Our Safeguarding Duties
Shelter Them is committed to being fully accountable and transparent to the children and the communities we work with, as well as to our supporters, partners and employees. Our activities are conducted legally, ethically and in accordance with the highest standards of integrity
Shelter Them Rwanda is a national non-governmental organization registered in Rwanda with certificate No 100/2014. Furthermore, Shelter Them partners with the Government of Rwanda to ensure the provision of the rights of the child and the protection of children from all sort of harm and violence.
· The welfare of children is our primary concern. All of our employees and representatives must commit to safeguarding children and respecting their rights, both at work and in their personal lives.
· We have clear procedures to prevent, report and respond to any risks to children. We ensure that the children and families we work with understand their rights, the behaviour they should expect from us and how they can raise any concerns.
· We have a zero-tolerance approach to fraud, bribery and corruption.
· We have policies that govern the organization including a Child Protection Policy and Code of Conduct. These policies are intended to guide our employees and volunteers to meet our high standards of ethics and conduct.
· We are committed to creating and maintaining an open and accountable working environment and encourage all stakeholders including children, young people and families with whom there is contact to report concerns in good faith. Where a person feels unable to raise a concern through standard feedback channels because of reasonable grounds to fear reprisal, he/she may use the mechanisms provided by our Whistleblowing Policy.
· We monitor and evaluate our programs to measure and demonstrate our positive impact on children’s lives and ensure we use our resources efficiently. All of our policies have been written in accordance with the guidelines required by the Rwandan government. They are listed below:
Laws of Nation
i. States Parties shall protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse. (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), Article 19)
ii. The Government of Rwanda is signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and the African Charter on the Rights and the Welfare of the Child (1990) which constitute the formal obligations of the Government in the field of the rights and responsibilities of the child.
iii. The obligations of the child are stipulated in the African Charter on the Rights and the Welfare of the Child (Art. 31) and the Rwandan Law No. 27/2001 (Art. 25, 26, 27).
United Nation Secretary General’s Bulletin on Protection of Children
UN Secretary General’s Bulletin Special Measures for Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse was established in 2003. The following has to be considered according to the core principles of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child; non-discrimination; devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development.
Child Protection Policy
At Shelter Them we believe that all children have a right to protection from violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect. This means that anyone working for Shelter Them must always respect children, listen to them and protect them from harm. This includes staff, volunteers, Board members, and any others who work with children on Shelter Them’s behalf.
Everyone working in our name must read and sign a commitment to uphold this policy, including the parents of the children we support. We include a review of this policy in the orientation of new staff and employees in the first week of working with us and also provide a child protection training within the first month of employment. All partners who we work with Shelter Them must also read and sign our Child Protection Policy and Code of Conduct.
We also make sure that the children, families and communities that we work with will learn about our commitment to child protection. This includes our policy, the behaviour they can expect from our staff and representatives, and how to contact us if they have any concerns.
We have zero-tolerance of any form of harm to children. Child abuse is when anyone under 18 years of age is being harmed. The abuse can be physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect. The abuse and exploitation of children happens in all countries and societies around the world. Shelter Them believes that child abuse is never acceptable.
Shelter Them is committed to safeguard children through the following means:
Awareness: Ensuring that all staff, parents and children and those who work with Shelter Them are aware of what abuse is and the risks to children.
Prevention: Ensuring, through awareness and good practice, that staff and those who work with Shelter Them will minimize all risks to children.
Reporting: Ensuring that all staff members, volunteers, board members, parents and children are clear on what steps to take where concerns arise regarding the safety of children.
Responding: Ensuring that action is taken to support and protect children where concerns arise regarding possible abuse.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child says that all children have the right to be protected. We require our staff to uphold the highest standards, and always act in the best interest of children. If they don’t, they cannot work for Shelter Them.
Awareness – What Is Abuse?
Child abuse includes physical, emotional and sexual abuse and/or neglect. It also refers to a pattern of abuse and risks of harm.
Physical abuse is any deliberate physical force or action which results, or could result, in injury to a child. It can include bruising, cuts, punching, slapping, beating, shaking, burning, biting or throwing a child. Using belts, sticks or other objects to punish a child can cause serious harm and is also considered abuse.
Emotional abuse is a pattern of behaviour that attacks a child’s emotional development and sense of self-worth. It includes excessive, aggressive or unreasonable demands that place expectations on a child beyond his or her capacity. Emotional abuse includes constantly criticizing, teasing, belittling, insulting, rejecting, ignoring or isolating the child. It may also include exposure to domestic violence, whether physical or emotional.
Sexual abuse occurs when a child is used for the sexual gratification of an adult or an older child. The child may co-operate because he or she wants to please the adult or out of fear. Abuse includes sexual intercourse, exposing a child’s private areas, fondling for sexual purposes, watching a child undress for sexual pleasure, and allowing or forcing a child to look at or perform in pornographic pictures or images, or engage in prostitution.
Neglect occurs when a parent or caregiver fails to provide basic needs such as adequate food, sleep, safety, education, clothing or medical treatment. It also includes leaving a child alone or failing to provide adequate supervision. If the parent or caregiver is unable to provide the child with basic needs due to financial inability, it is not considered neglect, unless relief has been offered and refused.
Education is the surest way to avoid instances of abuse. All new employees of Shelter Them must read and sign that they understand and will abide by our Child Protection Policy. The staff of Shelter Them will discuss this policy at a staff meeting at least once per year. In addition, whenever an alleged case of abuse occurs, all staff members will review the case together, to ensure a common approach to the policy.
Parents and children must also be made aware of this policy. Shelter Them staff will inform them of the policy and parents will be given awareness training in abuse and its prevention. Parents must understand and agree to the commitment of Shelter Them to protect all our children from violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect.
Reporting – “Reasonable Grounds”
Keeping the most vulnerable members of our Shelter Them community safe is the responsibility of everyone. If anyone working on behalf of Shelter Them has any reason to believe that a child is in need of protection or is at risk of harm, that person has a duty to report the situation as soon as possible, and at least within 24 hours.
If anyone has reasonable grounds to suspect a child is in need of help, then that person must report the incident. It is not up to individuals to prove or investigate the abuse, but it is up to everyone to take immediate steps to protect the child by reporting the incident. Employees who do not report potential abuse or neglect can face consequences up to and including termination of employment.
It is not necessary to be certain that a child is or may be in need of protection to make a report of abuse. “Reasonable grounds” refers to the information that an average person, using normal and honest judgment, would need in order to decide to report. The person who has concerns should bring forward their concerns as soon as possible, and the appropriate authorities will determine if there is a sufficient basis to warrant further assessment of the concerns about the child’s safety.
The first step must be to report concern. In cases of emotional or physical abuse or neglect, employees must report their concern to the Country Manager, who will then decide how to proceed with the report, taking into account the best interests of the child as well as the laws and customs of Rwanda. He will decide on appropriate actions in consultation with the Community Support Manager, local social services authorities and/or the police.
Regarding sexual abuse, the employee must first report the concern to the police, and then to the Country Manager.
In the event of any allegation of abuse, all staff members have a duty to respond, including reporting that allegation to the Country Manager. The Country Manager has a number of duties in the case of any allegation.
· In the case of an allegation of sexual abuse, the Country Manager’s first response must be to inform the police of the allegation. (Police should already have been informed of alleged sexual abuse, but the Country Manager must report as well to confirm it has been done.)
· In the case of any allegation of any kind of abuse, the investigation must begin with the assumption that the child is telling the truth.
· The Country Manager must create, within 24 hours of receiving the allegation, an Incident Report for any allegation of abuse of a child. That report should include details of the allegation, steps taken to investigate the allegation and the actions taken to resolve the allegation. Also included should be any recommendations to prevent repetition of the abuse, if that abuse is substantiated.
· The Country Manager must report any allegation of abuse at the next meeting of the Board of Shelter Them Rwanda, or sooner if the allegation is deemed by the Country Manager to require a more immediate response.
· The Country Manager must retain the Incident Report for at least two years in order to identify any pattern of abuse. The Manager can at that time decide to remove or retain the Incident Report, depending on the likelihood of any repetition of abuse.
· At the next staff meeting, the Country Manager must discuss the case with staff, (taking into account any privacy requirements) explaining the decisions that were made, so that all staff can take a common approach to implementation of this policy.
· In every instance of abuse against children under the protection of Shelter Them, all staff members must act in cooperation with local authorities. Shelter Them must never be seen to be acting on its own to address accusations or suspicions of abuse.
Shelter Them Code of Conduct
The purpose of this Code of Conduct is to assure the children and families we serve, the sponsors and supporters of Shelter Them, as well as the Rwandan government, that Shelter Them is taking every step we can to ensure the safety and well-being of the children and families we serve, as well as the staff who provide their valuable service. The policy is intended to ensure the highest standard of ethical, legal and safeguarding behaviour. Everyone covered by this policy must strive to act in a way that treats each other and the children and communities we serve with dignity and respect, and that we act in a way that provides a safe and inclusive workplace. All violations of this policy will be addressed in an appropriate and timely manner.
This policy applies to all staff members, volunteers, parents or caregivers, and any group or individual who is conducting work on behalf of Shelter Them. It also applies to the Board members of Shelter Them Rwanda and Shelter Them Poverty Relief. Every individual who provides paid or volunteer service to Shelter Them, as well as parents, has a responsibility to read, understand, and comply with this Code of Conduct.
Roles and Responsibilities
In order to ensure the health, safety and well-being of the children in our care, everyone associated with Shelter Them has a role to play. Below is a list of responsibilities that all employees, managers, board members, volunteers and contractors must read and understand.
Employees and managers, volunteers and contractors will…
· Put the welfare of our children uppermost in any actions or decisions taken on behalf of Shelter Them;
· Not perform or allow to be performed any action that is illegal, unethical or liable to cause harm to any of our children;
· Treat each other and the children and families we serve with professionalism and respect;
· Not behave, at work or away from work, in a way which will reflect negatively on Shelter Them;
· Comply with all local and national laws and regulations;
· Adhere to all health and safety standards, policies and procedures;
· Act in a way that is consistent with Shelter Them’s Child Protection Policy and which creates an environment which is safe from physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect;
· Not engage in sexual relations with anyone under the age of 18, whether or not that person is served by Shelter Them;
· Not have a personal relationship of any kind with any of our beneficiaries beyond the scope of their duties at Shelter Them. There should be no potential for anyone to infer any conflict of interest or favoritism;
· Not disclose any personal or confidential Shelter Them information unless legally obliged to do so;
· Not use time at work to conduct personal business.
Any employee or manager who does not abide by this Code of Conflict will face consequences to be determined by the Board of Shelter Them Rwanda. Those consequences could range from censure or training to termination.
Any volunteer or contractor who does not abide by this Code will be required by the County Manager to immediately terminate the relationship with Shelter Them.
Below is a list of responsibilities that all board members of Shelter Them Rwanda and Shelter Them Poverty Relief must read and understand.
Board Members will…
· Put the welfare of our children uppermost in any actions or decisions taken on behalf of Shelter Them;
· Read and understand all Shelter Them policies, and act at all times in accordance with those policies;
· Hold themselves accountable to the highest level of professional behaviour and communication with each other and with the staff of Shelter Them;
· Safeguard confidential information on sensitive issues, especially regarding personnel matters;
· Not disclose or discuss differences of opinion within the Board with anyone not on the Board. The Board should speak externally with one voice;
· Avoid any real or perceived conflict of interest and disclose to the Board any involvement with other organizations or individuals that might be perceived as a conflict of interest;
· On controversial issues, make every effort to understand other board members and to make oneself understood;
· Refrain from trying to influence board decisions outside of board meetings that might have the effect of creating divisions in the board or of preventing free and open discussion at meetings;
· Be willing to offer alternative points of view on issues and to encourage others to do the same;
· Support board decisions, even if one’s own position is a minority one, once a decision has been made;
· Advocate for Shelter Them and its mission whenever the opportunity arises in personal and professional situations.
Any board member of either Shelter Them Rwanda or Shelter Them who does not abide by this Code will face consequences to be determined by The Board of Shelter Them Rwanda, up to and including termination of the relationship with Shelter Them.
Below is a list of responsibilities that all adult beneficiaries of Shelter Them, including parents and caregivers, must read and understand.
Adult beneficiaries of Shelter Them will…
· Put the welfare of their children uppermost in their actions and decisions;
· Not perform or allow to be performed any action that is illegal, unethical or liable to cause harm to any of their children;
· Learn and understand their responsibilities towards children as beneficiaries of Shelter Them, as outlined in this Code of Conduct and the Child Protection Policy;
· Take part in all activities provided by Shelter Them staff that offer insight into such issues as effective parenting, proper nutrition, and disciplining children.
Any adult beneficiaries whose repeated behaviour puts children at risk must be reported to local social services authorities. Shelter Them staff will work with those local authorities to ensure children’s right to protection from violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect.
Shelter Them Whistleblower Policy
The purpose of this Whistleblower Policy is to encourage current and former employees, volunteers and Board members to communicate events of serious concern for Shelter Them. It is understood that the policy will take effect only after discussing the incident with the County Manager, unless the Country Manager is the subject of the alleged whistleblower event, or unless the event is so significant that it merits the immediate attention of the Board of Shelter Them Rwanda.
Shelter Them is committed to conducting itself with honesty and integrity at all times. If, at any time, this commitment is not followed or appears in doubt, Shelter Them will seek to identify and remedy such situations. Accordingly, it is our policy to ensure that when an individual has reasonable grounds to believe that a Shelter Them staff member, volunteer or board member has committed, or is about to commit, a whistleblowing event:
· The employee, volunteer or board member may disclose this information;
· The complainant will be protected from reprisals;
· All parties to an investigation will be treated fairly and equitability;
· Confidentiality will be maintained to the greatest extent possible;
· If wrongdoing is found, appropriate remedial and disciplinary actions will be taken.
Definition – Reasonable Grounds for a “Whistleblower Event”
For the purposes of this Policy, a complaint may be submitted if any one of the following incidents occurs:
· Accounting, auditing, or other financial reporting fraud or misrepresentation;
· Violations of Rwandan or Canadian laws that could result in fines or civil damages payable by Shelter Them, or that could otherwise significantly harm Shelter Them's reputation or public image;
· Unethical business conduct in violation of any Shelter Them policies and/or Code of Conduct;
· Danger to the health, safety, or well-being of employees, volunteers and/or the children or families under our care.
A complaint may be submitted in writing to the Country Manager, the Chair of the Board of Shelter Them Rwanda, the Trustee of Risk and Governance and/or the Chair of the Board of Shelter Them Poverty Relief.
The written statement should include the following information:
· Description of the activity
· Date complainant became aware of the activity
· Name of individual suspected of the activity
· Steps taken (if any) prior to making the complaint or allegation (for example, speaking to the suspected individual, to another staff member or board member, etc.)
· Any other information the complainant deems to be relevant to the complaint.
1. The statement shall be addressed in writing to one, two, three, or all of the Officers named above, by email or regular mail. The complainant shall expect a confirmation of receipt of the complaint within 5 business days.
2. The complainant will not be discharged, demoted, suspended, threatened, harassed, or in any other manner discriminated against as a result of communicating a genuine concern. Any of these activities may result in another whistleblower complaint. Any Shelter Them member found to be in violation of this policy when dealing with a complainant may be subject to termination of employment or removal from the Board. Similarly, any volunteer or Board member found to be in violation of this policy when dealing with a complainant may have their relationship with Shelter Them terminated.
3. The individual making a whistleblower complaint is not required to prove the truth of an allegation, but he/she is required to act in good faith, and to provide sufficient specific evidence to the person(s) contacted in order to show that there are sufficient grounds for concern. The amount of contact between the complainant and the investigating body will depend on the nature of the issue and the clarity of the information provided. The investigating body may seek further information from the complainant.
4. Any individual who does not act in good faith in reporting a suspected violation may be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment or of his/her relationship with Shelter Them.
5. All complaints will be treated as confidential and sensitive. In addition, the complainant shall be provided the opportunity to remain anonymous, except in those circumstances where the nature of the disclosure and/or the resultant investigation make it necessary to disclose identity (for example, legal investigations
or proceedings). In any case, all reasonable steps shall be taken to protect the complainant from harm as a result of having made a disclosure.
Once a complaint is brought forward, an investigation must commence promptly, led by the Trustee of Risk and Governance for Shelter Them Rwanda. The Trustee may enlist the assistance of other Board members, legal counsel, accounting or other advisors as may be appropriate to conduct the investigation. The person who is the subject of the whistleblower complaint must not take any part in conducting the investigation, but he/she must be given the opportunity to respond to the complaint. A report will be prepared by the Trustee of Risk and Governance, and any legal or other action will be taken as appropriate. If the whistleblower complaint is determined to be justified, the Board of Shelter Them Rwanda will determine the consequences for the subject of the complaint. Those consequences could range from censure or training to termination. The Trustee of Risk and Governance will retain the report for two years, at which point it may be destroyed or retained, at the discretion of the Trustee.
Each complaint will be treated as confidentially as possible and with due care. The results of the investigation will be shared with the complainant to the extent possible and within reasonable time.
This Policy applies to all current and former employees, officers, volunteers and Board members of Shelter Them Rwanda and Shelter Them Poverty Relief.