VOICE Out Loud 36 - From crisis to recovery: women's role in humanitarian action

Publication language
Date published
20 Dec 2023
Gender, humanitarian action, NGOs

In times of crisis, women and girls are disproportionally affected, and the recent conflict in Israel and Gaza is no exception. As echoed by the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, while the atrocities of this conflict “affect both women and men, their impact is gendered and disproportionately affects women”. At the same time, women and girls can be powerful agents of change and to leading responses to food crises and natural disasters. This edition of the VOICE out loud highlights the experiences of women and girls in humanitarian emergencies.

The articles demonstrate the struggles of women and girls, but also celebrate their resilience, emphasising the necessity of positioning them as pivotal agents of their own recovery. Addressing Gender-Based Violence (GBV) during emergencies, particularly evident in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Fida International stresses the urgent need for advocacy aimed at prevention and mitigation of, as well as response strategies against, GBV. In a similar vein, Relief International champions survivor-centred approaches, highlighting the importance of creating safe spaces and robust support systems to counter gender-specific vulnerabilities, especially during displacement. The article from Mercy Corps draws attention to the pressing need for inclusive recovery strategies in the face of the escalating climate crisis. It emphasises the need to build resilience and to integrate gender perspectives into recovery efforts. CARE International emphasises the need for a comprehensive approach in humanitarian aid, considering gender dynamics across various aspects of life. Their Theory of Change prioritises women’s voices and leadership in emergencies, gender-based violence in emergencies, and gender-integrated responses. 

In line with this, the speakers of the VOICE event in June 2023, “Fighting hunger: a women-led response”, recognised women’s historical leadership in addressing global food crises. They advocated for a more inclusive approach to humanitarian aid, the necessity of collaboration with women-led organisations, and the importance of a feminist approach to transforming humanitarian aid structures. As we navigate these turbulent times where women are even banned from working in national and international NGOs – such as in Afghanistan, as shown in the interview with a female Afghan aid worker, who has chosen to remain anonymous for safety issues – it is more crucial than ever that we do not overlook the experiences of women and girls. Prioritising gender equality in humanitarian responses is now more critical than ever. Only by ensuring inclusion and addressing the needs of all individuals can we work towards a future where crises no longer disproportionately affect women. We need to find ways to support and empower women and girls as leaders of their recovery and in shaping their future. Central to this is the allocation of quality funding to support women-led and women’s rights organisations. In this regard, the EU and its Member States hold significant responsibility and should set an example by taking a leadership role.