CARE International places human dignity at the centre of its relief and development work. At the heart of CARE’s efforts to impact poverty and social justice is its engagement with marginalised communities. We also recognise the responsibility we have to promote human dignity and social justice within our own organisation and maintain a safe and respectful workplace. We recognise the importance of organisational culture and accountability in creating a safe and supportive organisation for our staff, our partners and the communities with whom we work.
CARE recognises we have a responsibility to protect people we work with, and who work for us, and we will continuously strive to prevent sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse and child abuse from happening. We take seriously all reports of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse and child abuse.
In 2019, a total of 11,507 people worked for CARE across 100 countries. During this period, CARE received 58 complaints of sexual misconduct allegedly committed by CARE staff or related personnel (i.e. partner staff, consultants, and contractors).
This number is slightly higher than the number of complaints made in 2018 (47) and 2017 (28), indicating that while we know there is still more to be done to prevent sexual misconduct, our strengthened reporting systems and safeguarding mechanisms are contributing to a speak-up culture of confidence and trust.
We collect this data in two separate categories: (1) sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse of programme participants and community members by CARE employees or related personnel; (2) sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse toward CARE staff or related personnel.
(1) 33 of the 58 complaints received were about sexual misconduct towards programme participants or community members, of which 27 were investigated in 2019. Following investigation, 15 were substantiated resulting in 13 employees being dismissed and two warnings.
(2) 25 of the 58 were cases of sexual misconduct of CARE staff toward other CARE colleagues and related personnel, of which 17 were investigated in 2019. Following investigation, 12 were substantiated resulting in eight people being dismissed, three received warnings, and in one case, additional all-staff training on the CARE Protection from Exploitation and Abuse and Child Protection policy was conducted.
Of the remaining 14 complaints, 11 remained open at the end of the reporting period while the investigations proceed, while three complaints were addressed through processes of dialogue and mediation.
Everyone in the communities where CARE works deserves a life free from sexual harassment, exploitation, and abuse. Our global policy on Protection from Sexual Harassment, Exploitation and Abuse and Child Protection explicitly outlines unacceptable behavior, and what we will do to investigate allegations, support people who have experienced sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse, and discipline perpetrators, including referring them to the relevant authorities. CARE also has mechanisms in place to report abuse or harassment of any kind, whether through a hotline (the CARELine) for anonymous complaints or via management, peer and HR structures.
Our focus during 2019 has been to engage as many staff, partners and beneficiaries as possible in training to improve our collective understanding of the PSHEA Policy and its application in our everyday work and life. We are using feedback from these training sessions to update and review the policy itself. In addition, we have been revising our complaints mechanisms to better meet the specific context and circumstances within which people report such issues.
We continue to strive towards building a culture of confidence in reporting a complaint. That the numbers of complaints are increasing year on year is a good sign that our reporting mechanisms are working. We know that we must continue to learn and evolve to ensure that any person involved in CARE’s work is treated with respect and dignity.