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Child Safeguarding—What does it mean to you?

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Shannette Budhai and Róisín Boyle from Comhlámh recently attended a four-day course in International Child Safeguarding. Shannette reflects on the training.

Last week, over the course of four days, 13 people had the opportunity to attend a certified four-day course in international child safeguarding. The training was expertly delivered by Alex Dressler from Keeping Children Safe.

This was a useful and practical training that equipped the attendees with real knowledge and skills. The course very much drew from the experiences of the people in the room and was interactive and participant-led. Most individuals were from volunteer sending agencies or organisations that work in international development. One participant even travelled from South Africa to attend the training on behalf of her organisation; Serve in Solidarity deserves credit and recognition for facilitating this training for the staff member of their local partner.

The course was comprehensive and covered many topics. Attendees explored the term ‘abuse’ using a moving debate. This methodology helped us understand that the actions that constitute ‘abuse’ can be interpreted with a degree of flexibility depending on life experience, culture and circumstances. However, we all agreed that providing children with a safe and nurturing environment is important to their intellectual, emotional and physical well-being and that there are legal instruments (such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, and children’s rights in Ireland) which we can avail of to help with this mission.

The training also underscored the importance of developing and using key documents to protect children, staff members and the organisation. Documents such as a child safeguarding policy, a code of conduct and risk assessments go a long way in protecting children from abuse, equips staff members with the knowledge of how to act, and protects the organisation if an incident occurs. Furthermore, one cannot underestimate the importance of collaborating with international partners in putting similar protective measures in place. Time was well-spent at the training in outlining the process a volunteer sending agency would use in delivering child-safeguarding training session with local partners.

For each attendee, the learning had very different implications for their organisation. For some, it meant drafting and implementing a child safeguarding policy. For others, it meant further refining their organisation’s existing child protection policy. And for most, it meant assisting their international partners in developing and rolling out child safeguarding measures. For Petunia, the participant coming from South Africa, it meant taking the learning and rolling out a child safeguarding plan with her co-workers at her crèche.

If you missed this training, I would advise you to have a look at the Keeping Children Safe toolkit which is a comprehensive and well-developed resource.

Lastly, Shannette Budhai would like to thank Chris O’Donoghue from Serve in Solidarity for his efforts in organising this training and for inviting the wider Code of Good Practice network to partake in the course. Also, we would like to thank Alex Dressler from Keeping Children Safe for being an excellent facilitator.

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