Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Policy


MEDA recognizes our obligation and responsibility to operate in a manner consistent with the fundamental principles of human rights and we are committed to the prevention of and response to sexual exploitation and abuse. MEDA recognises that sexual exploitation and abuse of vulnerable people is a global phenomenon and from our own and others’ experience, it is clear that working in development can entail dealing with these issues. It is vital that sexual exploitation and abuse are not perpetrated or compounded by those who MEDA employs. It is crucial that we all understand the problem of sexual exploitation and abuse and our own role and responsibility in preventing it. Employees need to consider how their sexual conduct might cause serious harm to others and bring MEDA into disrepute.


  • This policy applies to all employees, volunteers, consultants, contractors, representatives and those connected to MEDA. They should ensure their conduct:
  • Is never influenced by personal gain or advantage that results in a risk or detriment to MEDA
  • Does not give rise to suspicion of improper motives
  • Is in keeping with MEDA’s policies and procedures
  • Respects and never violates the rights of vulnerable people
  • Is professional and that they act ethically and in accordance with the MEDA Code of Conduct.


Definitions of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse

MEDA defines the term sexual exploitation as any actual or attempted abuse of a person in a position of vulnerability, differential power or trust for sexual purposes including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the exploitation of someone else. The term sexual abuse means actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force, coercion or under unequal conditions

MEDA has a zero-tolerance stand on exploitative and abusive relationships. We will also not tolerate behaviour that endangers the security of employees or the organisation or brings either into disrepute. It follows, therefore, that employees should have:

  • No sexual contact with children under the age of 18* (mistaken belief of age being no defence)
  • No transactional sexual contact with MEDA beneficiaries, clients or staff of MEDA partners.

MEDA affirms the Six Core Principles adopted by the United Nation’ s Inter- Agency Standing Committee Task Force on Prevention and Response to Sexual exploitation and Abuse and these are referenced at the end of this policy.


As per this Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Policy (PSEA), MEDA will not tolerate sexually abusive or exploitative acts being perpetrated by our employees, contractors, volunteers or anyone associated with the delivery of our programmes. Employees and managers are bound to uphold this policy and to report people or incidents that they believe contravene it. MEDA managers and MEDA corporate leadership have a duty to ensure that allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse are investigated and that appropriate disciplinary measures are taken. MEDA also has a duty to provide appropriate assistance to any victims of sexual exploitation and abuse by our staff.

Our responsibilities

It is the responsibility of our managers, employees and anyone who works with us to report incidences of sexual exploitation and abuse being perpetrated by anyone within MEDA. Managers, in particular, are responsible for creating and maintaining an environment in which employees, volunteers and contractors know what MEDA expects from them and feel able to report any suspicious or inappropriate behaviour.


In line with international standards employees will not have sexual relations with children (defined as under 18 years old) or with clients. Should staff find themselves in such a relationship, or contemplating such a relationship, they must report this to HC for appropriate guidance in the knowledge that this matter will be treated with due discretion. MEDA will review matters to ensure the relationship is truly non-exploitive and consensual.

Our Partners

MEDA is clear that any partnerships we have with others is based on mutual respect for values and beliefs. When MEDA employees assess partner capacity to carry out projects this should include an assessment of the partner’s capacity to meet our requirements in upholding this policy and the MEDA Code of Conduct.

Making a Report

Anyone has the right to make a complaint about the behaviour of those associated with MEDA and its programmes including any inappropriate behaviour of other employees or volunteers according to MEDA’s Code of Conduct and our Whistle-blower Policy. Any manager who suspects inappropriate behaviour should seek advice from their Field Project Manager or local HC representative immediately.

Complaints from people external to MEDA will be dealt with through the local Field Project Manager, with support from the headquarters Project Manager and HC. We recommend that complaints be made within 3 months of an incident taking place. We recognise that this may not always be possible or likely with allegations of such a sensitive nature. An investigation can go ahead no matter how long ago an incident occurred (but obviously the sooner the better) and no matter whether the alleged victim wishes to take an active part.

How to Report Guidelines are included as a reference below.


MEDA will investigate allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse involving MEDA staff and partners in a timely and professional manner and will engage professional investigators or secure investigative expertise as appropriate if needed.

MEDA has procedures for carrying out investigations into allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse. Guidance and support to investigators and those managing investigations is essential and is available from HQ HC.

Investigations are an internal administrative process and would not necessarily therefore involve the police or judiciary. Investigations are carried out so that MEDA can have the best information possible on which to base its decisions concerning employee conduct and consequences thereof.

We might then alert the appropriate authorities if, following an investigation, we judge that:

  • A crime has taken place;
  • Confidentiality can be ensured;
  • The victim is in agreement; and
  • Those associated with the case will not be subject to further abuse, disrespect or violence.

Headquarters investigators are free to handle a case of PSEA without reporting to anyone else in the country office when necessary. MEDA reserves the right to act or not to act on any information provided. The organization is not required to disclose its response or the actions resulting from any information that may be provided or reported. Safety of participants and colleagues will prevail. The intentional misreporting of information is subject to disciplinary action.

Victim Assistance

We will pursue investigations and take appropriate disciplinary procedures. Victims will receive immediate support as necessary, in line with the wishes and needs of the victim and to levels appropriate locally (and to a level deemed acceptable to appropriate professional staff).


Employees who contravene MEDA’s clearly stated expectations of their sexual conduct will be subject to disciplinary action that may result in dismissal. Volunteers will have their relationship with MEDA terminated. Contractors who contravene our expectations will have their contract ended.

Partners must disclose to MEDA if their employees contravene the Prevention of Sexual Abuse and Exploitation policy and the expectations expressed in partnership documentation and must conduct appropriate investigations. Failure to do so may result in funding being withdrawn and their relationship with MEDA may be terminated.

As outlined above (in Investigations), the appropriate authorities, including the police or judiciary may be involved under certain circumstances.

Training and Learning

MEDA will ensure awareness of our corporate PSEA policy and our MEDA code of conduct on orientation for all new and existing staff. Additional training will be implemented as appropriate or as policies are updated.

Corporate Human Capital will keep a record of incident reports from which trends in behaviour, investigation outcomes and problems will be regularly analysed. Regular reporting of incidents to the HQ Sr. Director of Human Capital is obligatory. A regular report of incidents will go to MEDA’s Chief Operations Officer.

Related Reference Documents

Six Core Principles adopted by the United Nation’ s Inter- Agency Standing Committee Task Force on Prevention and Response to Sexual exploitation and Abuse.

  1. Sexual exploitation and abuse by humanitarian workers constitute acts of gross misconduct and are therefore grounds for termination of employment.
  2. Sexual activity with children (persons under the age of 18) is prohibited regardless of the age of majority or age of consent locally. Mistaken belief in the age of a child is not a defense.
  3. Exchange of money, employment, goods or services for sex, including sexual favours or other forms of humiliating, degrading or exploitative behaviour is prohibited. This includes exchange of assistance that is due to clients [beneficiaries].
  4. Sexual relationships between humanitarian workers and beneficiaries are strongly discouraged since they are based on inherently unequal power dynamics. Such relationships undermine the credibility and integrity of humanitarian aid work.
  5. Where a humanitarian worker develops concerns or suspicions regarding sexual abuse or exploitation by a fellow worker, whether in the same agency or not, s/he must report such concerns via established agency reporting mechanisms.
  6. Humanitarian workers are obliged to create and maintain an environment which prevents sexual exploitation and abuse and promotes the implementation of their codes of conduct. Managers at all levels have particular responsibility to support and develop systems which maintain this environment.

How to Report Guidelines

If you have decided to make a report, we ask that you provide your name and contact information so that we may better assess the allegations and follow-up with you in addressing your concerns. If you choose not to provide your name or contact information, you may file your report anonymously, but note that anonymous reports are suspect as they have greater potential for abuse and may be subject to legal limitations. Please be sure to include the following information with your complaint:

  • All facts describing the alleged event, issue, or matter;
  • The name and title of each person involved;
  • Dates, times, frequency, and locations;
  • Facts relevant to urgency; and
  • Documentation, witnesses, or other evidence available to support the allegation, including any laws or policies believed to be breached.

You can use the 5 W’s to help remember what to report: Who, What, When, Where, Why.

Please keep in mind that those who initially read your complaint or investigators may not be familiar with your local context or local laws, so as much detail as you are able to give is helpful.

Where to Report

MEDA encourages all staff members to first speak to their manager or local human resources representative when they have concerns about a policy violation or misconduct, as this is typically the best method for addressing problems and allows the appropriate management to take action.
For suspected or alleged sexual exploitation or abuse, staff are required to report to the local HC Manager or/and the Country Director/Project Manager. All managers who receive such a complaint must notify the VP, People & Culture as soon as possible for guidance and next steps.
In exceptional cases where a person has been discouraged from reporting to their local manager or may fear for his or her job or well-being, the email is available to bypass those normal channels in a confidential manner. All emails sent to this address will be processed by the VP, People & Culture at our Corporate Headquarters in Waterloo, ON.
Those who are external to MEDA (including MEDA’s clients), can raise a concern without fear of retribution by emailing
If the person reporting to you is at risk of immediate harm, danger or threat as a result of MEDA staff or programs, you should work to find an immediate safety solution for the person reporting. Contact the Country Director/Project Manager and/or Security immediately. As soon as possible, this information must be reported to the VP, People & Culture.

Policy approved by Executive Leadership Team, August 15, 2018