons and that you keep in the drawer of your office. The different messages and concepts included in the policy need to be circulated among the different teams involved on the different programs your organisation implement.

What did you learn from this experience?

It was a learning curve for our organisation. We are thankful to AmplifyChange, who pushed our organisation to think by ourselves and tailor our own approach to respond to safeguarding.

It was not a new concept to us as we have been working with young people for a long time, but we needed to strengthen the whole process and to bring awareness amongst the team. Now it is embedded in people’s minds, and they carry this knowledge with them on their day-to-day jobs.

Nivedita Soni, Director, Pravah India

Nivedita Soni is one of the Directors at Pravah and has been engaged in different capacities over the years. Currently she oversees the adolescent and youth programming and leads the HR team. She is also the Safeguarding officer at Pravah.