CARE Secretary General: Statement on Sexual Abuse

UPDATED on 21st February

CARE works hard to empower women, engage men and boys to promote gender equality, and prevent gender based violence. We have powerful programmes and advocacy campaigns to advance these causes all over the world. 

As an organisation that champions the rights of women and girls, CARE recognises the particular responsibility we have to protect people we work with from sexual abuse and exploitation. Such abuse, of anyone, by any of our staff, is totally unacceptable. While it makes us angry, we accept that no organisation is immune from a minority of individuals who abuse their position. Therefore, we have clear policies to investigate allegations, support victims and discipline perpetrators. 

We work in some of the most difficult situations, with some of the world’s most vulnerable people. We must do everything we can to ensure they are kept safe, and free from sexual violence or harassment, and that their vulnerability is not exploited in any way.   

  • Protecting beneficiaries, volunteers and staff: Last year, we updated our global policy on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and Child Protection. This explicitly outlines unacceptable behaviour, and what we will do to investigate allegations, support victims and discipline perpetrators, including referring them to the relevant authorities. 
  • Encouraging reporting: We know people are sometimes reluctant to report abuse or harassment. So we are focused and committed to creating a working environment at CARE where people feel safe to come forward with sexual harassment claims. We take reports extremely seriously and protect witnesses as well as victims. Reprisals against people for reporting are a breach of our code of conduct, but we also provide an anonymous ethics line which staff and anyone outside the organisation can use. 
  • Improving cooperation: CARE offices around the world aren’t just working together to enhance our own procedures -- we are collaborating  with colleagues across the international development sector, to make sure we have effective, simple and legal systems to prevent perpetrators of sexual violence from being re-employed. 
  • Increasing transparency: We recognise the importance of transparency in our sector, and have released our figures as a confederation for the first time. In 2017, CARE had more than 9,000 staff in more than 90 countries. We collected figures in two separate categories: (1) sexual abuse and exploitation of community members and (2) sexual harassment within the organisation.
    • CARE received 13 sexual abuse or exploitation reports in 2017, of which eight were substantiated. Seven of those eight staff were dismissed as a result and one resigned.
    • In the second category, CARE received reports of 15 cases of sexual harassment within the organisation, of which eight were substantiated. Of those eight staff members: four were dismissed as a result; two contracts were not renewed; and the remaining two staff members received a warning and one no longer works for CARE.

The world is waking up to the scale of sexual harassment and abuse. We must all come together to change this so that women and girls in particular can live a life free from violence. 

A new global law through an ILO convention will push employers and governments to better prevent and remedy violence and harassment across all industries, including charities. That’s why we ask everyone interested in women’s rights and in workers’ rights to support the ILO Convention so that we can take this moment and turn it into real progress.

Thank you to our supporters and partners for ensuring we reach the most vulnerable people in the world with our lifesaving and life-improving work. We are always working to improve. We will continue with our mission of saving lives, defeating poverty and achieving social justice.

- Laurie Lee, Interim Secretary General at CARE International, CEO of CARE International UK

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