Humanitarian Health Action

IASC Handbook for Gender equality in Humanitarian Action

Women, Girls Boys & Men Different Needs – Equal Opportunities

1 December 2006

When war breaks out or disaster strikes, we move. As professional humanitarian workers, our job is to provide assistance and protect people during the most traumatic moments in their lives; when they are frightened, lost, uncertain about the future and possessing next to nothing. Whether it is in Indonesia after the Tsunami or the DRC in the midst of fighting, the lives of ordinary women, girls, boys and men are disrupted — changed forever. We are there to lighten their load by ensuring that they receive the basic necessities of life. It is our responsibility to respect them, help restore the confidence and sense of self-dignity that is often destroyed by crisis. Above all we must not exacerbate their situation, cause more stress or expose them to new threats.

In the rush to mobilize support, sort out logistics, coordinate with colleagues, respond to the demands and questions from HQ, we sometimes lose sight of who we are meant to be helping. We offer protection and distribute aid but can forget that women, girls, boys and men often have different needs, face different threats and have different skills and aspirations. Ignoring this can mean our assistance is not properly targeted. This can be both wasteful and harmful.

This handbook offers real and practical guidance on identifying and addressing the differing needs and situations of women, girls, boys and men; in other words, being sensitive to gender issues in humanitarian crises. It is not about adding new tasks or responsibilities to jobs that are already tough. It is simply about good, common sense programming.

Understanding gender differences, inequalities and capacities improves the effectiveness of our humanitarian response. We must work together to promote gender equality — this is a shared responsibility of all humanitarian actors.

Jan Egeland
Emergency Relief Coordinator

Download the entire handbook

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