Around the world, it is women and girls who are disproportionately affected by poverty and discrimination. Imagine: women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours. They earn ten percent of the world’s income. Yet they own just one percent of the world’s property. Often, women and girls are not allowed to make decisions about their household’s income, or tradition and culture forbid them to leave their homes.
In other words, half of the population in some countries cannot contribute to their family’s and community’s economic development. A great resource goes untapped. But women are an important part of the solutions needed to truly overcome poverty. They play a key role in navigating their family and their community to a better life.
5 Reasons Why CARE Supports Women and Girls in Emergencies:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For more information on why women and girls are most affected when disasters strike, click here.
For more information on gender in emergencies, click here.
For more information on CARE in emergencies, click here.
For more information on empowering women and girls affected by crisis, click here.
Our experience shows us that when equipped with the proper resources, women have the power to help their families and entire communities escape poverty.
It’s a simple formula: empowerment is the total sum of changes needed for a woman to realize her full human rights. Empowerment is not just about giving women training or a loan. Empowerment is more than that. It means that relationships and social structures that shape the lives of women and girls must change.
Women’s empowerment can only be achieved when we include men and boys. Men are often those who define and keep women within their boundaries. But when we engage with them they realize that their wives’ empowerment benefits the whole family.
Promoting gender equality and empowering women is one of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For CARE, it’s the key to lifting entire families out of poverty – and it defines our programs worldwide.