When we take on a new staff member or volunteer, we must have a clear process in place for all of them. This is important because we need to have a consistent approach. This begins with having a clear and transparent application process and continues with the way you ensure that they know about safeguarding from the beginning of their time with you. 

Reference Checks for Staff and Volunteers

It is important that you know the backgrounds of your team, and information about where they live, their contact details and their next of kin, for example, so that you can communicate well with them and take action if they are unwell or experience harm.

Consistency is key: no one should feel that they are being unfairly treated, or excluded from serving their communities when you ask for a reference for them. In fact, if they refuse to provide a reference this is a warning sign! They need to understand that this is an essential step in our overarching goal – to improve the lives of young women and girls and to keep them safe from harm. 

Procedures that work in African contexts

There are several ways we can do reference checks. The kind to use will depend upon our states’ or countries’ norms and laws. 

  1. Your country may have an obligation for those working with children or vulnerable people to have police checks. Ensure that you know what is expected in your country. 
  2. In many of our countries, this does not happen, or perhaps we do not trust these checks. This could be because our communities are not well served by police and other law enforcers, so we are not confident that crimes would be reported to them, or recorded fairly. If this is the case, we can also undertake other reference forms. 

Who can give a reference?

  • We need to be sure that those giving references are credible. This means that they should not be family members and that you should confirm the identity of the person you get a reference from in some way.
  • You could ask the future volunteer to propose two or three people who could act as their reference, providing numbers, emails, or addresses, so you can follow them up as you think best. 
  • You could ask others in the community, or from organisations they have or are working with, from their pastor or another religious group, or from other places where they have volunteered. 
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