A statement from Olly Donnelly, CEO


The recent news about exploitation and misuse of power in the charity sector has shocked and saddened us all.  I feel strongly that collectively we need to respond to these allegations in the right way. The wrong response will only destabilise and threaten the sector, and the people this will hurt are those who are most vulnerable and we are seeking to protect. Oxfam, for example, does fantastic work for over 11.6 million people globally and over 5,000 people work tirelessly on behalf of Oxfam to offer brighter futures to those who are less fortunate. Now the actions of a few threaten to undermine the amazing efforts of the vast majority of honorable and dedicated aid workers. I feel we should be upping our support to allow this wonderful work to continue and to help the aid sector to become more effective and accountable.

At the same time, this has to be a wake-up call for everybody in the charity, humanitarian and development sectors, to be reminded about who we employ, how we employ them and who we are working for – the welfare and safety of our beneficiaries has to be at the forefront of our efforts at all times.

At Shivia here in the UK and also Nirdhan in India, I believe we have set a culture whereby all our staff act in the best interests of our beneficiaries at all times. If for any reason this was not the case they would be required to leave us.  We have never had to dismiss a member of staff for inappropriate behavior. We have a large team of field staff (currently 40) working on the ground in West Bengal.  We call them Livelihood Service Providers or LSPs.  They are responsible for delivering our programmes to thousands of vulnerable people each year.  We take care to recruit field staff who share our values and objectives. They are recruited from the villages where we are working so they understand the culture and real situations of those we are serving.  They do not descend for a small amount of time in a crisis and then leave again – they are embedded in their community, along with their reputation.  Despite this, we recognise that the majority of our beneficiaries are women and that in many cases their husbands have migrated to the cities and other states in search of work. We impress upon our field staff to respect all our beneficiaries and NEVER take advantage of a given situation.  They are reminded at team meetings that at Shivia/Nirdhan there is no tolerance of any behavior pertaining to exploitation of our beneficiaries, sexual or otherwise and under no circumstances must our LSPs exert any pressure on beneficiaries to take up the livelihood services we are offering.

As Chief Executive, I am aware that it is my responsibility to ensure this never happens at Shivia and if I ever come across any untoward behaviour I shall deal with it immediately and with the seriousness it deserves.  Our Head of HR and Livelihoods in India is Chandrani Banerjee. She is directly responsible for reporting anything of this nature to me and has the authority to dismiss any member of our field staff should any such behaviour occur.

Our policies

We have a variety of policies in place (reviewed in 2017) to protect our beneficiaries and lay out the standards of behaviour expected from all staff, trustees and interns/volunteers. These include:

Child Protection Policy

Excerpt: Shivia’s personnel will never engage in any sexual offences against any children or act in any sexually provocative behaviour with children who they come into contact with through our work or allow or engage in inappropriate touching of any kind.  Shivia’s personnel will never engage any child labour or act in violation of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986. (Indian legislation). 

Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults

Protecting adults from any abuse including sexual abuse.

Excerpt: Shivia is committed to supporting the rights of adults at risk to be protected from abuse and to making sure all Shivia Personnel work together, in line with this Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults Policy and act promptly when dealing with allegations or suspicions of abuse. Safeguarding from abuse is the responsibility of everyone. If we have concerns that someone is being abused our loyalty to the Vulnerable Adult comes before anything else.  This Policy is important given that Shivia works with some of the poorest and most Vulnerable Adults in India.

Anti-bribery and Anti-money Laundering Policy

Excerpt: Shivia has a zero tolerance of bribery and money laundering and supports a culture of integrity, ethical conduct, fairness, honesty and openness in pursuit of its charitable objectives.

Whistleblowing Policy

Excerpt: Shivia’s board and management encourage all other trustees and Personnel to report wrongdoing.  All Personnel should feel confident and comfortable about reporting wrongdoing.  Shivia’s trustees and management are committed to protecting and supporting the dignity, wellbeing, career and reputation of anyone reporting wrongdoing.

Volunteers and Intern Policy

Excerpt: Treat everyone you come into contact with dignity and respect, understanding that no form of harassment, bullying or discrimination will be tolerated; Always consider and protect Shivia’s reputation.

Prevention of Sexual Harassment Policy

A policy adopted by Nirdhan in India which is in line with the Indian statute, The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013.

Excerpt: Nirdhan has zero tolerance towards sexual harassment and prohibits any such act constituting sexual harassment.  

In the light of recent events, we have ensured all staff working in India have re-read, understood and signed this policy.

 

We are aware that policies are merely written documents specifying intentions, processes and procedures.  What is of equal if not more importance is establishing the right culture at every level of the organisation. At Shivia, we work hard to set a culture that ensures our field staff and beneficiaries know that any exploitation of any form is unacceptable, even to the extent that our LSPs are not allowed to accept gifts from beneficiaries of the produce from their agricultural enterprises in case this could be interpreted as bribery or exploitation.

In addition, I will be reminding all visitors to our operations, whether Shivia staff, trustees, volunteers or guests, how to behave when they are with us in Kolkata or in the villages and to respect the lives of our beneficiaries as well as anyone we encounter during our time together.

If any supporter of Shivia has any questions regarding our policies, procedures and culture, please do not hesitate to contact me at Olly@Shivia.com

Olly Donnelly

CEO, Shivia

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