The RSH Ethiopia Hub has run a mentorship programme focusing on safeguarding investigations. The mentorship lasted from from October 2021 to April 2022 and involved monthly meetings in Addis Ababa. Eight mentors have completed the mentorship and in the below, two of them recount their biggest takeaways from the programme.
After joining the programme, his outlook and knowledge about safeguarding and investigation changed, said Aberra Wondimu. “The diversity and experience of the mentees made the mentorship sessions very interesting,” he said, adding that the trainers had taken a participatory approach and the training focused on local experiences and examples.
SEAH incidents going underreported
In the development and humanitarian field, Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment (SEAH) frequently occurs but incidents often go overlooked or underreported, participants noted and discussed possible reasons.
“Mostly the reason is lack of awareness and the pre-determined sense of the accepting reportable incidents as ‘normal’ by the community,” Aberra said.
More effort is needed to raise community awareness about the possible misuse of power by bosses based on their gender, disability, sexuality and nationality, he added.
“The investigation mentorship helps me to be able to identify safeguarding concerns and to create a safe environment around the office, and areas of programme implementation,” Aberra said.
In addition, it helped him realise that “integrating safeguarding throughout the entire organisations’ policies, procedures and practices ensures the commitment and behaviour of the staff and partners.”
Hiwot Ethiopia, whose Safeguarding Focal Point Aberra currently serves as, works on child- and youth-focused activities. “The mentorship has helped us to draw protection mechanisms and safe programming into our project areas and the 13 civil society organisations which Hiwot Ethiopia mentors for implementation of safeguarding policy.”
The WH’s of safeguarding investigation
Being an investigator is not easy, but it is crucial and needs training, said Tigist Tarekegn. She added that she feels empowered by the mentorship.
“I am now confident to share and apply the basics related to the ‘WH questions’ of What? Why? When? Who? Which? Where? plus How?” Tigist added that she is now aware of the concept of the essential questions and their basic application.
She suggested that as practical steps during an investigation, one may need to ask questions including “What are the key steps and principles? What do we need to know? What is the entry point? Who has benefitted from the process? Who is/are our target/s? What approach do we need to take to follow a survivor-centred approach? How to report?”
Through the process, the team was able to demonstrate turning theory into practice in line with contextual and localised examples.
Tigist said that she enjoyed the practical approach of the mentorship programme, and it clarified some of her initial thoughts about what investigation meant.
“Investigation doesn’t simply mean to just manage an allegation,” she said, adding “a lot of caution is needed.”
An untrained investigator may breach the investigation principles and could have an inadequate risk assessment and may not properly apply a survivor-centered approach, she said. A trained investigator, however, will know to devise potential strategies to deal with difficulties, and the need to reach a well-reasoned and informative recommendation.