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The number and complexity of hazards and disasters are increasing rapidly and there is ample evidence that women and girls are often more vulnerable to disasters than men and boys. This collection of Programme Insights papers considers the progress made and the challenges we still face in humanitarian and disaster risk reduction interventions, in responding adequately to the needs of all affected people. By sharing lessons learned, the papers can have value beyond their own contexts and will help to make future work more effective.
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  GENDER EQUALITY IN EMERGENCIES OCTOBER 2012 Oxfam Programme Insights   www.oxfam.org.uk/policyandpractice   GENDER-SENSITIVE RESPONSE AND RECOVERY    An Overview Non-food items being distributed at Kalma camp, Sudan. A group of displaced women proceed out of the dis-tribution area, balancing buckets full of clothing and household items on their heads. Aisles are laid out with ropes and sticks and rope to keep the distribution orderly. © Marguereite Hondow/Oxfam. The number and complexity of hazards and disasters are increasing rapidly; and there is ample evidence that women and girls are often more vulnerable to disasters than men and boys. The papers in this collection consider the progress made and the challenges we still face in humanitarian and disaster risk reduction (DRR) interventions, in responding adequately to the needs and priorities of all affected people, men and women, boys and girls. Achieving long-term change that transforms the lives of those living in poverty needs to specifically address gender inequalities. Through reflection, analysis and documentation of experience, this collection of papers can have value beyond their own contexts and by sharing the lessons learned, will help to make future work more effective.  2 Gender-Sensitive Response and Recovery: An Overview THE GENDERED NATURE OF DISASTERS   ‘We were always bound to our customs and never free from worries, but these floods had made us more vulnerable after the war against terrorism. Our tolerance level was finished during this flood.’ – Sanga Mai, member of the Damghar community ‘Oxfam Internal Gender Learning Review of Pakistan Flood, 2010–2011’ Statistical data and qualitative analyses have amply demonstrated that disasters are not gender-neutral. Despite deficiencies in the collection and uses of statistical evidence, we know that in most disasters women die in large numbers, 1 This means that women and girls are often more vulnerable to disasters than men and boys are. Women’s greater vulnerability – the extent to which they are likely to be affected by a hazard – is due to the widespread disadvantage, and at times formal discrimination, that they experience in many societies. Their access to and control over resources, social or economic, are more limited than those of men; their earnings are usually lower, even in most Western countries; and the burden of caring for family members falls mostly on their shoulders. Exclusion from decision making, limited mobility, and the threat and experience of various forms of violence against women and girls are all pre-existing conditions that determine their greater vulnerability in disasters and crises. Age, class, ethnicity, caste, marital status, sexuality, and disability all combine with gender to determine an individual’s vulnerabilities. In addition, women from certain marginalized groups experience particular problems: among pastoral communities, for example, according to local norms women are permitted to own and sell only smaller animals which command much lower prices and prestige. During periods of drought, such women, and their households, experience severe destitution. although this is not the case in situations of armed conflict, where combatants are usually men. 2  We also know that the effects of humanitarian disasters have marked gender characteristics whatever their causes and whether they are of fast and unexpected onset, such as an earthquake, or of chronic duration, such as the food crises that have wrecked the lives of many communities and countries in parts of Africa in recent decades. The increasing and often multiple natures of hazards and disasters add urgency and poignancy to this situation, as the quotation above exemplifies. Opportunities for change Despite the destruction and tragedy that they cause, in some instances natural disasters and situations of conflict open up opportunities for positive change, enabling women and men to take on new and more progressive gender roles: for example, when men have to share caring responsibilities, or when women assume prominent roles in peace building and mediation. This seems to be the case even for some of the most intractable problems, such as gender-based violence (GBV), if they are approached with sensitivity and determination. For example, the idea of ‘women-friendly spaces’ has been developed in Sri Lanka (and then adopted in other situations) to create an opportunity for women to voice and share pressing and often unspoken concerns about GBV. When adopted, this solution has also led to the emergence of much-needed local women leaders. 3  Seizing opportunities that crises offer requires one key change in mind-sets: the recognition that women and girls – like men and boys – possess great skills (and can put them to use) to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. The widespread recognition of their vulnerability has perhaps tended to prevent policy makers and practitioners from valuing and employing women’s skills and readiness to act.  Gender Equality in Emergencies: Practical Lessons Formal responses Most humanitarian agencies are aware of the way in which women suffer disproportionally from the consequences of disasters. As an article in the journal Gender and Development  observes: ‘the gendered impacts of disasters are now widely acknowledged, if not fully understood, and most organizations involved in humanitarian responses, as well as in disaster risk reduction, now recognise their obligation to support women’s rights and promote gender equality through their interventions’ (2012: 205). 4  With recognition comes the development and (less rapidly and consistently) the implementation and use of policies and strategies. Globally the UN has formulated a range of resolutions which address the gender-based impact of disasters: from Resolution 1325 calling for the implementation of international humanitarian and human-rights law to protect the rights of women and girls during and after conflicts, to the more recent Resolutions 1820, 1888, 1989, respectively addressing sexual violence, the appointment of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General to coordinate UN efforts to respond to conflict-related sexual violence, and women’s leadership in peace processes. Other agencies have been equally forthcoming. Specifically for disaster-risk reduction (DRR), the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) includes among its priorities for 2005–2015 the aspiration that ‘  A gender perspective should be integrated into all disaster risk management policies, plans and decision-making processes, including those related to risk assessment, early warning, information management, and education and training’ 5 . In 1999 the IASC (Interagency Standing Committee) issued a Policy Statement for the Integration of a Gender Perspective in Humanitarian Assistance 6 , which has been bolstered by a variety of projects, tools, and resources. Oxfam envisions that many more women will gain power over their lives and live free from violence as a result of changes in gender relations, and through increased levels of women’s active engagement and leadership in institutions, decision making, and change processes. In addition, Oxfam, among other agencies, has gradually made commitments to accord gender equality a central place in its humanitarian and resilience work. This commitment has been restated in the recent (2011) ‘Minimum Standards for Gender Equality and Women’s Rights in Emergencies’, produced to support staff and partners in improving humanitarian practice. Such Standards build on existing policies and guiding documents used throughout the Oxfam confederation, including the IASC guidelines on gender and gender-based violence in emergencies, and the Sphere Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response (2011) 7 .   Despite such clear commitments, many interventions still seem to be beset by limitations and problems in their implementation, in the use of available tools and approaches, in increasing the resilience of women and girls and promoting their rights. This collection of Programme Insights papers on ‘Gender Equality in Emergencies: Practical Lessons’, documents some of these problems, alongside the successes. The choice of contributions to the collection is in part dictated by the availability of material, and in part by the intention to cover both humanitarian interventions and DRR, a variety of sectors (water, sanitation, and hygiene or WASH, cash transfers, protection, livelihoods, etc.), and advocacy campaigns as well as programmes on the ground. The selection is also intended to emphasize the importance of context in determining what gender-sensitive actions are possible and necessary. For example, the urban slums of Nairobi are very different from the Dadaab camps, although both are in Kenya; and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), characterized by weak state authority and long-term insecurity, differs greatly from both West Sumatra and Vietnam, places that are prone to natural disasters but where considerable strides have been made in poverty reduction and governance. The critical truth is that ‘ Understanding how gender roles interact with context is key to contributing to positive change. Not understanding it, or adopting a simplistic approach, risks doing significant harm’ (‘Protecting Communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Understanding gender dynamics and empowering women and men’, this collection).  4 Gender-Sensitive Response and Recovery: An Overview LEARNING FROM EXPERIENCE Real learning? Much is made of the need to learn from experience in development programmes, humanitarian response, and DRR. Publications such as this are produced with exactly this purpose in mind: to offer reflections on what has worked or not worked in the past, and thus make suggestions for future practice. At times this translation from lesson to practice does not take place, and similar mistakes are repeated over and over again. The modalities of distributions of sanitary protection to women and girls are an example of mistakes that are often repeated. This was certainly the case for Oxfam’s work at the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya, the largest in the world, where Oxfam provides clean water and sanitation, with gender mainstreaming as a core component. During the initial stage of the response, a household kit that included disposable sanitary pads was distributed to newly arrived families. However, most women threw the pads away, and they could be seen littered all over the camp. Oxfam, among other stakeholders, then held separate focus-group discussions with men and women to determine the appropriate contents of a standard hygiene kit and appropriate protocols for distribution. One young woman said: ‘We thought the packets contained something to eat, and when we open and find another thing we do not understand, we throw it away.’ Findings from the discussions led to a switch from disposable to reusable sanitary cloths, and further consultations led to the discovery that women preferred single dull-coloured cloth instead of the white cotton with coloured patterns srcinally included in the kit. This information was fed back to the NFI working group, and changes to the type of cloth were agreed on. This example echoes a similar case in Pakistan, as reported by a Project Manager: ‘In August last year, SAFWCO used white thin sanitary cloth as part of the hygiene kit… during post- distribution monitoring visits women beneficiaries informed us that the white colour and thin fabric is not appropriate for sanitary purpose and they were using this cloth for covering water pots or dusting. This was shared with Oxfam Technical Leads and thick coloured fabric was suggested and the women beneficiaries received in September-October 2010.’ 8   The articles in this collection report other weaknesses, half-hearted attempts, and even failures to respond to the different needs and perspectives of women and men (and boys and girls) living in crises. Although shaped by local circumstances, such problems are rarely unique, as in the case of the sanitary-protection distributions. How and whether we have learned from the successes and positive experiences reported here, is also hard to document. So why do we struggle to learn, whether from positive experiences, from problems, and from failures? Putting this publication together has given us a sense of the many different issues associated with collecting and sharing the experiences from which lessons could emerge. First of all, we struggled to identify authors willing and able to write about their experiences. Some of this reluctance must be due to the fact that working in emergency responses is very hard to combine with reflective practice such as writing. Humanitarian personnel tend to be very mobile, with frequent changes of location and organization; consulting them in an attempt to deepen our understanding of past experiences or fill gaps in information was hampered by this mobility. Written records of programmes or projects (reports of assessments, evaluations, etc.) tend to be rather descriptive and contain information of what  was done, rather than why , and they often offer simplistic speculations about cause and effect. When problems are identified (whether related to gender analysis, the participation of women, or the benefits that they derive from an intervention), it is often at the conclusion of a particular project, and little is known about what was done, if anything, to rectify the situation. In existing accounts, the emphasis is frequently on positive steps and outcomes (with some exceptions: see, for example ‘Cash-Transfers in
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