Taking Stock of Safeguarding efforts in the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar

by JCAM Communications

Twenty four Child Protection Officers (CPOs) from formation houses, provinces and regions gathered in Nairobi, Kenya for a three-day workshop from Sep 5-8, 2019. This forum is the first of 2019 and follows a Baseline Study conducted from June to September 2018. In the morning of the first day, participants made introductions followed by a welcome message from the JCAM President Fr Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator SJ emphasizing the commitment of JCAM in supporting the CPOs to fully implement the Conference-wide five-year programme.

Achievements realized in the last two years were highlighted and the president expressed his appreciation for the work done and sacrifices made by the CPOs. Participants were also reminded that the Conference has a Child Protection Commission made of six members, tasked with planning and coordinating the safeguarding efforts across Africa and Madagascar. A new member Ms. Beatrice Mumbi was also introduced. Her role will be to coordinate the Conference Safeguarding Program, provide training and support to all CPOs.

The workshop was divided into six parts namely: presentation of activity reports, introduction of the JCAM Mobile App (available on Google Playstore and App Store), review of the JCAM Training Kit, JCAM’s expectations of CPOs, Harvard e-learning course on Child Protection, and a discussion; An African theology colloquium based on an article written by Fr. Orobator SJ Between Ecclesiology and Ethics: Promoting a Culture of Protection and Care in Church and Society.

On the first day, participants presented their activity reports describing what activities they had managed to carry out since the last meeting in 2018, as well as the challenges they faced. There was a rich variety of activities presented: the development of policies, the dissemination of the policies to various stakeholders, and the training and mounting of academic programs. It was encouraging to see that some formation houses, provinces, and regions have extended the training of safeguarding and child protection beyond the Society of Jesus in Africa and Madagascar to other groups such as other congregations, schools and even local Bishops. Common challenges raised included aspects such as language barrier especially in areas where the CPO did not speak any of the local languages, huge geographical coverage, and limited resources. The lack of proper handing over was also cited as a reason some new CPOs were not able to provide activity reports. At the end of this session, the workshop participants discussed highlights and best practices that emerged from the reports presented. The second session of the first day was based on the JCAM Safeguarding Mobile App. The first of its kind in the Society of Jesus. It was developed mainly as a tool for information sharing for CPOs and has several functionalities. All those present were able to download the App onto their phones, with a developer present to offer assistance on the application.


Fr Zoundi SJ (right) interacts with the mobile app 

The second day culminated the review of the JCAM Training Kit in the morning hours. Ms. Isabel de Bruno Cardoso, a Consultant who developed the Kit gave a presentation on the kit and sought feedback from the CPOs who had, had, the opportunity to use it. The Kit is available in both English and French in the JCAM App. CPOs were encouraged to make use of it while adapting it to their local contexts. They were also encouraged to identify resource persons and materials that can help them in their work.


Ms. Isabel de Bruno Cardoso keenly listening to feedback from CPOs on the Training Kit


In the afternoon, three CPOs presented on their experience on the available online courses on safeguarding, having undertaken the Harvard e-learning course on Child Protection. According to the three CPOs, the course provided useful learning materials that other CPOs could draw on to carry out their training in the formation houses, provinces, and regions. Topics covered in the course include Every Child’s Right to Protection, Violence Against Children, Children and the Law and A system’s Approach to Child Protection. They encouraged others to embrace the online course available at Harvard University.

The third, and last day of the workshop was a Colloquium on the article Between Ecclesiology and Ethics: Promoting a Culture of Protection and Care in Church and Society by Fr. Fr Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator SJ

The article brought into focus the reasons for promoting safeguarding; it is not just reacting as safeguarding comes from the depth of faith, whether any child is abused or not. Jesus’ perspective was a call for the church to put children in its midst. The discussion was carried out addressing eight questions in 4 small groups followed by presentations in plenary. Both sessions provided a deeper insight into the topic of the article and participants gave ideas on areas that could be expanded to enrich the article.


Participants share in group sessions