Experiences of a safeguarding mentor in South Sudan

Headshot of Data Gordon

Data Emmanuel Gordon is a multifaceted professional with over 10 years’ experience in humanitarian work, business and broadcast media. He serves as the Executive Director of Men4Women, an organisation empowering women through empowered men in the areas of Gender-Based Violence (GBV), Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and HIV/sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Currently, Data is a Safeguarding Mentor in South Sudan providing safeguarding mentorship to civil society organisations. Data is committed to see all girls in school, with improved confidence, and reduced GBV rates. He also envisions destigmatising condom use and a reduction of HIV infections.

I joined the humanitarian world in 2015 and had some knowledge on safeguarding. Due to my work experience related to Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) and HIV/sexually transmitted infections, and engaging youth on employment-related concerns, I began to hear issues of Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment (SEAH) happening in the humanitarian and non-humanitarian setting.

For example, a young lady had applied for a position with a leading organisation and after the first written test, she was shortlisted for an oral interview. After the interview, she received two separate calls from two male members of the interview panel. One asked to meet her at 5pm in a hotel to discuss how he can make sure she gets the job, while the other wanted to discuss something regarding the job but promised to suggest an appropriate meeting time and venue.

She reached out to me, and I advised her to get more evidence and then report the issue. However, her aunt didn’t agree with the idea and preferred that the issue is handled at the community meeting since the man who wanted to meet at 5pm was from their community. And that marked the end of that issue.

Fast forward, a friend recommended that I apply for the RSH Safeguarding Mentorship Training in September 2021. I did and was called to attend an intensive training to become a Safeguarding Mentor.

During the training, I learnt about safe programming, which entails that before any project or activity is implemented, you carry out a safeguarding risk assessment and come up with mitigation measures.

I also learnt that as an institution, you need to create secure reporting channels, be it at youth and women-friendly spaces, encouraging verbal reporting, designated email address, phone number and a suggestion box. I also learnt how to use the funnel method of interviewing to get more details and have better understanding of the issue reported; and to differentiate between safeguarding and SGBV.

I was then assigned to mentor 4 civil society organisations in Juba, South Sudan between October 2021 – Feb 2022. I feel empowered to work with these organisations to strengthen their safeguarding systems and environment.

As a mentor, I’ve learnt that most individuals don’t know about safeguarding and most organisations haven’t put in place safeguarding measures. For instance, none of the 4 organisations I’m mentoring have Safeguarding Focal Persons at the Board level (while one does at the management level), none have a Safeguarding Complaints Policy and a policy that protects their data/information and social media use.

It seems that safeguarding policies often end on paper and are not put into practice. With most donors now putting safeguarding as a requirement, it’s now getting more attention though most organisations only highlight it to secure donor funding and less or nothing is implemented. Reporting is also a challenge as many organisations think that once they report a safeguarding issue, donors will eventually pull out.

However, I’m grateful to hear from one of my mentored organisations, Women for Change (WFC), that the mentorship has been of a great impact to them.

Members of Women for Change standing together
Members of Women for Change standing with Data Emmanuel

“WFC now has a Safeguarding Focal Person who’s responsible for providing safeguarding trainings to all staff and volunteers and make sure all staff sign the safeguarding Code of Conduct. WFC has also put in place mechanisms for handling safeguarding issues within the organisation,” – says Faima Sika Duku from Women for Change.

I strongly believe that with continuous engagement, expansion of the mentorship programme to other parts of the country and enhanced reporting, organisations will be able to provide a safe and conducive environment to their employees, volunteers, contractors and the people they serve.

Till then, I remain grateful to the Safeguarding Resource and Support Hub for the opportunity to learn and mentor civil society organisations in South Sudan to provide a safer environment and bring an end to SEAH. I remain focused on achieving this goal with all relevant stakeholders.

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