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SDDirect's work to support safeguarding in aid programming


Keeping the people with whom we work safe – be they children, other at-risk groups or our own staff – is of paramount importance to SDDirect and our partners. Our ambition is to maximise safeguarding risk reduction through robust prevention, whilst recognising that reporting and response will always remain essential aspects of a responsible approach. We are committed to achieving this objective as an organisation, in the programmes that we (co-)deliver, and with our partners around the world.

SDDirect has developed a substantial body of experience in mainstreaming safeguarding into the technical support that we provide across a wide range of sectors and programmes in our core areas of expertise - Gender Based Violence, Governance Voice and Accountability, Inclusive Public Services, Women’s Economic Empowerment, and Security, Justice and Peacebuilding. Safeguarding approaches have numerous synergies with our cross-cutting focus and technical leadership in gender equality and social inclusion, enabling us to pioneer safeguarding across multiple major DFID funded projects in key development sectors including education and infrastructure.

We have provided safeguarding capacity building to numerous partners and programmes, from HQ level to grassroots civil society organisations. We have built safeguards into programme design, established reporting and response mechanisms, and designed monitoring and evaluation approaches to implement and assess our commitments.  We have supported DFID and development delivery partners to understand, identify, address and manage social safeguarding risks at programme and partner level. Through all of this, we have learnt from the people with whom we work and from our direct experience, so that our approach to safeguarding is constantly reviewed and strengthened.

Below is a sample of SDDirect’s recent work in research and implementation of safeguarding approaches.

Development of cutting-edge child safeguarding systems in DFID programming

In our role as Gender Equity and Social Inclusion technical lead on the DFID Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC), SDDirect has led the development of a comprehensive child safeguarding system which is currently a global best practice example of how child safeguarding can be mainstreamed across all teams within a fund manager. The GEC has placed a particular emphasis on two aspects of child safeguarding, namely: 1) holding downstream partners more accountable for having their own safeguarding policies in place, and 2) holding fund recipients accountable for how they fully implement their safeguarding policies across their organisations.

To achieve this, SDDirect’s Child Protection Lead has conducted child safeguarding assessments of close to 200 organisations. The team has used child safeguarding self-audits to assess compliance across all organisations and used the findings to inform contracting, including the addition of special conditions for some projects to improve on certain aspects relating to child safeguarding. Through this work, SDDirect has gained an excellent overview of organisational child safeguarding risks across international and local NGOs.

In addition, SDDirect have developed a new and innovative system for monitoring the implementation of child safeguarding policies on the GEC. Based on Ofsted’s assessment of schools in the UK, SDDirect created a very practical monitoring tool which helps all individuals that travel to project sites to routinely monitor the implementation of a project’s child safeguarding system.

Building capacity and evidence for the social safeguarding of at-risk groups

  • DFID Safeguarding Centre of Excellence

SDDirect have recently carried out a scoping study on behalf of DFID to inform and shape thinking on how best to strengthen safeguarding approaches in DFID programming, assist in deciding whether the establishment of a safeguarding centre of excellence is required or whether the existing international architecture on safeguarding can be adjusted to cover identified gaps. The study considered sector-wide knowledge and capability gaps identified at the 8th March 2018 Safeguarding Summit:

  1. lack of pooled evidence, understanding and guidance about best practice;
  2. lack of safeguarding capacity internationally
  3. weak structures and enforcement capacity for dealing with complaints, investigation and sanctions
  4. weak organisational governance and leadership

 The scoping study cumulated in a final report which details the demand, function and organisational form of an initiative that could address the safeguarding knowledge, capacity and implementation problems raised by the 8th March 2018 summit.

  • Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Helpdesk

Through SDDirect’s Violence Against Women and Girls Helpdesk, we have provided support to DFID’s new Safeguarding Unit, country offices and policy teams to help address sexual exploitation and abuse, and sexual harassment within the international development sector.  Examples of how the VAWG Helpdesk has been helping build DFID’s capacity and evidence on safeguarding include:

  • One-to-one expert advice to DFID staff to help improve safeguarding practices and gender considerations within particular programmes
  • A series of safeguarding workshops with different DFID programme teams to build the capacity of DFID staff to identify, monitor and respond to safeguarding risks in their programmes
  • Reports on the effectiveness of different safeguarding and whistleblowing mechanisms
  • Mapping of global safeguarding standards and initiatives
  • Infographics and other visual tools on the prevalence of sexual exploitation and abuse

Technical assistance on social safeguarding to DFID country offices

SDDirect provide gender and social inclusion expertise to DFID’s Infrastructure and Cities for Economic Development programme (ICED) - a facility designed to accelerate DFID's infrastructure and cities initiatives to contribute to resilient, inclusive and transformative growth. Through this facility we have worked with a range of DFID country offices to provide specific social safeguarding support, as well as ensuring maximum programme impact on gender equality and social inclusion.

Within this portfolio, we are currently providing technical assistance to DFID Rwanda to further strengthen their environmental and social risk management approaches (in line with IFC Performance Standards), and enhance their oversight capacity on safeguards, particularly for infrastructure programmes delivered through partners. The work involves assisting DFID-R with a portfolio assessment of priority risks and gaps, a capacity assessment (in-house and partner specialist skills against key risk areas), and the design of capacity building workshops to address any identified gaps.