When conflict-related emergencies arise, humanitarian organizations are often the first on the ground to respond, providing displaced and vulnerable populations with shelter, food, health care and other crucial services. As conflict subsides and early recovery processes begin, mechanisms are established to mobilize community-driven initiatives with quick impact, as well as interventions to support the transition to long-term development.
During both conflict and early recovery, women and children tend to be affected in very different ways from men. In such circumstances, women and girls increasingly become heads of households and the primary protectors and providers for dependent family members. Women and children make up the vast majority of displaced populations, more than 80 percent, while men represent the majority of armed actors. Forced to leave behind their homes and communities, displaced persons are particularly vulnerable to hunger, disease, sexual and gender-based violence, forced prostitution and trafficking.
Yet, in the rush to respond and mobilize support, humanitarian organizations often fail to consider the distinct needs, contributions and capacities of women and girls. That can result in unequal access to humanitarian support, lack of protection against sexual and gender-based violence, and inadequate engagement of women in decision-making processes. Moreover, if gender perspectives are ignored, aid may prove wasteful and even harmful, by reinforcing socio-economic disparities and cycles of dependency.
Through direct and representative dialogue with displaced populations, humanitarian agencies can involve different groups in the design and implementation of programmes, and empower them to contribute to recovery efforts. But even in missions and organizations where gender analysis informs the planning of humanitarian and early recovery activities, these efforts often fail to translate into the development of gender-sensitive targets and indicators, which ultimately drive budgeting allocations and actual expenditures.
UN Women has contributed in many ways to strengthening the inclusion of women and gender perspectives in post-conflict and humanitarian planning, with the aim of ensuring long-term effective protection for women and their meaningful participation in decision-making processes. For example, UNIFEM (now UN Women) has supported the integration of gender into post-conflict needs assessments and conducted research on whether policies and programmes on gender translate effectively into budget allocations.
For more information on these issues and UN Women’s work, see the following pages: