Child Protection Policy
The Girls First Fund is a donor collaborative supported by leading philanthropic organizations and individual philanthropists who have come together to champion community-led efforts so that all girls can live free from child marriage and create their own future. We focus on girls, families, and communities because we believe they are in the best position to create lasting, local change and address the causes of child marriage at their roots.
The Girls First Fund is committed to the empowerment, well-being and rights of children. Violence or abuse of any kind against any child is unacceptable, regardless of their age, gender, sexuality, ethnic grouping, faith, culture, or disability. In line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Girls First Fund is committed to protecting all children from harm in all of its activities as a priority.
One of the Guiding Principles of the Girls First Fund states: “Adhere to the highest standards of child protection: Grantees will adhere to the highest standards of child protection policies that simultaneously safeguard children’s rights, recognizing that protection and empowerment can co-exist.”
Child: Anyone under the age of 18.
Child abuse: physical, sexual, emotional abuse and/or neglect. Abuse can take place in person and online, by other children and/or adults, including those in positions of trust.
Child safeguarding: proactive steps taken to prevent violence against children, including all forms of physical or mental violence, injury and abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse.
Child protection: responding to concerns and/or disclosures that a child may be experiencing, or be at risk of, physical and/or mental violence, injury and/or abuse, neglect and/or negligent treatment, maltreatment and/or exploitation, and/or sexual abuse.
Designated Person: is the person associated with the Girls First Fund who takes responsibility for supporting staff members to risk assess activities involving or impacting children, coordinating the monitoring of the implementation of the organization’s child safeguarding policy, receiving reports of issues relating to the safeguarding of children, inducting staff members and ensuring that progress and issues related to child safeguarding are reported regularly to management.
SCOPE OF THIS POLICY
This policy applies to all Girls First Fund employees, directors (trustees), contractors (including Geneva Global staff assigned to work on the Girls First Fund), consultants, advisors, interns and volunteers (referred to in this policy as ‘GFF Personnel’). This policy recognizes that GFF Personnel may have access to sensitive, confidential information about children, access to images and may visit GFF-funded programs.
Additionally, the Girls First Fund recognizes that direct services and support to children is primarily implemented by our grantees. Consequently, the Girls First Fund has requirements (set-out below) for all grantees, sub-grantees and third-parties that grantees may appoint.
EXPECTATIONS OF OUR GRANTEES
As stated above one of the Guiding Principles of the Fund is that “Grantees will adhere to the highest standards of child protection policies that simultaneously safeguard children’s rights, recognizing that protection and empowerment can co-exist.”
When prospective grantees apply for a grant from the Girls First Fund we ask them: “How do you ensure that girls and other children you may work with are safeguarded and protected from harm when participating in your programs and activities? Please describe your approach to child protection and safeguarding, as well as any policies or procedures you have in place.”
We are committed to working with grantees to assist with drafting and implementing a Child Safeguarding and Protection Policy if they do not have one. Where a grantee already has such a policy we will assess it against our Policy Checklist to ensure that it is adequate, and we will help to improve it (if necessary), and will advise on implementation. We will have regular and open dialogue with grantees regarding child protection and safeguarding.
In the event that a grantee becomes aware of a concern regarding the protection or safeguarding of any child, or disclosure of abuse is reported to a grantee, the grantee will address it in accordance with its own child safeguarding or protection policy and national laws. In addition, the grantee must advise the local Girls First Fund Program Advisor and U.S. personnel of concerns or disclosures of abuse related to the grantee’s staff, board members (trustees), or volunteers, within 3 days of the knowledge of the concern or disclosure. Grantees are expected to provide regular updates to the Girls First Fund as to the status of any investigation and the outcome of the process.
Beyond grantees – all formal/contractual relationships between the Girls First Fund and partners, individuals, groups or organizations where the latter may come into contact with children must include agreement on the rules contained within the Child Safeguarding and Protection Policy.
- Safe recruitment
The Girls First Fund recognizes that rigorous recruitment procedures that underline the importance of child protection can act as a deterrent to those wanting to harm children and help identify individuals who may pose a risk to children.
- All advertisements for positions at the Girls First Fund will include details of the Girls First Fund’s commitment to child protection. For example, “The Girls First Fund is committed to safeguarding children and does not employ staff whose background is not suitable for working with children. All employment is conditional upon the successful completion of all applicable background checks.”
- All roles will be assessed for the level of contact with children and details of that included in the job description.
- Interviews will include child protection questions relevant to the role and discussion of any gaps in employment.
- At least 2 references will be taken for successful candidates.
- Criminal record checks will be undertaken according to the procedure in the Program country of the candidate, prior to the candidate starting work with the Girls First Fund. Criminal record checks will be undertaken for consultants and vendors as relevant.
- All employees will be asked to sign a declaration indicating that they have read, understood and will abide by the Girls First Fund’s Child Safeguarding and Protection Policy and have never been subject to prosecution for acts in contravention of the policy.
- Behavior protocols/code of conduct
Everyone who works with the Girls First Fund, including grantee partners, donors, journalists, supporters and others visiting programs supported by the Girls First Fund, has a responsibility to ensure that children are protected. The level of responsibility will vary based on the level of involvement of a person or organization having contact with children. For instance, grantees are held to a higher standard since they have routine contact with children. Visitors, journalists and others with only occasional contact with children have less involvement, and therefore will have responsibility under this Policy. Visitors, journalists and others would, for instance, be expected to notify GFF and others if they see or become aware of circumstances that may violate this Policy.
Girls First Fund staff, representatives and grantee partners must:
- Always treat children in a manner that is respectful of their rights, integrity and dignity, considers their best interests and does not expose them to, or place them at risk of, harm.
- Report concerns that a child is a victim of child abuse or sexual exploitation immediately, in accordance with this policy and local procedures.
- Respond to a child who may have been abused/exploited in accordance with this policy and local procedures and in accordance with the child’s best interests and safety.
- Cooperate fully and confidentially in any investigation of concerns and/or allegations of child abuse.
- Identify and avoid potential situations that may lead to staff behavior being misinterpreted, such as spending excessive time alone with a child and physically handling a child, perhaps to offer comfort.
- Undertake induction on this policy as relevant and appropriate to their position.
Girls First Fund staff, representatives and grantee partners must never:
- Abuse and/or exploit a child or act in any way that places a child at risk of harm.
- Have sexual intercourse, or engage in any sexual activity with anyone under 18 years of age, regardless of the age of consent locally.
- Have a child/children involved in a Girls First Fund program or Girls First Fund activities stay overnight at their home (unless necessary and previously agreed with managers that this is for the safety of the child).
- Sleep in the same room as a child/children involved in a Girls First Fund program or Girls First Fund activities.
- Act in ways intended to shame, humiliate, belittle or degrade children, or otherwise perpetrate any form of emotional abuse.
- Do things for children of a personal nature, which they are capable of doing themselves.
- Ask for or accept personal contact details (including social media addresses, Skype details, email, phone numbers) from any child or family supported through Girls First Fund programs or engaged in Girls First Fund activities unless this has been explicitly authorized for business purpose.
- Make any intentional, non-Program related contact with a child or family members associated with the Girls First Fund’s work unless this has been explicitly authorized by your Organization or the Girls First Fund for business purposes. Such contact may include but is not limited to visits and any form of communication via social media, emails and letters.
- Communications and social media
All Girls First Fund communications, including through traditional and social media, are based on the principle of respect for the dignity of people concerned. The Girls First Fund actively supports the empowerment of children, parents and supporters to understand how to safely and appropriately utilize traditional and social media and digital technology, while avoiding risks and appropriately responding to threats.
In all of our communications we:
- Ensure that images of children, such as photographs and videos, are respectful, that the children are adequately clothed, and that sexually suggestive poses are avoided.
- Ensure that no personal data or sensitive information about any individual child that could compromise their care or protection is disclosed in publications or other materials, including surnames or any specific location details.
- Use images, messages and case studies only with the full understanding and permission of the subject themselves (parents/guardians/caregiver where applicable).
- Ensure those whose situation is being represented have the opportunity to communicate their stories themselves.
- Establish and record whether the subjects wish to be named or identified and always act accordingly.
- Never disclose, or support disclosure of, information that identifies the full name and exact location of children supported through Girls First Fund grants.
- Prior to travel, ensure that photographers, filmmakers and journalists receive clear ‘Terms of Reference’, a child protection briefing, sign a declaration stating they have read and will abide by the Girls First Fund Child Safeguarding and Protection Policy.
- Ensure that photographers, filmmakers and journalists are supervised by staff, consultants, or partners (who are aware of the Girls First Fund Child Safeguarding and Protection Policy) during visits to Girls First Fund programs.
- Explain what the images, messages and case studies will be used for to the subject, and ensure that they are used in the context understood and agreed upon by the subject.
- Involvement of children in Girls First Fund activities
The Girls First Fund works to empower children and young people and to minimize any risk of harm or negative consequence resulting from participation in activities promoted by the Girls First Fund. Engagement in Girls First Fund activities by children is voluntary and inclusive and based on a consideration of best interests of the child.
- The Girls First Fund and/or grantee partners, as applicable, will undertake to assess the safety and appropriateness of children’s participation in particular activities conducted by the grantee partner (or directly by the Girls First Fund), prior to any involvement of the children in a Girls First Fund or grantee supported activity.
- Both children and parents/caregivers will be provided with sufficient information and time to make informed decisions regarding participation, including due consideration of risks that could be associated with the activity.
- Any individuals/organizations that are going to provide services to children during their participation or be involved in activities or events with the children will be asked to abide by the behavioral protocols outlined here and to comply with the Child Safeguarding and Protection Policy.
- On trips away from home, two adults must always be present if a child’s room is visited at any time and the door should always be left open during the visit.
- Responsibilities, implementation and review
- The Fund Director for the Girls First Fund, or an appointee, has overall responsibility for the Girls First Fund Child Safeguarding and Protection Policy and must ensure that it is reviewed and updated every 2 years.
- The Fund Director for the Girls First Fund, in consultation with functional area leads, are responsible for determining implementation policy and practice, and ensuring adherence to this Policy by staff and consultants.
- Functional area leads, and their direct reports, are responsible for the day-to-day operation of the child protection procedures in accordance with this Policy.
- All line managers must ensure that Girls First Fund staff and consultants that have reported child protection concerns (or who are accused of child abuse) are given appropriate care, support and protection in dealing with all aspects of the case, including any safety concerns and potential reprisals which may arise.
- All Girls First Fund staff, consultants, representatives and grantee partners should be aware, through this Policy document, of their responsibilities and duty of care to ensure child abuse is prevented.
- Breaches of this Policy and failure to comply with these responsibilities may incur the following sanctions:
- For Girls First Fund staff, consultants, and representatives – disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal or termination of contract.
- For Girls First Fund partners – up to and including termination of all relations, including grant, contractual and partnership agreements with the Girls First Fund.
- Where relevant – appropriate legal action.
- Reporting concerns
- All Girls First Fund staff, consultants, and representatives, as well as grantee partners, must report concerns, including both specific and unconfirmed concerns regarding child abuse or sexual exploitation, in the following way and according to clause 6.3, depending on what type of individual is involved:
- If the subject of the report is a member of staff, a representative, a visitor, or a partner organization staff member, any concerns should be reported if they may have breached the Child Safeguarding and Protection Policy, including if they allegedly have carried out abuse of a child.
- If the subject is a member of a community visited by a Girls First Fund staff member or representative, or a member of an organization or institution which is not a partner, any concerns should be reported that a child has been sexually abused or exploited by that person or a child has been the subject of non-‐sexual abuse by that person.
- The staff member, consultant or representative, as well as grantee partners, should use best efforts to report any concerns within 24 hours. This should be done in line with the procedures detailed here. Where it is not possible to report concerns within 24 hours, the report should be made as soon as possible.
- Girls First Fund staff, consultants or representatives, as well as grantee partners, should report concerns directly to their line manager or other appropriate person at the GFF. If this is not possible they should report directly to the Girls First Fund’s Fund Director.
- All concerns/incidents should be documented on paper as soon as possible and within a maximum of 48 hours. These reports must be kept confidential to the maximum extent possible. Reports can also be submitted to the GFF Fund Director or Appointee via email at an address that will be stipulated on the website and communicated to all grantees.
- Appropriate action must be instigated by the person to whom the concern is reported, including, for instance, investigation, seeking further information, disciplinary action and reporting to the relevant government authorities where appropriate.
- The first priority of any person to whom child-safeguarding concerns are reported must be the immediate safety and welfare of the child.
- The Girls First Fund will endeavor ensure the interests of anyone reporting such concerns are properly protected and all reports made in good faith will be viewed as evidence of the individual’s concern for the best interest of the child and the organization.