OPINION: MARYAM EHSANI
All children have a right to protection from abuse and violence. Yet children are abused in every country in the world and shockingly a child dies every five minutes as a result of violence.
The world’s most vulnerable children are the most at risk, such as those fleeing conflict or natural disasters, those from ethnic minorities and those living in poverty. Children with disabilities are between three and four times more likely to be subjected to violence and neglect.
Most violence against children is perpetrated by people they know and should be able to trust. Too often, the abuser works within an organisation with the explicit aim of helping children – including relief and development agencies, peacekeeping forces, and education and sports organisations.
An overall approach to safeguarding children is rooted in understanding the risks to children from the whole organisation. This is a robust and comprehensive process that begins with development, or strengthening, of a child safeguarding policy that describes how the organisation is committed to promoting the rights, dignity and well-being of children, and preventing all forms of exploitation and abuse.
It then requires organisational development in the form of allocating staff time, ensuring staff are trained and coordinated, and that there is good communication on safeguarding children.
There also needs to be sound processes for planning, implementation, monitoring and review, to ensure clear and transparent lines of accountability right up to board level.
Any concerns the organisation has about children’s safety should be reported to the appropriate authorities, so that perpetrators can be brought to justice and children be given follow-up support.
Keeping Children Safe (KCS) was established in 2001. Its mission is to work with its 77 members, including Viva, to safeguard all children from exploitation, abuse and violations of their human rights.
We advocate for the universal adoption and monitoring of international standards on safeguarding, build the capacity of organisations to do this and work to advance a global movement of organisations committed to ensure that their staff, operations and programmes do no harm to children.
To achieve this, KCS has developed a set of four International Child Safeguarding Standards to emphasise the key aspects of managing child safeguarding within an organisation. They are:
The organisation sets clear policy that describes how it is committed to promoting the well-being of children, preventing abuse and creating a positive environment for children wherein their rights are upheld and they are treated with dignity and respect.
The organisation communicates clearly its commitments to keeping children safe and the responsibilities and expectations it places on staff and associates in particular, its partners – through relevant policies, procedures and guidance, and that staff and associates (and other relevant people, including children) are supported in understanding and acting in line with these.
The organisation implements a systematic process of planning and implementation of child safeguarding measures.
KCS is delighted that Viva has been an active member of our network for more than ten years and, in addition to participating in KCS activities, contributes to various initiatives and has led webinars for the network.
I’m currently setting up an international working group around child safeguarding in faith-based settings, which will help charities such as Viva share their good practices and discuss their challenges.
Together, we are committed to doing everything in our power to keep children safe and to influence others to do the same.
Maryam Ehsani is Child Safeguarding Network Manager at Keeping Children Safe. She supports NGOs, governments and other organisations to implement and strengthen the UN’s International Child Safeguarding Standards; develops an international child safeguarding community of practice; provides ongoing technical advice and coaching to members; and undertakes certification and auditing for all full members. Maryam has an MA in International Children’s Rights.
This article first appeared in Life magazine, issue 9