The response to humanitarian crises needs to focus more on women – who are disproportionately represented among the victims – and to give women a greater leadership role.
That was the conclusion of a Friends of Europe Policy Insight on International Women’s Day, which aims to promote a more-inclusive, gender-equal world. The panel focussed on humanitarian crises, where women and children make up over 75 percent of the 125 million people in need of humanitarian assistance worldwide.
The 2016 World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul was a first step towards recognising the central role of women, calling for greater participation and leadership from women, and for funding to be aligned with the principles of gender equality. But advancing gender equality has always been a struggle – as shown by the election of Donald Trump as US President, and the threat he presents to US funding of gender-related programmes.
“The World Humanitarian Summit was a sign of change,” said Daniel Seymour, Humanitarian Coordinator and Deputy Director of Programmes at UN Women. “But recognition of gender equality does not always stick. If we don’t keep working, it seems to fade away. This is a constant, daily, persistent, 24/7 struggle.”
The central problem is that women’s needs in a crisis are often greater than those of men – and are often ignored. “Humanitarian crises do not affect women and men in the same way,” said Monique Pariat, European Commission Director General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO). “So, we need to take into account differences between women and girls, and men and boys. Civilians are at extreme risk during military campaigns and we need facilities to ensure that women are safe from gender-based violence.”