Why Gender in Emergencies?

“It is widely accepted that disasters, both natural and man-made, impact women, girls, men and boys differently, with the level of vulnerability and gender equality being key determinants of which groups are worse affected. […] in general women and girls are far more likely to die in a disaster at an earlier age.” - ‘Empowering women and girls affected by crisis’ report. 

Crises have different impacts on women, girls, boys and men. People face different risks based on their age, sex and gender. CARE also recognises that gender intersects with other forms of diversity, which can exacerbate unequal power relations e.g. characteristics such as race, caste, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability among others, that can impact how people prepare for, respond to, recover from and are impacted by crisis. Recognising differences that exist within and between communities, will often highlight unique concerns and bring different perspectives, experiences, and solutions, to the challenges faced by communities. Based on this, the need for assistance and protection will vary.

Our activities and approach during a humanitarian response can increase and reinforce, or reduce, existing inequalities. Integrating gender into every stage of a response is therefore a core part of CARE achieving their humanitarian mandate.

What is CARE’s approach to gender in emergencies?

“…empowering women and girls is a critical pathway to reduce vulnerability and poverty for the whole community, as well as being essential for achieving gender equality.” CARE International Humanitarian and Emergency Strategy 2013-2020 (p.4).

Gender equality and women’s voice is central to CARE’s approach in emergencies. As a rights based organisation, CARE seeks to promote equal realization of dignity and human rights, and the elimination of poverty and injustice for all genders and ages.

Essential to achieving this, is a focus on women and girls’ empowerment, as well as engagement of men and boys. Humanitarian crises offer a ‘window of opportunity’ to transform unequal gender relations and shift harmful gender norms. Knowing this, CARE works along a continuum to ensure that, at the very least, emergency responses are gender sensitive, but strive to be, gender transformative.

CARE’s approach to gender in emergencies focuses on 4 key areas (see graphic). These are outlined in CARE’s Gender in Emergencies Guidance note and details of CARE’s gender in emergencies approach can be found in the Gender section of CARE’ emergency toolkit.

A.    Rapid Gender Analysis (RGA): An RGA provides information about the different needs, capacities, and coping strategies of women, girls, boys and men in a crisis. It does this, in part, by examining the roles and relationships between women, girls, boys and men. An RGA is built-up progressively, and provides an initial but incomplete analysis of gender relations in an emergency. The CARE Rapid Gender Analysis Toolkit provides detailed guidance on the five steps to conduct an RGA. The CARE RGA links to more in-depth Gender and Power Analysis using the CARE Good Practice Framework

B.    Minimum commitments for technical sectors: Ensuring gender is mainstreamed and integrated throughout all steps of the humanitarian programme cycle helps to ensure that adequate and efficient services and assistance is provided, with attention to users’ safety, dignity and equal access. Minimum commitments are people-centered commitments that aim at improving the quality and efficiency of response programmes, and ensuring that key issues such as gender, gender-based violence, child protection, disability and age are taken into consideration by all partners. They also help to reinforce the accountability of sectoral interventions to the affected population. CARE has developed a set of minimum commitments for its core sectors: WASH, Shelter, Food Security and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights.

C.    Women Lead in Emergencies: Gender equality in humanitarian programming is most effectively achieved if women and girls actively participate, and are empowered to choose how to participate, in decisions on how to meet their needs. A focus on women’s equal voice, leadership and participation aims to transform the root causes of poverty and injustice, to save lives and increase gender equality. Particular efforts are made to reach marginalized women and girls, including women with disabilities, indigenous women, elderly women, and women of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity, engaging them as active partners, and building on their needs and capacities.

D.    Life free from violence: In an emergency GBV is exacerbated, and vulnerabilities and risk increase. Preventing and responding to GBViE is a life-saving activity that requires a prioritised response and is mandatory in CARE programming. CARE’s Framework and Theory of Change for Addressing GBV in emergencies outlines CARE’s commitments through mainstreamed, integrated and stand-alone programming approaches through six programming priorities that comprise the framework and theory of change.

Gender in Emergencies MEAL

Incorporating gender into MEAL provides the opportunity to understand, learn from, and respond to the changing gendered realities and experiences throughout a response. It involves ensuring that MEAL systems and activities are participatory, are not gender-neutral and are designed to allow teams to understand and challenge unequal power relations that may exist. Crucially, MEAL should seek to contribute to social change by empowering marginalized groups to be heard and influence the decision-making that affects them.[1] The CARE Gender Marker and Gender Equality and Women’s Voice indicators, allow us to track, improve on, and support more effective, gender integrated programming. The Strategic Impact Inquiry on Gender in Emergencies allows more in-depth learning of the impact our humanitarian response work on gender inequality.

Accountability to affected populations

At the heart of CARE’s efforts to impact poverty and social justice, is its engagement with marginalised communities, and vulnerable adults and children. An essential component of CARE’s organisational commitment to upholding the dignity and human rights of the communities it works with, is CARE’s approach to the Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA). Further guidance on CARE’s approach to PSEA is outlined in Section 33 of the emergency toolkit.

Finance and human resources

Equipping humanitarian responses with the right skills, tools, and capacities to integrate gender effectively requires adequate and appropriate internal financial and human resources. This includes ensuring gender and diverse-balanced teams, budgets for appropriate and adequate resources, building capacity of all staff, including partners and volunteers, on gender equality and diversity and making commitments to Gender-sensitive Partnerships.



[1] Applying Feminist Principles to MEAL at CARE Canada Guidance Note