Cooperation Canada hosts Digna, the Canadian Centre of expertise on the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA), funded by Global Affairs Canada.
Digna aims to contribute to organizational culture change within the Canadian international cooperation community by providing training, online resources and consultation services for the adoption of gender-responsive best practices with the ultimate goal of preventing sexual exploitation and abuse in operations and partnerships, particularly of women and girls.
Our goal is to help Canadian international development and humanitarian organizations improve their ability to PSEA, including towards their program participants -particularly women and girls. We aim to increase awareness of, access to, and use of gender-responsive policies and good practices to PSEA.
We encourage and want to support organizations of the sector to commit to PSEA, including through the Cooperation Canada Leaders’ Pledge on Preventing and Addressing Sexual Misconduct, adherence to international guidelines and ongoing efforts to adopt good practices that inform policies, procedures and partnerships.
Digna adopts a feminist approach to PSEA training, resources and support are informed by inclusive, intersectional, human-rights based approaches that promote gender equality and aim to improve our collective ability to recognize and tackle power imbalances. Digna values collective co-construction. The Centre delivers on its mandate through feminist partnerships with members of the international development and humanitarian sector, women's rights organizations, survivors and others.
Digna’s website offers access to diverse materials to support the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA) in the international development and humanitarian sector. These include:
- Documents and resources produced by Digna and others
- Database of PSEA resources (coming soon) including:
- Service providers and experts
- PSEA focal points in Canadian organizations
Digna offers virtual and in-person training opportunities to Canadian organizations. These include webinars, online training and in the future, e-learning courses.
In-person opportunities include capacity development workshops and Digna’s annual national conference (which Digna plans to resume once possible in light of the COVID-19 pandemic).
Digna will use alternative approaches, including train the trainer methods and a robust online learning platform, to ensure our capacity building resources and products can be accessible equally to everyone.
Digna actively promotes Cooperation Canada Leaders’ Pledge on Preventing and Addressing Sexual Misconduct as part of the sector’s commitment to PSEA. Signatories are showcased on Cooperation Canada and Digna websites.
Digna continues to compile information on PSEA focal points in Canada’s international development and humanitarian sector. It plans to make this information publicly available through its database and also provides opportunities for peer learning, information sharing and collective action among PSEA focal points. Are you a PSEA focal point for your organization?
Digna will roll out a series of Communities of Practice related to different aspects of PSEA in 2021. Digna’s Communities of Practice are groups of people who share common values and concerns on PSEA and who come together to fulfill both individual and group goals. They aim to share their expertise and best practices to contribute to PSEA in the international cooperation sector. They interact on an ongoing basis, on face-to-face meetings as well as web-based collaborative environments, to communicate, connect and conduct community activities.
Digna is supporting several communities of practice related to PSEA in international cooperation. Over 80 organizational focal points have been identified, and work has been done to engage and connect Executive Directors. In the coming months, Digna will be launching an online portal through this website, providing confidential discussion and networking tools for registered users.
Finally, Digna plays an important role in connecting Canadian organizations with global expertise and initiatives. This includes facilitating learning opportunities with and by global partners and connecting Canadian organizations to international experts where possible.
Digna is not a survivor support centre, and cannot offer intervention, legal advice, or serve as a reporting agency on behalf of survivors. However, our mandate includes examining the feasibility of establishing support services in the future. In addition, Digna has and will continue to produce resources that provide information on support services to both survivors and Canadian organizations. In addition, a list of identified Canadian resources and professionals that can offer support services will be published on this site in the coming months. If you are an individual who can offer these services and wish to be added to the database, please contact us.
We encourage anyone who has experienced or knows of sexual exploitation or abuse in the programming of a Canadian organization to report it through the reporting protocols of that organization.
In April of 2018, Cooperation Canada invited representatives of its diverse membership to form a Steering Committee on the Prevention of and Response to Sexual Misconduct. In its first meetings, the Steering Committee defined its mandate to include supporting the broader development and humanitarian sector in the identification and implementation of best practices and the securing of resources to maintain this work.
In the following months, the Steering Committee authored the “Leaders Pledge” and secured the commitment of more than 100 organizational CEOs to promoting cultures of PSEA within their organizations. It also strengthened connections between the civil society organizations represented by Cooperation Canada and the working group on preventing sexual exploitation within Global Affairs Canada.
In the spring of 2019, Cooperation Canada submitted a proposal to Global Affairs Canada, on behalf of and in collaboration with the Steering Committee, to partner in developing a resource centre to facilitate PSEA coordination across the sector. With the support of Global Affairs Canada, in the fall of 2019, Cooperation Canada started developing Digna.
The word “Digna” is Latin for “worthy.” Digna supports the Canadian international development and humanitarian sector to be worthy of the trust placed in them by Canadian citizens, by our Government and by millions of beneficiaries of Canadian official development assistance around the world.
Our logo represents the diversity there is in the Canadian international development and humanitarian sector. You will notice circles in different sizes and colours. They are all grouped in a wider circle to evoke movement and synergy. There is a space left open – a placeholder for those still to join – an opening to influence beyond our nation and sector, and an acknowledgement that the work is never complete.
Aislynn is a champion of gender equality with a passion for working to make systems and structures more inclusive and effective. Aislynn holds a masters degree in Development Management from the London School of Economics. There, she focused her studies on the gendered dimensions of humanitarian assistance for refugees, specifically SRHR services for Syrian refugees in host countries. Aislynn has worked progressively responsible roles at the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) over the course of 3.5 years, where she contributed to WUSC and CECI’s shared systems and tools to ensure best practices in volunteer cooperation program management and M&E. With her time at Cooperation Canada as Coordinator of the Humanitarian Response Network (HRN) since 2019, she has built on this experience by being the main focal point for the network.
Noelia is an international development professional with a passion for gender equality and the betterment of people’s lives. She has empowered women in Myanmar and helped Syrian refugees integrate effectively in Canada. Noelia brings a wealth of experience in program support, research, communication and website development. She previously worked as program assistant for Cooperation Canada and CASID’s Next Generation for Development Program. She also worked as a gender advisor for Cuso International in Yangon, Myanmar; and earlier on, she worked as a researcher for the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC. Noelia completed a Master’s degree in International Affairs with specialization in International Development Policy at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. She designed and developed Digna’s website.
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Valérie is passionate about human rights and international cooperation. She was initiated to development issues when she first travelled to West Africa in Côte d’Ivoire for a summer program on local governance. Following this experience, she had the opportunity to work as an intern in The Gambia for an NGO specialized in female genital mutilation, which reinforced her passion toward protecting women’s rights. She is currently enrolled in a Master’s degree in Globalization and International Development with a specialization in Feminist and Gender Studies at the University of Ottawa, prior to which she completed a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and International Law at Université du Québec à Montréal.
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Emmanuel earned his first diploma at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) as a software developer. After working a year in that field, he left to go walk the way of St. James across Spain. After that trip, he decided he wanted to go back to University and continue his journey on a different path. After browsing the various programs, International Relations immediately caught his attention. He is currently a MA candidate at University of Ottawa.
Digna's Advisory Committee
The Digna Advisory Committee meets on a quarterly basis to provide support and advice to staff and coordinate the efforts of Digna Working Groups.
Nadia holds the Joint Chair in Women’s Studies at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa. She is also an Associate Professor in the School of International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa, and a member of the Human Rights Research and Education Centre. She holds a DPhil in Geography from the University of Oxford, where she subsequently worked as a Research Fellow at the Refugee Studies Centre. Dr. Abu-Zahra has published on gender justice in colonial and conflict situations, and the implications of geographic (im)mobility for education and health. She also co-facilitates, with Professor Emily Regan Wills, “Community Mobilization in Crisis,” a project that co-creates open educational resources with community mobilizers around the world in multiple languages, and supports the use of the resources transnationally to strengthen communities.
Josephine has lived in Ottawa for the past 20 years and worked abroad (Uganda) for 3 years. She has been working as a social worker for 25 years on various issues in her professional career. Her specialization is gender based violence, racism, addictions, and mental health and housing. She has extensive knowledge on compassion fatigue, self -care and building resilience. Josephine supervised both undergraduate and Masters Students from different post-secondary institutions. She works at a rape crisis center in Ottawa and also has a private practice-mubuntu counselling and consulting services. Josephine is also a mother of 3 and grandmother of two amazing girls.
Mounia Chadi (Co-Chair)
Mounia is a sociologist specializing in gender equality. She holds a doctorate in sociology and a master's degree in economics. She coordinated the Partenariat de lutte contre la violence faite aux femmes immigrées et racisées au Québec project within the Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes (TCRI) and has carried out two community studies on immigrant and racialized women. Mounia has designed tools for working with immigrant and racialized women who are also victims of violence and has facilitated training for the Regroupement des maisons for women victims of domestic violence (RMFVVC). She has also worked as a journalist for 20 years and a playwright-director for the past few years. Mounia received the Art and Culture Prize at the Gala for Arabic Women in Quebec for her literary and social writings about immigrant women. In her home country of Morocco, she was the founder and first president of the Democratic League for Women's Rights.
Jim has served as the executive director of Canadian Foodgrains Bank for the past 22+ years, a partnership of 15 Canadian churches and church-based agencies working together to end global hunger. Canadian Foodgrains Bank funds humanitarian and development programs being implemented through their member agencies and over 100 partners around the world. The Foodgrains Bank has been wrestling with how best to prevent and address sexual exploitation and abuse when working through a network structure.
Tracey worked most recently as the Director of Human Resources with Cuso International in Ottawa. She has worked in the charitable sector for almost 30 years and has a strong understanding of the challenges, opportunities and realities of that sector. Tracey also understands the importance of comprehensive people management policies, procedures to ensure organizational effectiveness and enhance the employee/volunteer experience. She is currently supporting small and medium organizations as an independent consultant. Tracey was Co-Chair of Cooperation Canada’s Steering Committee for the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct and was active on the committee for almost 2 years. She has also served as a member on the Board of Directors for Volunteer Ottawa and as Treasurer and Vice President of the Carlington Community Health Centre. Tracey has an MA in Leadership & Training from Royal Roads University and has been a Certified Human Resources Leader for over 10 years.
Ian Hamilton (Co-Chair)
Ian was appointed Executive Director of Equitas in January 2004. He is responsible for providing leadership in the development and implementation of Equitas’ strategic directions and overall management of the organization’s day-to-day operations. For five years prior to this appointment, Ian was Equitas’ Director of Programs and helped shape the organization’s programming. He joined the Equitas team in 1997 as a Director of the National Institutions Program, responsible for capacity building projects with national human rights commissions, particularly in Asia. Before starting with Equitas, Ian worked for the Coordinating Committee of Human Rights Organizations of Thailand for sixteen months in Bangkok, assisting their campaign for the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission. From 1992 to 1995, Ian worked in a variety of positions including Asia Program Officer at the International Centre for Human Rights and Program Officer for Democratic Development (Rights and Democracy) in Montreal. He graduated from the University of Toronto in 1990 with a Bachelor’s degree in history. In 2016, Ian was appointed to a two-year term on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation.
Aneesha brings over 10 years of varied experience in advocacy, program management, and communications within an international development context. Aneesha’s experience has focused primarily on, community-based programs for youth and refugee programming in the Middle East. She has a keen interest in intercultural communications, corporate social responsibility and digital media. Aneesha began her career as a CIDA International Youth Intern in Amman, Jordan and has lived and worked extensively in the Middle East. She is a graduate from the University of Saskatchewan Edwards School of Business.
Kate is currently the Interim Executive Director of Oxfam Canada. Kate has played a leading role in Oxfam Canada’s work on safeguarding and organizational culture change. Before joining Oxfam Canada, Kate worked at CIVICUS, the North-South Institute, the Overseas Development Institute and AusAID in a number of strategy, policy and research roles focused on inequality, women’s rights and citizen action.
Shannon is the Director of the Policy and Research and Practice division at Cooperation Canada. She has worked at the research-policy nexus in international development for ten years. Prior to joining Cooperation Canada, she built a successful independent consultancy business dedicated to meeting the research and policy analysis needs of Canadian and global civil society organizations, as well as international institutions such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Shannon is also an Adjunct Research Professor at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs and previously worked as a Senior Analyst for the Canadian International Development Platform. Shannon began her career as a researcher at the North-South Institute (NSI). During her time at NSI, Shannon led the development of the organization’s portfolio on the role of the private sector in development, managed policy-oriented research partnerships with organizations in Canada and around the world, and produced numerous reports, peer reviewed publications and commentaries on a range of policy issues. Shannon holds degrees from Carleton University and Wilfrid Laurier University.
Trained as a lawyer and specialized in Conflict Prevention and Resolution, Caroline has acted for more than 15 years as a neutral and impartial third party with various vulnerable populations and contexts. Throughout those experiences, she developed a practical understanding of the community-based approach of mechanisms likely to be fair and create a feeling of justice that will foster the trust of all parties. Through the firm Oméga Ombudservices which she has set up 5 years ago, Caroline notably offers investigation services in psychological harassment and sexual violence to different organizations, putting the parties' sense of justice at the heart of her action.
Ashley is a barrister and solicitor based in Toronto, Ontario. She works as a Research Associate at the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, and as a Consultant with the Thinking Forward Network. She specialises in issues of criminal law and gender-based violence. Ashley articled at the Ministry of the Attorney General, Crown Law Office – Criminal. In 2019, she convocated with an Advanced LL.M in Public International Law, specialising in International Criminal Law, from the University of Leiden, the Netherlands. In addition to her work, Ashley volunteers as an advisory member for the Barbra Schlifer Clinic, the Rights of Non-Status Women's Network, and Digna.
Carrie is the Volunteer Mobilization Manager with Crossroads International. Carrie has been involved in the management of volunteers within international cooperation over the past 15 years, including positions with Canada World Youth, UNITERRA, CECI and EQWIP HUBs. Her passion for volunteer cooperation and belief in its value comes from personal volunteer experiences in Poland, Ecuador, Bolivia and Cuba, as well as professional experiences throughout Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. Her commitment to mitigating and addressing sexual and gender-based violence is rooted in personal and professional experiences that have informed her of the systemic, persistent and global nature of sexual and gender-based violence, as well as in the power of collective work to mitigate and address it. Carrie holds a B.A. in International Development, a B.Ed. in Humanities and a M.A. in Disaster and Emergency Management.
Rameesha is a community organizer and an expert gender consultant who is passionate about protecting women and girls from all forms of violence. She has worked for numerous organizations to mainstream gender equality in programming and developed case studies, policies, procedures, and MHM/SRHR manuals. In Canada she has volunteered with the Canadian Armed Forces to enhance adoption of GBA+ protocols and was a special projects consultant for GlobalMedic implementing sustainable clean water solutions for refugees in Cox’s Bazaar. She has worked as a Gender Equality advisor in the Middle East and East and West Africa, developing education programs, resources, policies, crafting gender strategies, implementing GBV prevention programs, and implementing advocacy campaigns to protect girls from FGM. She is currently the Co-Chair of Survivor Support Services Working Group & Co-chair Youth Working Group at DIGNA, - she is a key part of several projects including development of a Survivor Support resources database for all countries that receive GAC aid. Above all, she believes in empowering survivors to access resources and make decisions they feel will best support their health and wellbeing.
Gurvinder works with the Canadian Red Cross International Operations as the Senior Protection Advisor and with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) as the Senior Child Protection Advisor. He has worked with the Red Cross for 20 years. As part of his role with the Canadian Red Cross he is the technical lead on the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. He has worked against sexual exploitation and abuse by humanitarian personnel since 2005. He led the first global review of PSEA for the IFRC, helped lead the development of the IFRC strategy against PSEA, and has helped to develop numerous policies, training tools, and monitoring methodologies. Gurvinder is based in Surrey, British Columbia. He has a master’s degree in human security and peacebuilding from Royal Roads University. He has a BA in social geography from Simon Fraser University.