In our African youth organisations, our board may be our management (if everyone involved is a volunteer, for example) or they could be external people, responsible for strategy and governance [Learn more here].
Safeguarding as Strategic
Safeguarding will not be effective in your organisation if your board is not involved. They need to realise, when they are evaluating the organisation’s work and setting strategy and goals, that:
- Preventing and addressing abuse and harm are essential parts of the mission and effectiveness of any organisation working with young women and girls
- The organisation needs to set aside time to ensure this can happen
- It can affect your organisation’s reputation, sustainability and impact if women and girls are harmed during activities, or overlooked if occurring outside of activities – donors may withdraw funds and beneficiaries may refuse to come to activities.
Board Approval of your Policies and Prevention
Your board should approve your safeguarding policies and procedures. However, please note that they should also be subject to them. If your board members spend time with young people in your organisation, they must also be vetted. You may decide that all of your board members should have the same vetting as others involved with young people in your organisation if you feel that there could be the opportunity or inclination of people in your context to take advantage of positions of authority to take advantage of vulnerable people. Considering that this has happened in some of the world’s largest NGOs, with staff taking advantage of our African young women in many ways, we cannot be naive to how this could happen in our own organisations without due caution.
Keeping the Board Updated
If your board is going to consider the implications of the dangers that your young women and girls face as part of the strategic direction of the organisation, then the board must have information in order to inform those decisions. Crucially, this information should not identify any particular cases: the privacy of those affected must be carefully protected. However, numbers of cases, different types of incidents, high-risk situations and processes that have failed under pressure must be brought to their attention. They may suggest changes to the policies, or to how the organisation works in other ways.