Reports about abuse or suspected abuse are delicate: they implicate suspected or actual abusers, identify people who have reported them and share information on children and women who may be or are being abused, information which could lead to them being shamed or stigmatised. 

We cannot be too careful in considering who is able to access this information and how we store it. 

Traditional Storage – Paper under Lock and Key 

For many Africans, paper storage is our norm. Just like with accounts or other sensitive information, we should consider: 

  • Who has access to this?
  • Are keys stored in safe places?
  • Is this storage vulnerable to fire, floods or other risks?
  • If the filing is secure, could it be easily broken into, for example, by someone wishing to destroy records that implicated them or to find out who has accused them?
  • Do you need to have backups? (In which case, they also need to be secure)

Electronic Files 

There are advantages and disadvantages to electronic storage. 

  • Electronic files (e.g. word documents) mean that you can store documents on a hard disk or computer. However:
    • This could be stolen or destroyed by someone wishing to get rid of files
    • This also needs passwords to be secure
    • If someone dies or leaves the organisation, they may be the only one with access to these files 
    • Devices can be hacked, and we are often not experts on files 
    • Files can only be accessed if devices are working – if they fail, or electricity regularly fails, these files could be inaccessible. 

Cloud storage can be a partial solution to this – it means that files will still be available should a particular computer be destroyed. However: 

  • There are still issues with passwords and who has access to these documents
  • These files may also be possible to hack (although solutions like Google Docs should be quite secure)

No Perfect Solution 

There is no perfect storage solution – the important thing is that you are always conscious of the need to ensure that this is done as well as possible.

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you currently store records?
  • Thinking about the observations above, do you think you can do this better?

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