Hey World - I am talking to you!

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Shiv Nair is World Vision's Water for Women Program Director and safeguarding subject matter expert, in the midst of COVID-19, he shared his thoughts on this important topic, you can view the original article on LinkedIn.

It was deja vu - with the pandemic forcing us all in lockdown; with the increased talk on family violence; with the increased threat of family violence... I grabbed my laptop and poured it all out: Attention to Safeguarding, Child Protection, Family Violence and Intimate Partner Violence during any Crisis – COVID19 or no COVID19.

I am sure many of you whose first language is French or English may be familiar with the word -‘Déjà vu’. For those who aren’t familiar with the word, it means ‘feeling of having already experienced the present situation’. 

I certainly had déjà vu when various agencies started discussing the possibility of increased family violence at homes in Australia because of enforced lockdowns, compelling most people, (including perpetrators and their victims)  to remain at home.. Acknowledging this is happening based on credible evidence, the Australian PM Scott Morrison, few days ago,  pledged 328 million AUD to address family violence, hereby pumping in much needed resources into a sector that has been stretched to its seams with the increasing number of women (largely) calling in for respite from the increased threat from FV.

My déjà vu was on two accounts.

Firstly, growing up, I experienced excessive violence at home, and I recalled my experiences as described by most Family Violence Practitioners here in the country. 

Secondly, every time we see a humanitarian crisis unfold, and the talk on child protection (CP)  and gender based violence (GBV) magnifies, its Déjà vu, for me, all over again. UN clusters & guidelines on protection are formed and written; INGOs team up, or not, to secure donor funding; and somehow it becomes business as usual.  It is similar to what P. Sainath, an eminent Indian journalist specialising on socio-economic inequalities, wrote in his book ‘Everybody Loves a Good Drought,’ showing how the poor always get reduced to statistics.  

My second déjà vu was not encouraging to me. Any humanitarian crisis that lingers for long loses its appeal. It is like you are binging on Netflix to watch ‘house of cards,’ will lose the interest to watch the same episode again while waiting for the next season.

What is clear to me is that the world has stopped doing enough to address CP and GBV during protracted humanitarian crises and in times when there is no crisis. It's reflected in the dwindling funding on CP & GBV globally. If you look at UNICEF’s funding pie, sector slice wise, it will show Child Protection is about 8% compared to humanitarian slice which is 40%.


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When I joined as Country Director with an international non profit in 2014 in Solomon Islands, there was no Child Protection program in Solomon Islands. What's more curious though that many Australian non-profits do not allocate their unrestricted funding to tackle CP and GBV as a priority. Is this because Australian donors do not want any work on CP & GBV? I believe only market research may help what Australian donors & public want- certainly CP & GBV are not on the list even for child focused organisations.

I also want to draw the readers’ attention to existing acquisition processes within international non-profits. Though integrated programming is in vogue, CP and GBV programming seldom are part of any projects when not in any humanitarian crisis. Scott Morrison’s recent pledge does highlight the support to address family violence in Australian homes. It is clear Australian response to family violence is lopsided, as ongoing response anyway should have been part of day-to-day functioning with or without COVID19. Such a knee jerk reaction (not that it is not needed) believing as if there was no violence before COVID-19 in Australian homes shows the short sightedness of policy makers.

It is vital to develop a long-term coherent response to address CP & GBV irrespective of the crisis we are facing right now or may face in future. The question that remains for acquisition teams in non-profits and their leaders is – do we really want to address CP & GBV issues? I have heard this so many times – yes, but! When one uses “but” it means it is not a priority and will never be a priority. CP & GBV issues are integral part of every programs in health, education, livelihoods, climate change and so on. Donor forced compliance may help to protect donors’ and international non-profits’ corporate image, but it will never tackle CP and GBV holistically and programmatically.  

But the question remains…

It is imperative that child rights professionals within the sector including policy advisors, safeguarding experts and child protection specialists may keep pushing their organisations to prioritise CP & GBV. It will never be mainstreamed unless senior leaders of non-profits inform the wider organisations that it is an issue they want to see tackled in every business process, organisation undertakes and every project, it delivers.

How do we know CP & GBV issues are prioritised by non-profit leaders? I would say how much unrestricted funding goes to addressing CP& GBV issues. How much budget in mainstream projects are allocated to deal with CP & GBV programming? And how much investment has been made to build capacity on CP & GBV within the organisation? If we know these figures and annual turn over of the organisation, we will know how lucid leadership support is on CP & GBV issues – and there is ‘no, but’ really.

A crisis situation should not increase or allocate the budget as it should have been there in the first instance for long-term solutions. We know CP & GBV are wicked problems and need agile, human-centered solutions, driven by leadership’s commitment to seeing it addressed.

We have to start somewhere.

It is important to know existing guidance would have been enough if we had tackled CP & GBV issues holistically. Only difference would have been the context that would determine how we want our programs to be delivered when there is a crisis or when there is no crisis. It does not mean that program will not be delivered if there is no crisis. At the first instance, we need to have intelligent programs to address CP & GBV.

Are we, as international non-profits, ready to take that on CP & GBV– with or without COVID19?

That, my friends, is the $$$ question!


Photo provided by Shiv


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