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Gender in Emergencies

Women take attendance for an Oxfam funded cash for work scheme (Credit: Kieran Doherty/ Oxfam)

At a glance

In any emergency the impact on, and experiences of, men and women can be very different. In an response, gender is a factor that needs to addressed.


Understanding needs and context is vital in an emergency response. A crucial, and often overlooked, factor is gender. In a humanitarian disaster the experiences of women, girls, men and boys can be very different. Access to basic goods and services is compromised for all, but what impact does gender have on this, and how can we ensure that our responses sufficiently address these issues?

Beyond basic needs, crises often have hidden, long-lasting, devastating effects on a community based on pre-existing gendered differences. Furthermore, power dynamics within households and communities, the gendered division of labour, and gender-based violence could all be worsened or changed by a humanitarian crisis.

With this in mind it is important that all humanitarian responses address these issues in a meaningful way, and that the right people are held accountable. Our programmes need to be planned, monitored and evaluated with gender differences embedded in the design if we are to support women, girls, men and boys in the immediate term, and create lasting and transformational change to their lives.

Improving mainstreaming and accountability

Oxfam takes a gender equality approach to its programming and learning on how this happens best has been supported by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO). The project 'Institutionalising Gender in Emergencies: Bridging Policy and Practice' has been implemented in Pakistan, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Dominican Republic between September 2015 and March 2017.

The objective of this project was to enhance the capacity of humanitarian organisations to provide adapted assistance to meet the needs of women, girls, men and boys in emergency scenarios.

The project focused on the following issues where there were felt to be significant gaps:

  • Insufficient gender analysis and evidence to inform humanitarian response planning and practice;
  • Low technical capacity in gender in emergencies across sectors and organisations;
  • A lack of a coordinating 'gender cluster' across different agencies to support sector leads;
  • Lack of accountability for implementation of gender-related standards within organisations and across the humanitarian system.

The project produced a Consolidated Gender Analysis in each of the four countries and a set of Country case studies, each describing the project learning that may be applicable at global level.

A Gender Leadership in Humanitarian Action Training Course was also designed and piloted in the four countries as part of the project.

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