The values we live and work by at Amref Health Africa UK.
Amref Health Africa UK stands in solidarity with the Black community and those fighting for racial justice around the world.
Our work is driven by a commitment to equality and to equity. We believe that where a person is born should not dictate whether, how long, or the conditions in which they live. We are committed to justice, including racial justice – and we recognise that inequalities intersect and overlap.
The global health ecosystem is rooted in, and too often perpetuates, structural inequality. There is much to be done to dismantle existing systems and rebuild them on a more equitable basis. The global health community must work together to ensure that under-represented voices are heard, and that decisions are made by those affected by the outcome. This work is vital, and it is urgent.
We are proud to be the UK branch of Africa’s leading health NGO, Amref Health Africa, headquartered in and led from Nairobi. This informs our approach to programmes, our partnerships, our organisational culture, and the way we talk about our work: but it does not exempt us from doing our part to redress the imbalances in the UK NGO sector. We are part of that system, too.
Amref Health Africa UK is committed to integrating anti-racist values into everything we do. We are working to foster a truly inclusive culture that aligns with our values and aspirations. We are committed to ensuring that all members of the team are listened to, valued, supported, and able to bring their full selves to work. We acknowledge that we have not always got this right in the past. We are engaged in an ongoing process of thoughtful action backed up by honest, clear-sighted self-reflection. We know that this work requires time, space, and resources.
The global development sector's primary responsibility is our duty of care towards the people we work with. Amref Health Africa commits to putting their safety, wellbeing, rights and dignity before anything else.
Since 2017, we have been working with colleagues from across the NGO sector and beyond to ensure that all those who come into contact with Amref - above all, the people we serve - are protected from abuse, harassment, and exploitation of all kinds.
Senior staff from Amref UK have worked closely with colleagues from the Amref family to review our global policies and procedures relating to safeguarding. Together, we have set the highest possible standards. Our approach recognises the vital importance of having a culture of respect and accountability. With this in mind, all Amref UK staff have signed a new Code of Conduct that sets clear expectations of behaviour and conduct. A similar Code exists for all associated personnel, including Trustees and other volunteers.
Ethical storytelling and representation
Sharing the stories of the people we support is an important element of our mission here in the UK.
In all our communications and fundraising, Amref Health Africa UK commits to the following:
- Putting respect for the rights, dignity and preferences of the people we work with above everything else.
- Telling authentic and nuanced stories. The global development sector has recognised that we need to be better at telling positive stories showcasing solutions, change, and progress. For too long, we’ve led with the problem; the need we’re trying to address. But the story can’t always be positive: that would be equally misleading. It’s about showing the highs, the lows, and the everyday. It’s about giving people space to talk about what they feel is important, not what we’ve decided the conversation is about. This means the result isn’t always the story we were expecting - and that’s a good thing.
- Dignity in details: We always try to provide at least basic context for each image we publish: at the very least, we’ll tell you where and when it was taken, what the person’s name is, and how they’re connected to Amref. (This is provided we have permission to reveal these details - and that there’s no security risk involved in doing so.)
- Actively seeking out a broad range of perspectives and voices. This starts with our staff team and the stories we consume: we endeavour to read, watch, scroll and listen as widely as possible. We invite feedback on the stories we tell and share through our platforms - from our colleagues around the world, and from the people we work with.
- We listen to thoughtful criticism and act on it as swiftly as possible. This requires us to question our assumptions, and to hold ourselves and each other accountable.
- Providing a platform so that people can tell their own stories. As far as possible, we try to create space for people to speak. This means that the stories we share are generally told by the person whose story it is (rather than from the perspective of an Amref staff member) and in the first person*. It also means using more interactive / live formats that enable the people we work with in a range of African countries to talk directly to people here in the UK. We’re in the very early days of this, and we’re learning as we go!
- Using thoughtful and respectful language: The global development sector is guilty of using a lot of jargon - and there are times when this prevents us from presenting people as people. We tend to talk about “beneficiaries”, “vulnerable populations”, or “disaster victims”. Amref UK is trying to move away from this kind of language, which creates distance that isn’t really there: instead, we simply talk about “people” and “communities”. For some of these examples, we’re yet to find a satisfactory alternative - but we’ll keep listening and learning until we do.
Inclusive language: When we’re talking about vulnerable or marginalised groups and individuals, we look to the guidelines developed by specialist organisations. The ADCAP consortium (led by HelpAge International) has developed some useful guidelines on inclusive language that’s specific to older people and people with disabilities. Stonewall have a helpful glossary on LGBTQ-inclusive terminology. The NHS style guide has some excellent guidance on inclusive language.
- Ensuring that every person whose picture we take has given us explicit permission - and that they’ve fully understood what they’re agreeing to. This means ensuring they know where the picture might appear, and who might see it. They have the right to withdraw their consent at any time, in which case we will a) refrain from further publication and b) do our best to take down any existing occurrences. Over the past few months, staff from across the Amref family have been working to develop new guidelines and tools on image consent - and to ensure that all staff, from Communications, Programmes and beyond, understand and use them.
Limiting the lifespan of a photo to five years (three years in the case of a child). When we take a picture of a person, we capture them at a certain point in their lives. The circumstances they are living in, and the challenges they are facing, may be specific to that time. Five years on - perhaps even two years on, or six months on - things will have changed. Limiting the lifespan of consent is part of a wider effort to be accurate, truthful and respectful in our communications.
- Working with local photographers, who are best-placed to tell the stories of their own countries and communities. It’s more respectful, it results in stronger stories, and it’s a better use of resources.
- Always crediting the photographers and creatives we work with - and paying them on time.
- Sharing pictures and stories with their subjects once they’re ready for publication - and asking them for feedback. We make an effort to provide subjects with a hard copy of images featuring their likeness.
*Bearing in mind that some of the interviews we publish are conducted with the support of an interpreter. When we’ve edited a conversation for length and clarity, we say so.
We welcome your feedback on the way we communicate about our work: please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Banner image: Amref Health Africa's Global End-FGM/C Advisor Nice Leng'ete, photographed by Jeroen van Loon.