Women Deliver’s top tips for ensuring your annual humanitarian trend reports help drive progress for girls and women in crisis settings
At the start of each year, humanitarian organizations and news outlets share their predictions and priorities for global humanitarian efforts. From droughts and unpredictable weather to millions of displaced communities on the move, the forecasts for the new year will inevitably be important tools to help focus humanitarian efforts.
In the past, many of these reports omitted an important priority: the urgent needs of girls and women in humanitarian settings. We know that girls and women are profoundly affected by emergencies, particularly when it comes to gender-based violence, poor access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services, and limited decision-making power — so these issues must be integrated in our analyses.
If annual trend reports exist to provide guidance on where to dedicate resources, it is crucial that the specific needs of girls and women are included. As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, a gender lens can help fuel stronger programs, policies, and investments for girls and women and set the stage for more effective responses.
Let’s make feminist humanitarian trend reports the new norm. Here are Women Deliver’s top tips to ensure humanitarian trend reports have the gender lens they need to drive progress.
#1. Acknowledge that humanitarian crises, including COVID-19, affect girls and women differently
Gender identity significantly shapes how a person experiences a humanitarian emergency, so it doesn’t work to describe the impacts of crises in gender-neutral generalizations. Decades of research shows that emergencies exacerbate deep-rooted gender inequalities so that girls and women often have less access to the services, information, and protection they need to respond and recover as quickly as boys and men. We have also witnessed how girls and women have faced specific risks during COVID-19, particularly around deteriorated access to sexual and reproductive health services, limited decision-making opportunities, and increases in gender-based violence during lockdowns.
Neglecting to mention girls and women in humanitarian trend reports perpetuates the false notion that crises like COVID-19 affect everyone the same way. Change begins by acknowledging that these gendered impacts exist in the first place — and then calling them out by name. When we do so, we encourage decision-makers to see needs that might otherwise be invisible to them.
Some resources to help understand the urgent challenges facing girls and women in today’s emergencies:
· Applying a Gender Lens to COVID-19 Response and Recovery (Women Deliver): This blog highlights Women Deliver’s ten recommendations for using a gender lens for COVID-19 responses, and building back a stronger, more gender-equal world.
· Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on Women (UN Secretary General): This report explores how COVID-19 has changed the lives of girls and women across the globe, and suggests priority actions for immediate and long-term responses.
· Webinar: Innovative Strategies to Reach Vulnerable Populations in Humanitarian Settings (IAWG LGBTQIA+ Sub-Working Group): This webinar includes presentations from Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Ecuador to demonstrate the specific needs of LGBTQIA+ individuals in humanitarian settings, and best practices for addressing their needs.
#2. Spotlight the power and leadership of girls and women, not just their vulnerabilities
Girls and women are powerful, and girls and women in humanitarian settings are no exception. Yet they remain frequently characterized only as victims or passive recipients of aid — a missed opportunity to support their capacities.
In every region of the world, grassroots women-focused civil society organizations (CSOs) are on the frontlines of crises. These organizations are community leaders, service providers, unwavering advocates, and so much more. During COVID-19 and beyond, women also serve as the majority of the global health workforce.
In fact, less than 9% of all international humanitarian aid was provided directly to local and national responders in 2018 — and even less to those focused on girls and women. At the same time, grassroots women-focused CSOs are not yet meaningfully engaged in the global humanitarian decision-making spaces that could learn so much from their expertise and perspectives.
Acknowledging the leadership of girls and women is the first step to making sure they have the funding and support they need to sustain their critical activities in the new year. If you are looking for resources to help inform reporting on grassroots women-focused CSOs, here are just a few:
· Feminist Humanitarian Building Block I: Advancing Gender-Transformative Localization (Women Deliver): This action brief outlines the challenges and opportunities for shifting more funding and power to women-focused CSOs, and why this is key for building a feminist humanitarian system.
· A Feminist Approach to Localization (Oxfam): This brief outlines challenges faced by women’s rights actors and entry points for supporting them.
· Creating Lasting Impact: The Power of Women-Led Localized Responses to COVID-19 (Action Aid): This policy brief demonstrates how girls, women, and feminist CSOs have been leading COVID-19 response efforts in multiple settings, and policy recommendations to maximize their impact.
#3. Highlight solutions that can help deliver results for girls and women
The challenges facing the humanitarian community are grave, but good solutions, lessons, and guidance exist. Highlighting these solutions not only inspires hope — they help decision-makers know where to dedicate their investments to maximize impact.
For example, humanitarian agencies are providing high-quality, dignified, and respectful access to SRH services in even the most challenging settings, including the Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, Uganda, Nigeria, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Success stories exist at the grassroots level as well. For example, in Lebanon, local organizations fill crucial gaps in government health provision of SRH services by providing free and low-cost sexual health services and information inclusive of LGBTQIA+ persons, sex workers, undocumented migrants, and refugees. This proves that progress is possible, even in volatile contexts.
To truly prepare the humanitarian community for the next year, let’s make sure they have the tools they need to power progress. Instead of stopping at a grim picture of the future, also share the following resources to inspire action:
· Webinar: “We Have Always Been Here” — The Power of Feminist Civil Society Organizations in Addressing Compounded Crises (Women Deliver): This webinar highlights solutions and best practices from feminist CSOs in Bangladesh Lebanon in addressing compounded crises, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.
· The Inter-Agency Field Manual on Reproductive Health in Humanitarian Settings: Updated in 2018, the revised IAFM includes stronger guidance on how to fill service gaps for girls and women, such as skilled attendance at birth, clinical care for survivors of sexual assault, safe abortion care, HIV/STI testing and treatment, and voluntary modern contraceptives.
· Guidelines for Integrating GBV Interventions in Humanitarian Action: This guidance endorsed by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee was created to help humanitarian actors coordinate, plan, implement, monitor, and evaluate effective GBV programs across all sectors.
· Humanitarian Exchange Magazine: Making humanitarian action work for girls and women: Co-edited by Women Deliver and the Overseas Development Institute, this edition of the Humanitarian Exchange Magazine includes learnings from multiple international humanitarian organizations and grassroots women-focused CSOs on what works — and what doesn’t — to improve the health and rights of girls and women in emergencies.
While 2021 is likely to be a year of unprecedented challenges for millions across the globe, the hope and momentum for feminist humanitarian action has never been stronger. Now, more than ever, we must be steadfast and unapologetic in our push to champion gender equality and the health and rights of girls and women everywhere, including in humanitarian settings. It’s an opportunity we cannot afford to miss — in the new year and beyond.
*Initially published December 11, 2019. Updated on June 17, 2021*
Have additional tips for improving coverage on the needs of girls and women in humanitarian crises? Share them with #Humanitarian4Her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.