Grievances and Activism

For once, we're asking you to use your skills as an activist - not only to defend the rights of those most in need but, in this case, to defend yourself and your well-being in order to authentically and healthily assist those most in need.

So, throw on your activist hat and put those skills to use.

Not receiving the help you need? Wondering what you can do to be heard?

Support is critical in the aftermath and longer term of critical/traumatic incidents. Yet, the bureaucracy of our employers sometimes means our voices go unheard.

When such incidents arise due to the nature of our work, it's important that our employers step in to demonstrate their uninhibited support. Research shows that support received immediately after an incident reduces traumatic symptoms and lowers the risk of PTSD. However, support from our employers is not only helpful for our long-term emotional well-being, it's also their legal responsibility.It's not only the ethical responsibility of employers to support staff; it's their legal responsibility.

While humanitarian and development agencies may draft eloquent, awe-inspiring policies on issues like human rights, women's rights, sexual and gender-based violence, employee rights, trauma, and more, when it comes to work-related incidents affecting staff, not all humanitarian and development agencies have relevant policies and procedures in place to protect, defend, and support their staff.

As a consequence, when critical/traumatic incidents arise, there is often significant confusion around whether or not, how and when to respond. At the base seems to be a difference in judgment as to what qualifies as a critical/traumatic incident and whose responsibility (the agency or the local police, the office manager or the affected colleague, etc.) it is to take action. The result is often: no action, limited action, or inappropriate action - each of which can have long-term consequences on the person affected.

If you have been affected by a critical/traumatic incident and your humanitarian/development employer failed to respond appropriately or to provide essential resources in the aftermath and longer term, it's important for you to voice your concerns, reference the need for comparable policies and procedures to those in place for beneficiaries, advocate for office-wide change so other staff are not adversely affected by a lack of policies or procedures, and - importantly - advocate for your own needs and sense of justice.

This page provides resources to point you in the right direction and help to ensure your grievance is heard.

It's important that any agency be held accountable for inappropriate treatment of its staff, especially when a staff member suffers a work-related incident.

It's even more important when the agency or organization happens to be a world leader in humanitarianism, human rights, women's rights, labor laws, counteracting sexual and gender-based violence, etc.

If you have taken measures within your office to be heard and yet still feel ignored, you may wish to take a step further in order to be heard and also to help ensure that others within your office do not suffer the consequences of similar negligence:

  • Share your story under "Have You Been Wronged?" so that your story can be used anonymously alongside other, similar stories of inappropriate treatment of staff in our advocacy message to humanitarian/development/human rights agencies.
  • Start a petition at,, or, for example. Let us know, if we can help solicit additional signatures through global aid worker.
  • Contact the donor/funding body.
  • Form a class action lawsuit together with colleagues who have confronted similar experiences. Contact us if you'd like help connecting with others at global aid worker in order to meet this objective and/or to advertise your cause.
  • Publish your thoughts.
  • Go public. Inform the media (newspapers, books, major news stations).
  • Do you have a story to tell? Do you have advice to share? How have you held your employer responsible for traumatic incidents, for re-traumatization, or for other issues? Join us in a discussion on agency accountability.

    Have you been treated inappropriately by your “humanitarian”/”human rights” organization? If so, we’d like to hear more . . .

    We are compiling stories from staff of all aid-working organizations and agencies.

    Your protection: Your names/contact information/anything else you provide will remain anonymous. We will only share the details of your story in a generic way, as part of the entire compilation.

    How we are compiling the info: We are organizing the information into accounts in which aid workers have been inadequately supported or inappropriately treated by their employers. Any details provided to us will be omitted in the advocacy message. Only the general gist will be shared for the advocacy message.

    Our plan? We are using these stories for advocacy purposes. So, please share your thoughts and firsthand experiences. The more voices we have, the more likely we are to compel our employers to change and the more likely we are to make a lasting, positive difference in the lives of our colleagues.

    Be sure to provide as many details as you are comfortable sharing. Having clear insight into the context of the story will help us better advocate for your and for colleagues in similar situations. Again, self-identifying details will be omitted from the advocacy message shared with aid-working employers.

    Be your own advocate! Join our advocacy efforts, by sharing your story through the contact us form.

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