Aidex Voices

Addressing the gender gap in humanitarian settings

Crises impact women, girls, boys and men of all ages differently. As a result, their needs and interests differ, as do their capacities, such as viable coping strategies and access to the resources they need to survive. Both natural disasters and conflicts exacerbate pre-existing gender inequalities and discrimination experienced by women and girls. With the breakdown of protection mechanisms and the destruction of essential services and economic structures, their already marginalised position is further diminished due to their lack of access to - and control of - the resources and viable coping strategies they need.

Yet, at the same time, women also play a critical role in enabling effective, efficient and sustainable humanitarian responses. Women are invariably amongst the first responders to a crisis, and they play a central role in the survival, recovery and resilience of families and communities.

To this end, humanitarian efforts must look beyond immediate survival assistance but also offer viable long-term solutions that empowers all members of crisis affected populations by developing their self-reliance, as well as protecting their rights and maintaining dignity. As such, humanitarian response must recognise the fact that women and girls—like men and boys—have much to contribute in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from crises. This is why women must be included in decision-making about the forms of assistance and protection they need and how they are provided.

In line with this strategic approach, the Inter Agency Standing Committee’s “Gender Handbook for Humanitarian Action” was launched in 2018 by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), UN Women and the Inter Agency Standing Committee (IASC) - the global inter-agency coordination mechanism for humanitarian action. The Gender Handbook offers practical guidance to frontline humanitarian workers on how to integrate gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls throughout the humanitarian programme cycle. To date, 7,000 copies of the handbook in English, French, Arabic and Spanish - have been distributed to over 80 different humanitarian agencies in 46 different countries. More information and the handbook is available here.

Making technology work for women and girls in crisis contexts

UN Women is exploring how blockchain technology can be leveraged to empower women and girls in humanitarian settings. The organisation recognises that while technology alone is not a panacea and cannot solve core problems within the humanitarian system, it could be an enabler providing new tools for more efficient funding and for promoting self-reliance, agency and empowerment.

An analysis of the potential of blockchain technology alongside the most pressing issues in the humanitarian space has led UN Women to focus on the transfer of cash and other digital assets as a key area of intervention. The need for an intervention in the area of financial inclusion is critical. Women do not have the same access as men to financial systems, which currently exclude 2 billion adults. 42% of women worldwide are unbanked compared to 35% of men.

Cash transfers, cash for work, strengthening financial independence, and providing grants for small businesses and education are crucial aspects in economically empowering women and girls in humanitarian settings. This holds potential for gender transformative change, as only a fraction of financial assistance received for humanitarian action currently targets the needs and capacities of women and girls. In this regard, UN Women, in partnership with the World Food Programme, supports Syrian refugee women with blockchain technology to facilitate cash for work programmes at the Za’atari and Azraq refugee camps in Jordan.

UN Women also offers a Second Chance Education Programme leveraging these technologies to provide women including young women with both physical and virtual learning environments as well as access to quality learning materials linking to employment opportunities.

Involving Youth and Creativity: “Gender Equality: Picture it!”

At AidEx 2018 in Brussels, you will have an opportunity to get inspiration from creative young people from the EU, Nigeria, Indonesia, Vietnam, Ukraine – at the exhibition: “Gender Equality: Picture it!”.

Since 2015, UN Women together with the European Commission, the Belgian Development Cooperation Agency, and the United Nations Regional Information Center launched several comic and cartoon competitions in the EU, Nigeria, Vietnam, Indonesia and Ukraine called “Gender Equality: Picture it!”.

Young artists and art students aged 18 to 28 were invited to become global champions for women and girls by illustrating their understanding of gender equality through comic and cartoons. The comics and cartoons in this exhibition are the winners of this competition and come at a time of a revitalised public debate on achieving gender equality, addressing violence against women as well as sexual harassment. The cartoons address a wide range of topics such as domestic work and work-life balance, gender discrimination, sexual harassment etc. and resonate in all dimensions of life.

These comics come as an inspiration and remind us why closing the gender gap and implementing the SDGs from a gender perspective is crucial.

comic exhibt

Winner of the comic competition in Indonesia, by artist I Kadek Noorwatha

At AidEx, come and have a look at all the winning cartoons of competitions which took place in the EU but also in Vietnam, Indonesia, Ukraine and Nigeria!

About UN Women:

UN Women fulfils its humanitarian role by providing coordination and leadership, technical expertise, capacity-building, and evidence-based response and advocacy to the global humanitarian system. Through its inter-agency leadership and coordination role, UN Women supports other UN organizations in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment in their humanitarian efforts. UN Women assists Member States in implementing policies and commitments to gender equality and women’s empowerment in humanitarian action. UN Women also promotes the voices, agency and capacity of women’s civil society organizations and national women’s machineries in humanitarian efforts.

Interactive feature: Closing the Gap in Humanitarian Settings: