April 19, 2018; Third Sector UK
As readers know, NPQ’s Amy Costello has been following the story about sexual abuse and harassment in the aid sector at some length. Her broadcast series on PRI’s The World can be found here. The problem, as described, is longstanding and culturally bound to the work; Helen Evans, the former head of Safeguarding at Oxfam, says the male-centered culture and gender imbalances in the aid sector enable sexual exploitation and abuse.
Evans has told MPs at the House of Commons that they should not depend upon self-regulation in the international aid sector when it comes to the handling of sexual abuse and that an ombudsman should be set up to hear and investigate such reports, specifically in the aid sector. The ombudsman would offer “external security” that would guarantee a proper hearing and action was taken.
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Evans, who worked for Oxfam between 2012 and 2015, had reported in February that she had been warning Oxfam leadership about the levels of abuse committed by Oxfam employees but that there was little action taken. Her office, she added, had been chronically underfunded for the important role it played. Having an ombudsman could better support the role played by internal staff safeguarders.
Oxfam, said Evans, was one organization among a few that had a dedicated safeguarding team. In contrast, many charities would just add this monitoring responsibility onto the jobs of other staff.—Ruth McCambridge