This guide is not safeguarding training but offers an introduction to safeguarding in our African context, through our eyes as African youth workers leading education activities for young women and girls. Safeguarding is complex and requires a professional approach to do well. 

Safeguarding well requires understanding children and young people’s behaviour when they have been abused or traumatised. It asks us to look beyond the obvious and notice small, tell-tale details, invisible to most people who don’t know what to look for. It asks us to question the status quo, considering that many ‘normal’ practices in our cultures may not be in the best interest of the young people we work with. 

Safeguarding training is also important as it teaches us how to develop and improve our policies and procedures to do things more professionally and efficiently. We can learn how other organisations do things. We can consider better ways of file storage, or using digital tools to record reports and sensitive information well. 

And it alerts us to emerging risks, or risks we had overlooked, and how to address them. For example: 

  • FGM (female circumcision) was very normal in many of our countries, and may still be experienced by girls we work with. Now, it is recognised as a form of abuse, an unnecessary surgery at best, and risk of death or ongoing health complications at worst. It is a violation of a woman’s bodily integrity and is often done without her consent. Learning from others can help us to understand, within our own legal and cultural context, how best to prevent practices like FGM, and what to do if a girl is cut. 
  • Another example could be cyberbullying – this is a new risk, which is already affecting many young women in Africa, even if many don’t yet have access to the internet regularly. Many youth workers grew up at a time when this wasn’t an issue, and we don’t know how to address it. Sometimes we want to ‘ban’ things, but this doesn’t help young women to use technology in positive ways that can be essential to their learning and personal development. Again, learning from others can help us to understand how to support affected young women, improve our practices in our organisations, and prevent risk. 

Reflection Questions: 

  • Does your organisation set aside time for staff or volunteers to gain training? 
  • Can you include safeguarding training as part of the staff or volunteer inductions?
  • Can you identify training available locally, either online or invite someone to give the training as a workshop?
  • If the best training available is online, can you ensure that resources are set aside for this if staff or volunteers do not have data or devices to access it?
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