Sudan_Woman with multicoloured scarf next to wooden structure
Photo: Andreea Campeanu/CARE

5 Min Inspiration: Her Voice - Listening to women in action

If women in Sudan and Niger can lead through the incredible crises that are facing them, then there is hope for all of us. No matter how daunting the task, what these women can accomplish with the solidarity of their savings groups, the expertise of local organizations, and some support from CARE shows us that there is a path forward to building more resilient futures.

Starting in 2020, the number of people who need humanitarian assistance has risen by 260 million, more than triple the number from 2019. COVID-19, climate, and conflict are putting lives and livelihoods all over the world, and women are facing a huge portion of the burden—much more than their fair share. The crisis in Ukraine kicked off even more severe and long-lasting impacts, falling on top of safety nets and coping mechanisms that were already too stretched. Women are acting to respond to these multiple, prolonged crises, but we cannot expect them to do it alone.

This year’s report, Her Voice: Listening to Women in Action, showcases women’s stories, experiences, and actions in crisis. For the 3rd year, CARE is asking women what is happening in their lives—how are crises impacting them, and what they are doing to lead.

In 20202022, and now 2023, CARE has run the Women Respond initiative to build a global picture of what women are experiencing, and how they are leading. 2023 shows a world where women are stepping up and taking action, and where the crises they face are complex, varied, and long-lasting. It is a call to action for us to match women’s dedication and leadership on a global scale.

"I want to see more women in my community and around the world growing their influence. Imagine the impact if all women had the same opportunities as me!"
Hawa Abdalnabi, VSLA member in Sudan.

What are women doing to respond to crisis?

  • Feeding their families and communities. Since the crisis in Ukraine started, 64% of women and 50% of men, said their actions are focused on food security. That’s a change from 2020 and 2022, where women were focusing on sharing information about COVID-19 and finding ways to teach others about the pandemic. It shows a shift in women’s priorities, and a growing gap between men and women.
  • Running community response. 27% of women and 30% of men in seven countries are leading at the community level: adapting groups to crisis contexts, participating in community response, leading community groups to take action, and sharing information.
  • Paying for safety nets. 47% of women and 41% of men in savings groups are using some savings to support group members. 15% of women and 14% of men also said they had used the social fund to buy food. 51% of VSLA respondents have continued to provide loans for members loans.

What are their top three challenges?

  • Earning a living. Since March 2022, 64% of women and 58% of men reported that their livelihoods have been impacted by crisis.
  • Getting meals. 52% of women and 29% of men reported impact on food security. This shows a rising food insecurity, especially after the conflict in Ukraine. This also means women are having a harder time growing food, and they are less likely to be eating than the men in their lives.
    • “A woman that eats before serving her husband is considered a bad woman, who does not care about her husband other than filling her stomach.”- Women Focus Group Respondent, Amhara, Ethiopia.
  • Coping with mental health. Women are more likely to report stress, and mental health issues – 17% of women compared to 6% of men reported experiencing higher stress and mental health issues since 2020. For women, unpaid care work, income, and food are some of the major causes of stress.
    • “Life is mentally and physically exhausting. We can no longer go to hospitals because healthcare and medicines are so expensive. My children eat less. They no longer have milk because I had to sell my cows. We eat a lot less and we no longer eat vegetables because they are expensive”. – Woman living in a camp in Northeast Syria.
    • “We sometimes feel hopeless and angry that men aren’t doing anything to help.” – Women Key Informant respondent, Oromia, Ethiopia.
"I was able to overcome my silence and I was the first to mobilize the women. Our voices were heard by the authorities who agreed to patrol every night to prevent men from entering our houses This was my greatest achievement, I was not afraid or slowed down by anyone. I spoke in public and in front of everyone in order to defend our rights,"
Women Lead in Emergencies participant, Niger.

What do women want now?

When you ask women what they want and what they need most in their current situations, here’s what they are asking for.

  • Urgent Action to Address Food Insecurity, and Livelihood Impacts. These are women’s biggest areas of struggle, and global and local responses are not keeping up to meet their needs. As safety nets stretch past their breaking points, we need to find more ways to support people’s ability to bounce back.
  • Protection and Mental Health Support. Women are much more likely than men to prioritize mental health, GBV, and safety issues. We must find ways to support women through these crises. 
  • Investments in Women's Voice, Leadership, and Gender Data. The space for women’s leadership has been shrinking as pressures mount and crises last longer around the world. We must ensure that we’re providing support to women to lead and to be visible in the global conversation. 

Where does this data come from?

Since 2020, 28,173 women in 22 countries have shared their stories, needs, and experiences of leadership. This report represents 6,299 respondents (4,610 women) from nine countries – Afghanistan, Burundi, Cambodia, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Iraq, Niger, Nigeria, and Uganda. The data includes survey findings from nine quantitative surveys and insights from 26 RGAs and assessments in 2022, providing insights into the gendered power dynamics and experiences of women and men, boys and girls in conflict, natural disasters, and other crises.

Want to learn more? 

Read the Her Voice: Listening to Women in Action report.