As an organization that is committed to safeguarding the well-being of children and upholding the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Basmeh & Zeitooneh maintains a zero-tolerance policy on child abuse. Child protection is a term we use to describe the responsibilities and activities we undertake to stop or prevent a child from being mistreated or abused. Everyone within the organization plays a role and has a responsibility to protect children and, therefore, staff and volunteers are required to follow all the guidelines and processes set forth in this policy.
“Those involved in humanitarian response take steps to avoid or minimize any adverse effects of their interventions, in particular the risk of exposing people to increased danger or abuse of their rights.”
(The Sphere Handbook, Protection Principles, Principle 1)
Basmeh & Zeitooneh’s Definition and Approach to Child Protection
This policy aims to ensure Basmeh & Zeitooneh (B&Z) is a safe and child-friendly environment by establishing guidelines that protect children’s wellbeing. Further, it serves as a framework of principles, standards, and guidelines, upon which organizational and individual practices are based. This includes disciplinary measures, safety measures, and ways of dealing with confidential information related to children.
To ensure compliance with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) guidelines, Core Humanitarian Standards (CHS), and the Protection Principles according to the Sphere Handbook, the following must be adhered to:
- Do No Harm (avoiding exposing people to further harm and protecting them from psychological and physical harm, and exploitation);
- Impartiality and non-discrimination;
- Child’s best interest;
- Assisting affected populations with rights claims, access to remedies and recovery (Sphere Protection Principles, Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response)
Child Protection within Basmeh & Zeitooneh
- The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child refers to a child as a person below the age of 18. The Lebanese law adopts the same definition of the child adopted by the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). For the purpose of civil obligations and contracts, a child is any person who has not yet reached the age of eighteen.
- ‘Abuse’ is defined as any kind of harm inflicted on a child, including, but not limited to, physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect, maltreatment, or exploitation, including sexual abuse. (Paragraph 1, Article 19, Convention on the Rights of the Child).
- ‘Direct contact’ with children refers to close physical presence with a child within the work of the organization. This includes working with children during educational or recreational activities, or during psychological, social, and legal follow-up.
- ‘Indirect contact’ with children refers to the ability to access information about children, such as names, addresses, telephone numbers of parents and caregivers, their files, or their photographs.
Basic Principles of the Rights of the Child
- Best interest of the child: Refers to the protection of children from risks to their health, growth, development, social relationships, or future, by taking into account their psychological, emotional, material, and social needs.
- Right to life and development: This includes the promotion of the child’s well-being and the strengthening of his/her personal identity, through education, sporting, artistic, and cultural activities, among others.
- Non-discrimination: This ensures equal opportunities for all children in any activity, without discriminating on the grounds of gender, color, race, nationality, religion, age, disability, sexuality, physical features, or political beliefs.
Commitment to Child Safeguarding
The management of Basmeh & Zeitooneh takes all matters related to child protection and deals with them as critical. As a collective body, the management shares the responsibility for the implementation of measures that foster the rights of children and their development.
The contents of this policy are valid from the date of circulation and are applicable to all staff members at Basmeh & Zeitooneh, especially those that work directly with children, including but not limited to the following:
- Management staff;
- Volunteers, in particular, those working with children;
- Teachers at the Learning Center and Vocational Training Institute, Nursery staff;
- Social workers and counselors;
- Facilitators and trainers;
- Photographers and journalists
Accountability and duty to report
In the event of an allegation against a specific individual by a reliable source, the work of that individual is suspended (his/her wage is fully paid if appropriate), until finding out the outcome of the independent investigation about the case. Disciplinary and other measures may include submitting a report to the police, including disciplinary actions taken within the organization, ranging from warnings to firing. It is imperative to ensure the right of the staff member to challenge the result of the investigation process through an appeal process if the decision is discordant with the facts at hand.
If an alleged case of sexual exploitation and abuse is verified by the investigation, the staff member is at risk of termination and possible legal prosecution. Similarly, if a staff member is aware of any form of abuse or sexual exploitation that is taking place within B&Z and fail to report it, disciplinary measures will be taken against him or her. All staff members have a mandatory duty to report any suspected incident of exploitation or abuse of a child. Failure to report such matters may result in disciplinary action. The reporting steps and the internal case management system (Figures 1 and 2) include steps to guide the reporting process of suspected abuse.
Responding to reports or allegations
Where necessary and possible, B&Z will take appropriate action without the risk of further harm to any of the individuals involved in the matter. Each reported incident will be examined in accordance with best practices and child protection minimum standards. All staff members have a duty to report any suspected incident immediately. It is not, however, the role of an individual staff member to investigate any incident beyond the need to ensure the accuracy of reporting for the purpose of supporting decision-making regarding the next steps to be taken.
Case management of reports or allegations
With the support of relevant staff members at B&Z HQ, the CP focal point will take investigative action as per the below diagrams:
Basmeh & Zeitooneh aims to strengthen the child protection system at the community level, by building on existing capacities and cultural practices. This enables communities to become more aware of threats and barriers to implementing child protection systems. The approach also supports the creation of mechanisms and systems that protect children from abuse, neglect, exploitation, and other forms of violence. The model consolidates the protective environment for children and empowers boys and girls with knowledge that heightens their well-being, assists them in reaching their full potential, and fulfilling their rights to protection.
All research initiatives within Basmeh & Zeitooneh are conducted with consent from participants. Advocacy material is developed in line with the content of this policy.
All applicants are expected to comply with Basmeh & Zeitooneh's child protection policy. This includes:
- Signing a personal declaration stating any criminal convictions, including spent convictions.
- Providing the name and contact information of two references they have known for no less than two years, excluding family members.
Successful candidates will be expected to comply with the following as a condition of employment:
- Both acceptance of and commitment to our Child Protection Policy and Code of Conduct for working with children.
- Satisfactory security clearance where applicable and possible.
*Refer to the safeguarding policy for a more detailed procedure
Effective Communication with the community
To ensure that concerned community members’ rights are upheld and to ensure an objective response to the community’s needs, children should be made aware that there is a staff member they can talk to if they feel uncomfortable about anything.
As far as possible, children should be able to give their own accounts, rather than have people speak on their behalf. This is facilitated through:
- Making sense of the child’s view of the situation, maintaining an openness to the child’s view
- Making sure that the child is given information regarding the whole process
- Refraining from making promises
- Listening carefully and calmly
Staff members as well as community members are encouraged to immediately express their concerns to the Protection Department at Basmeh & Zeitooneh in order to take all necessary measures depending on each case. Disciplinary measures and other actions that might include report writing to partner agencies or organizations involved in Child Protection activities. Disciplinary actions are taken internally namely warnings or even termination of contract.
Roles and responsibilities
It is the responsibility of all employees at Basmeh & Zeitooneh to participate in safeguarding children’s physical and emotional well-being.
All staff members
To ensure that the Policy is implemented and that safeguarding best practice in terms of prevention and response is incorporated into their work.
To ensure that staff is supported and systems and procedures exist to implement standards and monitor/report CP risks.
To ensure that the recruitment of employees is in line with the current HR procedures and safeguarding measures and that all new staff have read, understood, and signed the Policy as part of induction.
Protection Unit Staff
To promote awareness and good practice in preventing exploitation and abuse of children perpetrated by staff, volunteers, consultants, and partners in the course of their work and to be the first point of contact in relation to safeguarding issues.
To ensure that the country office and project locations have systems and procedures in place in line with the Policy to prevent and respond to issues or complaints.
Table 1: Roles and responsibilities of staff members within Basmeh & Zeitooneh
Sensitivity in relation to activities with children on child protection issues
All activities involving children’s participation in relation to child protection issues must be handled with great sensitivity. Children’s participation should be informed and voluntary, and children should be aware of what they are being asked to do and they should not be forced to do anything they do not wish to. Children should be made aware that they can stop participating in an activity at any point and that there is someone they can talk to if they feel uncomfortable about anything. Staff members facilitating the activity and children involved in the activity should mutually agree that discussions that include personal stories should not be shared outside the discussion room.
Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (PSEA)
Sexual exploitation and sexual abuse by staff and related personnel constitute acts of serious misconduct and are therefore grounds for disciplinary measures, including dismissal. Behavior considered as misconduct and is prohibited includes, but is not limited to:
- Sexual activity with children (persons under the age of 18) regardless of the age of majority or age of consent locally.
- Exchange of money, employment, goods or services for sex, including sexual favors or other forms of humiliating, degrading or exploitive behavior. This includes an exchange of assistance that is due to participants.
Where staff members develop concerns or suspicions regarding sexual exploitation or sexual abuse by a fellow worker, he/she must report such concerns via the established reporting mechanism (Figure 2, Internal Case Management System). Staff members are required to create and maintain an environment that prevents sexual exploitation.
In the event of an allegation against a specific individual by a reliable source, the work of that individual is suspended (his/her wage is fully paid if appropriate), until finding out the outcome of the independent investigation about the case.
Disciplinary and other measures may include disciplinary actions taken within the organization, ranging from warnings to firing. If the investigation leads to a "controversial" decision, it is imperative to ensure the ability to challenge the decision through an appeal process. If the alleged case of PSEA is verified by the investigation, the staff member is at risk of termination and possible legal prosecution.
Guiding principles of working with children: Behavior protocol
While we trust the critical judgment of our staff and their ability to apply problem-solving skills, it is hereby noted that B&Z is responsible for the safety of all children within the organization’s premises during working hours or agreed activity times previously agreed upon with parents.
The following acts are strictly prohibited and transgression will result in immediate dismissal if proven:
- Disclosing confidential information concerning the children or their family members, without having obtained their written consent, for any purpose other than providing assistance;
- Carrying out any act that endangers the physical safety and psychological well-being of the children;
- Exposing children to any form of violence, manipulation, or exploitation (physical, sexual, emotional);
- Using degrading disciplinary measures, or using humiliating or degrading terms with children either directly or indirectly;
- Physical contact between staff and children is not considered to be strictly within a professional framework;
- All forms of physical, verbal, or psychological violence toward children;
- All forms of discrimination, including that on the basis of gender, color, race, nationality, religion, age, disability, sexuality, physical features or political beliefs.
The following acts are strictly prohibited, and transgression will result in disciplinary measures if proven:
- Being present with a child alone in a closed or isolated space, whether in the Learning Center building or any other building belonging to the organization; the 1:2 rule should be followed, meaning there should always be at least two adults with one child or two children with one adult;
- Being present with a child alone in spaces not mentioned above, during or after working hours, except in cases where written parental consent is provided and it is within the framework of a project in which they are included;
- Remaining alone with a child in the Learning Center, Arts and Cultural Center, Vocational Training Center or any other part of the organization building after the last administrative employee has left;
- Transporting children in private vehicles without approval by the organization and consent by parents;
- Smoking in areas other than assigned locations;
- Offending any religious group or using offensive words in the presence of a child;
- Using threatening language with children;
- Giving gifts to a child or materials not related to the project in which the child is enrolled;
- Accepting any gifts of financial value from a child;
- Discussing personal issues in the presence of a child;
- Discussing a child’s personal matters in front of other children or colleagues, in order to maintain the privacy of the child and his/her family, and the confidentiality of their information;
- Communicating with a child via phone or through any form of social media;
- Taking photos with a child and publishing them on social media without the consent of the child or their parents and outside the project scope;
- Using any disciplinary measure with a child that embarrasses, humiliates, or offends him or her;
- Dismissing children at the end of a school day or activity without informing their parents first and ensuring they have a trusted person to accompany them back home.
Child protection in communication material and fundraising
Within its fundraising and publicity materials, Basmeh & Zeitooneh will sometimes be required to use text and imagery from its projects. In so doing, Basmeh & Zeitooneh recognizes that it has a responsibility to the children that are portrayed and is accountable to them. To this end, Basmeh & Zeitooneh views all children as human beings, who are the subject and receivers of human rights and will respect these rights at all times. In communications about children, the following, therefore, applies:
- Every child has a right to be accurately represented through both words and imagery. The organization’s portrayal of each child must not be manipulated or sensationalized in any way, but provide a balanced depiction of their life and circumstances. Children must be presented as human beings with their own identity and dignity preserved.
- The portrayal of project participants in all material should respect children’s physical and mental integrity, privacy, and dignity and protect children from those who may use information about them to cause them harm.
- The material should always be used to promote a culture that portrays children accurately, emphasizing their role as actors in their own development and that of their peers and communities whilst also acknowledging their vulnerability.
Basmeh & Zeitooneh staff members will avoid the following:
- Language and images that could possibly degrade or victimize or shame children
- Making generalizations that do not accurately reflect the nature of the situation
- Discrimination of any kind
- Taking pictures out of context (e.g. pictures should be accompanied by an explanatory caption where possible and should be relevant to any accompanying text).
- Where children are indeed victims, the preservation of the child’s dignity must, nevertheless, be preserved at all times.
- In images, children should not be depicted in any poses that could be interpreted as sexually provocative.
- Personal and physical information that could be used to identify the location of a child or their family and cause them to be put at risk will not be used on the organization’s website or in any other form of communication for general or public purposes. Where it is necessary to use case studies to highlight the work of Basmeh & Zeitooneh, the names of the children will be changed.
- Permission will always be sought from the children themselves before taking photographs, except under exceptional circumstances, based on the children’s best interests, where this may not be possible or desirable.
- To the greatest extent possible, the organization will acquire informed consent and the permission of the child, their parents or caregivers, before using any image for publicity, fundraising, awareness raising or other purpose. The purpose should be made clear to the consent giver.
- Information about a child/children’s life and photographs of children (including information stored on the PC) should be kept in secure files. Access to these should be limited to those that need to use them during the course of their work.
- Individuals or organizations that request the use of Basmeh & Zeitooneh’s resources, such as photographs, will be required to sign an agreement with the organization as to the proper use of such materials.