Equality for all: Thoughts from CARE’s gender advisor

Written by Emily Wiseman, CARE Canada's Senior Gender Advisor

As CARE Canada’s senior gender advisor, I have a keen interest in ending inequality.

Throughout my career, I have listened to and focused on working together with women around the world to amplify their voices and ensure they have a seat at the table. I have worked alongside them to enhance access to education for refugee girls and host communities, to increase women's access to employment opportunities and to create more spaces for women to safely and freely exercise their decision making abilities and achieve their basic sexual and reproductive health rights.

Whether it be in Haiti, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Jordan, or Sri Lanka, around the world I have met strong and powerful women and girls who have come up against immeasurable odds and challenges. Many of them make up some of the more than 32 million women and girls around the world facing humanitarian emergencies.

Hassan Hilowle is a refugee from Somalia living in Kenya in Dadaab camp. She was supported by CARE as a vulnerable woman to set up a market stall with a group of other women in Dagahaley camp, Dadaab. They have been running the business since 2011. They were given a freezer, blender and clothes to sell as well as technical support and entrepreneurship training. In a week they make an average of US $120-130 which is split between the 11 members. This money has helped Muhubo with school related costs, clothes for her children and additional food stuffs (like fresh fruit and veg) for the family. Her shop is a registered World Food Programme voucher vendor - a process which is run and managed by CARE and allows refugees with a monthly monetary sum to spend in pre-seleceted shops instead of food rations and allows them more choice and variety in what they eat. Photo by Lucy Beck/CARE
Tea Plantation, Kandy, Sri Lanka

When women aren't heard

In my work, one of the most common challenges I see in humanitarian emergencies is how often the women and girls affected are not heard. What do I mean by this?

Women go unheard when organizations that advocate more specifically for their rights don’t do humanitarian work that larger humanitarian agencies are asked to do, because they operate on such a global scale.

Women and girls go unheard when they are not invited or allowed to participate in the decision-making about how to plan humanitarian assistance - both locally and internationally.

Women and girls go unheard when humanitarian programs do not fully take into account women’s experiences, needs, and rights.

And when women aren’t heard, people continue to believe that the voices and contributions of women are less valuable, that women are less competent than men, and that women should not get to help decide.

We know that investing in women’s groups and local partners before, during, and after a crisis is vital to ensuring links to long-term development.

Emily Wiseman

CARE Canada’s senior gender advisor

CARE’s work to end inequality in emergencies

Along with my colleagues around the world, I believe that women have the right to participate in their community and government. Their voices, leadership, and representation are vital to challenging and changing the root causes of poverty, inequality, and injustice.

In Tonga, a small Polynesian country, only one woman has ever been a member of parliament and women are not expected to take on leadership or political roles. Last year, CARE helped establish women’s groups. The women discussed how they could work together not only to recover from Tropical Cyclone Gita (which had hit in February), but also to better plan for the next crisis. CARE is also providing Tongan women with coaching to build their confidence to speak up at meetings and voice their ideas with confidence.

How I am making March for Women

My career has been dedicated to promoting the rights of women and girls, but I know I’m not the only one who is passionate about this issue.

CARE is calling upon donors and leaders from around the world to promote the engagement of women, girls, and women-led organizations across the humanitarian sector. We know that investing in women’s groups and local partners before, during, and after a crisis is vital to ensuring links to long-term development. This will help to ensure the meaningful engagement of women and girls in humanitarian emergencies so that they are able to play a strong role in shaping how programs and policies affect them.

We are also calling upon donors and leaders to earmark a percentage of funding for women-led organizations. This will help to ensure that funding reaches women-led groups and organizations without them being forced to compete with major international humanitarian actors.

Ensuring that women and girls play a strong role in shaping how programs are built is necessary both for advancing gender equality and for building long-term resilience.

Thousands of Canadians have signed their name in support of this urgent work. My name exists among them – if you agree, you can sign too.