Safeguarding the rights of children and young people

The Alliance recently launched a workshop guide for facilitators working with civil society organisations who wish to ensure they are safeguarding the rights of vulnerable children and young people. 

For many staff members, outreach workers and other colleagues, work with 10-18 year olds who are most at risk from HIV is challenging and presents many moral and ethical dilemmas in balancing best interests of a child with existing laws, and balancing protection of children with promoting autonomy of young people to make decisions about their own lives.

“Many programme staff in Alliance Linking Organisations have expressed concerns about the difficulty of providing children with the services they need without being seen as supporting or condoning activities that are criminalised or harmful to the health of children,“ said Kate Iorpenda, senior advisor on children and young people and co-author of the workshop guide.

The need to work more effectively with children and young people is a hot topic at the moment.  Adolescents aged 10–19 are among the people most neglected by the HIV response, and AIDS is the second biggest contributor to adolescent death globally. 

A global effort has started to address this worrying trend, with organisations like UNICEF & UNAIDS launching their All In agenda earlier this year which aims to bring everyone together to stop adolescent deaths, and the US government piloting a new partnership, DREAMS, which aims to reduce new HIV infections in adolescent girls and young women in up to 10 countries.

But for many programme staff and workers working with children and young people under 18 it is extremely difficult to provide targeted services in environments that have restrictive policies around parental consent and age restrictions on services which could present risk to staff, organisations and clients.

LinkUp safeguarding manual original 1This new workshop guide – Safeguarding the rights of children and young people – is designed to sensitise staff and partners about children and adolescent’s rights and protection.  It will help participants:

  • Reflect on the dilemmas they face in their work – the guide includes real examples obtained from our Linking Organisations
  • Understand the importance of safeguarding the rights of vulnerable children and young people
  • Become familiar with tools to help decision-making and safeguarding in programmes with vulnerable children and young people.

As well as activities to facilitate a workshop with staff, and information and resource materials, the authors have produced a set of powerpoint slides to support the workshop.

The guide is important says Georgina Caswell, Regional Programme Advisor for the Link Up project, because "we want young people to be able to access the services and support they want and need. Unfortunately, this isn’t always easy because they are unsure or afraid, or because access is difficult. This tool will help providers to work through these barriers, as well as the laws, beliefs, cultural norms and expectations from the community, in order to support and guide young people in their health and life choices.” 

The guide is an initiative of the Dutch-funded Link Up project, which is currently being implemented by a consortium of partners in Bangladesh, Burundi, Ethiopia, Myanmar and Uganda.  However, the hope is that many other organisations will use it to build their own capacity to understand and recognise the rights of children and adolescents and to provide evidence-based services that protect their health and their right to make choices about their own lives.

Other resources:

Adolescents & HIV: have we taken our eye off the ball?  A blog by Kate Iorpenda, senior advisor on children and young people

Difficult decisions: a tool for care workers. Managing ethical dilemmas when caring for children and families of key populations  A resource published by the Coalition on Children Affected by AIDS

WHO technical briefs on young people from key populations. This is a set of 4 briefs that accompany the Consolidated guidelines on HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for key populations