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Protecting and Safeguarding the Local Community

By Yosra Al-Khairi

Life & Hope Association (LHA) is a non-governmental organization in Gaza, founded in 1996 to contribute to a sustainable society through programs in capacity building, youth empowerment, child development, and economic empowerment for low-income families.

In December 2022, LHA conducted training for local community members in protection and safeguarding through the social cohesion plan of the Investment Programme for Resilience (IPR). It was funded by the Federal Republic of Germany through its KfW Development Bank and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The training emphasized the importance of acquiring knowledge about the safeguarding and protection of the health, wellbeing, and human rights of all social categories, particularly the vulnerable ones, so that adequate measures can be taken to prevent or reduce the risk of violating their rights and dignity.

The primary objective of the training was to equip participants with a solid understanding of how to respond to various forms of abuse, exploitation, and harassment. It covered important topics such as the distinction between safeguarding and protection policies, on the one hand, and codes of conduct, on the other.

Specialized staff called LHA safeguarding focal points have delivered 24 hours of training to 25 business owners and vendors and two hundred beneficiaries of the Cash for Work program.

Safeguarding and protection policies are a set of guidelines and procedures intended to protect individuals, especially those who are vulnerable, from harm, abuse, or exploitation and to ensure that the individuals are treated with respect, dignity, and safety. The code of conduct is a set of rules and standards of behavior that individuals within an organization are expected to follow. It describes the expected ethical standards, legal obligations, and behavior of employees, volunteers, and members of an organization. The purpose of the code of conduct is to protect the organization, its members, and its clients and to preserve the organization’s integrity and reputation. In addition, the trainees were informed of the correct protocol to be followed in the event of abuse or harassment, and of the primary reporting channels.

During the training, farmer participants shared their real-life experiences with protection and safeguarding. Farmer Wael Al-Attar revealed that he had been subjected to exploitation by his employer but did not know about the existence of secure reporting channels. Female farmer Nermin Zaqout shared that she and her colleagues had been through this kind of abuse but did not know that it was called “abuse” and were generally unaware of the proper terminology for different acts.

In one of the training sessions, some of the beneficiaries of the Cash for Work program reported violations resulting from employers’ demands to perform work not specified in the LHA contract. The protection coordinator investigated the complaint, which the employer admitted to, and the issue was resolved. The employer was asked to attend a training session to increase his awareness of safeguarding. He subsequently stated that he had benefited from the presented materials and would distribute the protection policy to others in the workplace.

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