Preventing Sexual Harassment, Exploitation and Abuse (PSHEA) Policy

Issue date: March 2024












Photo: Irene, 13, happy that her school has now reopened. © Plan International / Maria Thundu


Plan International Australia (PIA) is a global independent development and humanitarian organisation. We strive for a just world that advances children’s rights and equality for girls.

This policy supports PIA’s belief that every person has the right to live a life free from any form of sexual violence and our commitment to the prevention of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse. This policy has been developed to provide a practical guide aimed at attempting to prevent sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse and ensuring immediate action in regard to reporting and responding. Allegations of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse where the victim/survivor is a child, will be responded to in line with our PIA Safeguarding Policy and procedures. Workplace allegations of SHEA will be dealt with in accordance with the PIA Discrimination, Bullying and Harassment and the Global Values, Conduct and Whistleblowing Policy.


The PIA Preventing Sexual Harassment Exploitation and Abuse (PSHEA) Policy applies to all Staff, Managers, Leaders, Board Directors, Volunteers, Visitors and other Associates (see full definition in Annex 1), all of whom are referred to collectively as ‘PIA Representatives’ who must comply with its requirements and understand the sanctions that may be applied for breaches of the policy.

In line with Plan’s Global Policy on Values, Conduct and Whistleblowing, this Policy is binding for PIA representatives at all times-both during and outside of working hours- and in all aspects of a PIA representative’s life.

Under this policy all communities we work with and participants of our programs have the right to report any concerns, allegations or suspicions of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse. The rights of victim/survivors are also recognised under this policy and PIA commit to providing appropriate support.

Policy Statement

PIA is committed to:

  • Creating safe and inclusive environments that empower people to report and understand and exercise their rights.
  • Addressing the drivers of gender inequality and unequal power relations that can lead to sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse.
  • Responding in a timely, effective, safe, comprehensive and confidential manner to all complaints, allegations and incidents.
  • Referring incidents of a criminal nature to law enforcement, taking into account the safety of all parties and the wishes and welfare of the survivor.
  • Ensuring survivors’ perspectives and voices are central to any efforts to prevent and respond to sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse and where mandatory reporting requirements apply, providing necessary support to victims/survivors.
  • Strong leadership and a whole of organisation approach to accelerate culture change in order to prevent Sexual Harassment, Exploitation and Abuse (SHEA).
  • Strengthening and building capacity of all PIA representatives including staff and partners to prevent and respond to SHEA.
  • Ensuring intra agency collaboration to build capacity of the Plan federation to prevent and effectively respond to sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse.
  • Working in a highly collaborative way with other development and humanitarian agencies to affect long term change in preventing sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse.

PSHEA Safeguarding includes the responsibilities; preventative, responsive and referral measures that we undertake to protect PIA representatives and programme participants. This policy should be read in conjunction with our PIA Safeguarding Policy which provides our clear and explicit stance on safeguarding children and programme participants. When reading this policy, it should be understood that when we use the term ‘safeguarding’ this includes the protection of children and programme participants from all forms of sexual violence.


See Appendix 1 for all relevant definitions.

Sexual Exploitation Any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust for sexual purposes. It includes profiting monetarily, socially, or politically from sexual exploitation of another.

Sexual Abuse The actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions. It covers sexual offences including but not limited to attempted rape (which includes attempts to force someone to perform oral sex); and sexual assault (which includes non-consensual kissing and touching). All sexual activity with someone under the age of consent is considered to be sexual abuse.

Sexual Harassment A person sexually harasses another person if the person makes an unwelcome sexual advance or an unwelcome request for sexual favours or engages in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, in circumstances in which a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated. Sexual harassment can take various forms. It can be obvious or indirect, physical or verbal, repeated or one-off and perpetrated by any person of any gender towards any person of any gender. Sexual harassment can be perpetrated against programme participants, community members, citizens, as well as staff and personnel.

Guiding Principles

This policy is underpinned by the following set of principles that guides its implementation:

1. Zero tolerance for inaction
PIA believes that any form of exploitation, abuse and harassment is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. PIA recognizes that zero tolerance does not mean there will be no reports or incidents but instead that there is zero tolerance for inaction. PIA will act on all safeguarding concerns and allegations, ensuring that our actions are timely, appropriate, and centred on the best interest of the victim/survivor, taking into account their specific safeguarding needs and vulnerabilities.

2. Survivor-Centred
All PIA decisions and actions in response to safeguarding concerns and allegations and breaches of this policy will be guided by the safety, rights, needs, wishes and empowerment of the victim/survivor, while ensuring procedural fairness to all parties. PIA determine to retain the privacy and dignity of the victim/survivor by maintaining confidentiality, treating them respectfully, involving them in decision making, as appropriate, and providing comprehensive information and committing to referrals and assistance to support the recovery and safety of the victim/survivor.

3. Equality and Inclusion
PIA recognizes that imbalances in power and gender inequality are key drivers for sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse. PIA recognizes that in all societies in which we work, gender inequality exists, PIA representatives can ascribe to unequal gender norms and stereotypes and that the very nature of our work can create and maintain differential power and inequality.
Our safeguarding takes an intersectional approach, which utilises appropriate measures to address gender bias and other forms of discrimination and violence which may arise as a result of a person’s diverse identity and/or position in society. It supports the empowerment and inclusion of victim/survivors in the response process, in a manner that promotes equality, equity and ultimately their increased safety and protection. Inequality, exclusion, and discrimination will be challenged and will not be tolerated.

4. Shared responsibility
Everyone working for, or associated with PIA’s work, must be aware of and adhere to the provisions of this policy. Everybody has a responsibility to prevent sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse and must take their safeguarding responsibilities seriously and uphold the principles of the policy. In turn, PIA will work to support and build capacity of partners, the sector and our global organisation.

5. Open and accountable
PIA are committed to openness and transparency and will hold ourselves to account for our commitment to preventing sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse. Our leaders will set clear expectations and take personal and organisational responsibility to create a safe and inclusive environment to ensure a culture of equity and inclusion.

Safeguarding concerns can be raised and discussed, poor practice and inappropriate behaviours can be challenged and addressed, and our safeguarding measures will be regularly reviewed and strengthened to ensure we remain accountable to all PIA representatives and the people and communities we work with. We take seriously our responsibility to inform and empower communities we work with, ensuring they understand the essence of this policy, our commitments, how to exercise their rights and the means via which they can report.

The Policy in Action


It is mandatory for all PIA representatives to confidentially report all concerns, suspicions or allegations of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse (SHEA) and/or breaches of this policy immediately (or latest within 24 hours). If you are a PIA employee and you witness a PI staff, associate or visitor engaging in any sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse, you must also report your concerns even if they do not come under this policy. Such instances are to be reported to the relevant Plan Country Office and/or PI Global Hub through designated channels for management. If a PIA representative is unsure how to report a SHEA concern involving a Plan International employee, associate or visitor, they must notify PIA through the channels listed below for advice and support to make a report.

Community members or any other external person are strongly encouraged to immediately report/notify with any concern, suspicion or incident of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse against themselves or someone they know perpetrated by anyone associated with Plan International Australia.

Reports or notifications can be made through the following channels:

For PIA representatives For community members

PIA will take all reports of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse seriously and will respond to them as a matter of priority and in accordance with PIA Safeguarding Procedures and Plan International’s global guidelines for case management and investigations. Where investigations are deemed necessary, they will be carried out by appropriately experienced and qualified professionals who are trained on sensitive investigations and a victim/survivor centred approach. Workplace allegations of SHEA will be managed as per PIA Discrimination, Bullying and Harassment Policy.

If the report constitutes a criminal offence, this will be immediately reported to the relevant authorities, including the police and any statutory agencies. If the report pertains to a donor funded project (e.g, DFAT-Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade), it will be immediately reported to the donor in line with PIA’s contractual obligations.

Deidentified incident reports will be provided to the CEO, COO and the Associate Director of Organisational Development and Culture. The Executive Leadership Team, Risk and Assurance Team and the Board will also receive regular deidentified reports on safeguarding incidents (at least once in a quarter).

Roles, Responsibilities and Expected Behaviours

Everyone who works with, and engages with PIA, has a responsibility to ensure people are safeguarded and protected. The responsibilities detailed below are mandatory for those who fall within the scope of the policy.

Plan International Australia Representatives must:

1. Never participate in or support any form of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse, including but not limited to trafficking and transactional sex.

2. Read, understand and agree to abide by this policy and the procedures relevant to them.

3. Immediately report any safeguarding concerns and breaches of the policy.

4. Immediately disclose charges, convictions and other outcomes of an offence that relates to sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse.

5. Respond to a victim/survivor with belief, respect, confidentiality and in accordance with PIA/applicable local office procedures and this policy.

6. Cooperate fully and confidentially in any investigation of concerns or allegations of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse.

7. Participate in PSHEA induction and training as relevant to their relationship with PIA.

8. Commit and contribute to building an environment where power imbalances and gender inequality is recognised and challenged and a safe environment where all people feel respected and supported, understand expected behaviours and know how to raise complaints and concerns.

9. Always treat people in a manner which is respectful of their rights, integrity and dignity, considers their best interests and does not expose them to, or place them at risk of, harm.

Managers will ensure:
10. PIA participants working in their area of responsibility are aware of and agree to abide by this policy and the procedures applicable to their role or engagement.

11. They hold accountability for ensuring that the policy is fully embedded within their areas of responsibility.

12. People and communities, who are direct beneficiaries of PIA, are made aware of the provisions of this policy to ensure they have the confidence and ability to report any incidents or concerns.

13. They support and develop systems which maintains an environment which is safe for and prevents sexual violence

14. All PIA Representatives, who are affected parties, including those who have reported concerns, are victims/survivors or are accused of some form of sexual violence are given appropriate care, support and protection in dealing with all aspects of the case. PIA recognises that all parties may experience safety concerns and potential reprisals arising from the incident or from the reporting of such concerns.

Executive Leaders will ensure:

15. They provide visible and committed leadership to drive a culture that promotes gender equality and equity is dedicated to preventing sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse and the enabling environment required for safe reporting.

16. Appropriate action is taken to address every allegation or concern of sexual violence that is reported in line with this policy and guiding principles.

17. PIA implements this policy as it applies to our context, people (PIA Representatives) and communities with whom we engage, as well as the processes, programmes, projects, events and activities we undertake.

18. The Executive Leadership Team reviews all safeguarding incidents on a regular basis.

PIA Board will ensure that:

19. Ensuring the Executive Leadership Team is held accountable for driving a safe and respectful environment and culture, which promotes gender equality and is free from SHEA.

20. Demonstrating leadership on PSHEA and gender equality issues through decision-making by the Board (collectively and individually). This includes ensuring that Board members are themselves held to account if they engage in SHEA or other breaches of this policy.

21. Ensuring that prevention of SHEA is a regular item on the Board’s agenda, and that the Executive Leadership Team reports to the Board on the implementation of this policy including SHEA incidents/reports to sufficiently enable the Board to monitor the risk of SHEA occurring and measure the success of PSHEA and gender equality initiatives. This includes ensuring that support and reporting mechanisms are victim/survivor-centred, trauma-informed and accessible.

22. Ensuring diversity of the Board and Executive Leadership Team.

Risk Identification and Management

Plan International Australia undertakes a robust recruitment process to screen representatives and will not permit a person to work or volunteer with us if they pose an unacceptable risk to people’s safety or wellbeing. PIA will seek to ensure it creates safe environments by proactively assessing and managing the risk of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse in all of our operations, activities, projects, programmes, partnerships, and actively monitoring them on a regular basis. PIA ensures safeguarding measures are integrated into all areas of our work and all PIA representatives (as relevant to their engagement with the organisation) are trained in recognising, assessing, mitigating, systematically reviewing and ultimately managing risks at all levels of the organisation. Additionally, sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse risks are assessed by the organisational Risk Assurance Team, included in our organisational risk register where relevant and needed and monitored by the leadership and governing body.

Communicating the Policy

PIA commit to making this policy available on our website and ensuring it is accessible to all PIA representatives and communities that we work with.

Working With Partners

PIA works with many partners both through our Plan International Country Offices and downstream partners in country. PIA will seek the expertise of partners in terms of implementation and reporting within their specific context. PIA commits to ensuring individuals and organisations we partner with are aware of this policy and their responsibilities under the policy including reporting requirements. Failure to report and inaction when sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse has occurred is grounds for termination of the contract or partnership agreement. Partners who are recipients of PIA funds need to have read and understood this policy and understand their responsibilities and obligations. PIA will work to build the capacity of partners, if required, and as indicated by partner capacity assessments and monitor their progress regularly.
In the event that multiple partners are involved in one project, a joint reporting protocol will be established where appropriate. When concerns are raised regarding Plan International employees not directly related to PIA’s work and therefore not under any obligation to comply to this policy, PIA will refer the matter to Plan International and support any investigation as well as provide support, as appropriate, to the affected parties.


Breaches of this policy will be investigated in accordance with disciplinary procedures and contractual agreements, or a referral may be made to statutory authorities for criminal investigation. Breaches may incur sanctions including disciplinary action leading to possible dismissal, termination of all relations including contractual and partnership agreements, and where relevant, appropriate legal or other such actions.
If a legitimate concern proves to be unfounded on investigation, no action will be taken against the reporter. However, appropriate sanctions will be applied in cases of false and malicious accusations.

Review of Policy

This policy will be reviewed every three years. The Safeguarding Delegate will manage the review in consultation with survivors, partners, communities (as appropriate) and staff, Executive Team and the Board. The policy review will be approved by the Executive Team and the Board.

Implementation and Monitoring of the Policy

PIA Risk Assurance Team will monitor the implementation of this policy on an annual basis and provide a report to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the Board. The CEO in collaboration with the Board is responsible for ensuring the implementation and monitoring of this policy.

Complaint/Concern handling procedure

Who can report?   Anyone: Program participants including children and young people, family or community members, PIA representatives, local partners
What should be reported?  Allegations, suspicions, concerns of breaches of this PSHEA policy 
When should it be reported?  Immediately or latest within 24 hours, ensuring the safety of the victim first and foremost 
Who acts on the report?  PIA Safeguarding Delegate in collaboration with the relevant PIA Executive Leader
What will happen?  1. The complaint/concern will be reviewed, details will be confirmed and risks to all parties will be assessed including an assessment of safety and appropriate support and protection provided as required.
2. If the situation requires confidential investigation, this will be instigated by PIA ensuring a trauma-informed, sensitive, objective and fair process.
3. PIA’s CEO will be advised and if it is a DFAT/donor funded project, a report will be made to the relevant donor immediately in line with contractual obligations.
4. If relevant. a confidential report will be made in compliance with this policy and/or the context of local, state and country legislation.
5. Reporting will take into account the victim/survivors wishes and rights and appropriate support provided to the victim/survivors as required.
6. All those directly involved or affected will be provided with feedback on the outcomes of the investigation, as appropriate.
7. Further support will be provided to those directly involved or affected including but not limited to debriefing and counselling.
Possible outcomes 
  • Breach of this policy results in performance management or termination of employment/engagement.
  • Criminal matter to be referred to relevant authorities as appropriate.

Policy implementation documents:

The following documents are referred to and are to be used when implementing this policy:

  1. Plan International Australia Safeguarding Policy and Code of Conduct
  2. Plan International Australia Safeguarding Procedures (under revision)
  3. Plan International Preventing Sexual Harassment, Exploitation and Abuse Policy (2020)
  4. Plan International Safeguarding Standards and Implementation Manual
  5. Plan International Australia Whistle Blowers Policy
  6. Plan International Australia Discrimination, Bullying and Harassment Policy
  7. Global Gender and Inclusion Policy
  8. Global Policy on Values, Conduct and Whistleblowing (PDF)


  1. ACFID Code of Conduct
  2. DFAT Preventing Sexual Exploitation Abuse and Harassment (PSEAH) policy
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