New ACT Safeguarding Community of Practice: Interview with the Co-Chairs

The new ACT Safeguarding Communities of Practice (CoP) was launched in early 2021. Co-chairs are Ms. Anne Fitzpatrick (ALWS, Australia) and Ms. Asma Shehzad (CWSA, Pakistan). We asked them about their plans for the CoP, their personal motivation and possibility of a regional CoP on Safeguarding.  

Congratulations for your new position, Anne and Asma! Can you tell us why safeguarding is an important topic to you personally and why it was good that the CoP was expanded from Child Safeguarding to Safeguarding in general?

Anne Fitzpatrick (AF): Here in Australia, there has been a government-led Royal Commission into institutional child sexual abuse. It uncovered a terrible amount of child abuse, both historically and in present day, that has happened through the actions and inactions of institutions and organisations. This has been an eye opener for me and many others to what can happen to children in organisational settings. It’s so important we all do everything we can to minimise the risks we may be creating in our work to children and other vulnerable people, and of course make sure we have ways of finding out if anyone is being abused by our personnel or due to our activities. There is a lot of cross-over between Child Safeguarding, PSEA and how they link with HR systems, complaints mechanisms, Code of Conduct etc, so it makes good sense to have a broader CoP for Safeguarding, instead of just Child Safeguarding.

Asma Shehzad (AS): In short, Safeguarding is a broader term which covers all aspects related to harm, abuse, neglect or sexual exploitation. Safeguarding is a tool of guidance which states that every person should live their lives without harm, no matter the age, gender, ethnicity or religion. It’s vital that every vulnerable child and adult is kept safe.

Do you have regional priorities for Asia and the Pacific?

AS: In Asia, Safeguarding is one of the most important topics of discussion nowadays, organizations are connecting globally to discuss further on safeguarding, its implementation, experience sharing and how to add good practices in their current context.

AF: In the PANZ Forum, we have already been working on Safeguarding a lot internally, and are really keen to connect more with the Alliance and global networks on prevention of sexual exploitation; abuse and harassment (PSEAH) and Child Safeguarding particularly.

Concerning the workplan, can you please tell us whether the priorities in Asia and the Pacific are different from the other regions, so that a compromise needs to be found?

For the workplan, we are planning 5 “streams” – peer support for members; technical/expert presentations for CoP members but also other interested ACT members; resource sharing; Alliance-focused engagement and action; discreet projects; and, linking and coordinating with external networks. So far priorities are somehow same, further with a help of upcoming meetings we can more evaluate the priorities from discussions.

Members who are interested in the CoP can still join, registering on the website. What’s your message to the members in Asia and the Pacific?

We have a very strong representation from the Asia/Pacific and Europe regions already (well done Asia Region!). We are hoping to gain more members form the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and Africa. However, we are also happy to have more expressions of interest from members in Asia Pacific.

Is there a plan to set up a regional CoP on Safeguarding?

It all depends upon the feedback, interest and willingness from the members in upcoming future meetings with them. If we received any request from any of the members regarding establishment of Regional CoP, we would definitely consider it and discuss it within our core team.

What’s your message to members in Asia and the Pacific?

AF: We hope this CoP will be a great resource to all ACT Members in Asia and the Pacific. Even if there is no member from your agency, I hope the CoP can do a good job of sharing and developing resources and providing guidance on good Safeguarding practice to all of your agencies.

AS: The main objective for this CoP is to gain knowledge, share learning, best practice and develop competence amongst ACT members in safeguarding.

Thank you for the interview!

35 nominees (28 members, 7 observers) are part of the CoP from Asia, Africa, MENA and Europe. If you are interested in joining the CoP, kindly register here. For more information please contact the co-chairs Anne Fitzpatrick or Asma Shehzad.