Ngozi Okeke has 17 years’ experience in projects funded by United State Agency for International Development, Centre for Disease Control and the European Union, with skills in project management, advocacy, monitoring and evaluation, gender, capacity building for civil society organisations, system strengthening, financial management and quality improvement programming. She is currently the director of programmes with Widows and Orphans Empowerment Organization.
Prior to watching the What is safeguarding? animation by RSH, I confused safeguarding with protection, thinking safeguarding is about protecting beneficiaries from abuse and negligence inherent in the community. The animation helped explain in simple terms what safeguarding really means and the role of non-governmental organisation workers in causing harm, abuse and exploitation to beneficiaries even through our program activities.
There is a scene in the animation where service providers visit communities to provide services, and it shows the consequences that can arise. At this point I realised that the way and manner we provide services to beneficiaries can result in unintended negative consequences.
In implementing programmes, as development workers we focus on achieving programme goals, often without deeply reflecting and conducting risk assessment on whether our approach to service provision has negative effects on the beneficiaries.
I am implementing HIV programmes focusing on providing quality services to children living with HIV. This is to ensure that children are retained in antiretroviral therapy and their viral load remains suppressed.
As part of the programme strategy, we are to keep clients to hospitals close to their places of residence. Therefore, in line with that my organisation transfers these children to hospitals closer to them for drug pick-up to reduce their transportation cost. This we did without consulting their caregivers on why they chose to go too far for drug pick-up.
Knowing the stigma associated with HIV, I realised that there is a reason why caregivers prefer locations further away from their residence.
RSH resources have helped me to understand that we, the service providers can cause harm to our beneficiaries even while trying to help them. I now know better, and this has made me wear a safeguarding lens in the course of implementing programme activities.