Five reasons why CARE focuses on women and girls in emergencies

Women and girls are most affected when emergencies hit

When emergencies hit, women and girls are among the most and worst affected. In many countries they cannot swim or are confined to their homes because of social norms and can therefore not easily evacuate in times of crisis. Women are often the last to eat during family meals, which makes them more vulnerable during droughts when food becomes scarce. The after-effects of an emergency do take a high toll: rape, trafficking, early marriage and other forms of violence against women increase in times of conflict and natural disasters. For example, 1 in 5 refugees or displaced women in complex humanitarian settings is estimated to have experienced sexual violence.

At the same time, women’s voices are often not heard when emergency aid is being planned and delivered. Their needs tend to be overlooked when emergency assessments and responses are planned by men.

Days following Hurricane Matthew, CARE distributes 200 hygiene kits and 400 tarps for temporary shelter in Beaumont, Haiti on October 10, 2016. It is one of the most affected areas. Photo Carey Wagner/CARE

Conflicts and emergencies can open opportunities for women

When social structures and power dynamics are disrupted, women and girls often find their voices heard for the first time in their lives. For example in Yemen, due to the prolonged crisis, more husbands appreciate their wives’ contributions to supporting their families and it is now more culturally acceptable for women to be employed. At the same time, when given the skills and opportunities, women play an important part in disaster prevention and response given their crucial role as caretakers of the family. We have supported women in Vanuatu, a country battled by frequent typhoons and earthquakes, to become leaders in preparing their communities for disaster impacts. This resulted in strengthening women’s roles in their communities, which started to view them as equal leaders.

Men and boys are our allies to achieve gender equality

While we respond to women and girls as those most in need in times of emergency, we also address the needs of men and boys and help them to become mindful of gender equality in rebuilding homes and livelihoods after a disaster. In times of crises men are often more open to see the benefits of women working or joining CARE’s activities – and we see them as our allies in achieving gender equality.

Because of their involvement in CARE's "Journeys of Transformation" project, Ntibimenya Hassan and Mukakimonyo Hassina have learned how to have a better marriage.

We can achieve gender equality even when delivering short-term emergency support

CARE’s strength lies in our connection to our long-term development programs. We build on what we achieved over the past decades. Given that CARE has often worked in emergency-affected countries for decades, we can link to our development programming and follow opportunities that can arise even in times of conflict and disaster. In Vanuatu, a country battled by frequent typhoons and earthquakes, we have supported women to become leaders in preparing their communities for disaster impacts. This resulted in greater inclusion and therefore protection for the poorest households, which have been left out in the past. In Niger, Somalia and other drought affected countries, women’s active participation in our Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA) has helped families to save funds for times of crisis, ensuring children stay well-nourished and healthy when food becomes inaccessible. And after participating in peace committees and livelihood trainings in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country ravaged by decades of conflict, women told us that violence at home has decreased as husbands started to appreciate their spouses’ contribution to the household income.

We have developed innovative tools to help us deliver tailored aid for women and girls

Over the past years, we have built our internal capacity to ensure we have the right tools and the right specialists in place. Our ‘Gender Marker’ tool evaluates our emergency aid from the planning stage through delivering assistance and rates a project’s impact on the lives of affected women and girls. This helps us to refine and improve our aid delivery. The CARE Gender Marker grades emergency projects from 0-4 and then places the result on CARE’s Gender Continuum – a scale ranging from ‘gender harmful’ to ‘gender transformative’, with the latter meaning that our emergency response has helped change the norms and structures that hinder women achieving gender equality. In each crisis we develop a Rapid Gender Analysis to better understand the power imbalances and social injustices in a given emergency – and to tailor our aid accordingly.

Learn more about why CARE places special focus on women and girls >>