Integrating gender equality into all programming is an exercise in quality, and integrating gender equality into humanitarian responses is about more than working with women and girls, and preventing, mitigating and responding to Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV). As in all implementing contexts, it is essential to recognise and respond to the distinct gender, age, and other identity-based-barriers women, girls, boys and men face as well as their strengths, assets and capacities in all their diversity. Indeed, by engaging a broad range of stakeholders and community members in a holistic approach, humanitarian responses will be more effective and more relevant to those we aim to serve.


Gender inequality exists in all societies, but is simply manifested differently.  Humanitarian settings exacerbate existing inequalities and generate new manifestations of gender inequality that may come in a variety of forms. Emergencies bring increased risks to the individual such as changing circumstances lead to new challenges to face, which they may or not be mentally, emotionally, and physically equipped to face. Emergencies bring changes in relationships where, for example, intimate partner violence and domestic violence may increase as a result of stress caused by the crisis. There may be increased violence in certain communities causing those communities to be stigmatised, which may further the cycle of violence and deprivation. Or there may be societal factors that are exacerbated related to norms about male dominance and aggression, for example, which can lead to a host of issues as people compete for increasingly scarce resources and men feel the pressure to live up to these stereotypes. However, the root causes of these challenges are related to gender inequality, abuses of power, and a broad disregard of human rights: humanitarian settings merely exacerbate inequalities.


As with all of our work, we take an intersectional32 approach to deprivation, oppression, and identity-based strengths. We recognise that gender is not the only, or often not the main factor leading to one’s marginalization, but that intersecting identities can create distinct situations of vulnerability. For example, while we know a woman may face discrimination by virtue of being a woman, and we know a person from an ethnic minority may face discrimination by virtue of being a minority, a woman from an ethnic minority will face unique deprivation and possess unique assets. Alternatively, we know that LGBTQI folk experience intense situations of vulnerability in humanitarian settings, which can be compounded by the intersecting legal context and social acceptability of sexual and gender minorities.


Sometimes, however, humanitarian settings bring new opportunities and assets. For instance, during a gender equality analysis in Central and Southern Somalia, we found that since women were earning more money than men due the nature of the work available, they were also able to exercise more decision making power in the household—a shift that likely would not have happened absent the humanitarian context.


Save the Children builds in resources to integrate gender equality in humanitarian settings through a variety of avenues. We fund dedicated gender equality advisors at the project/response level as well as requisite staff, partner, stakeholder, and community trainings on gender equality. We also regularly design our programs with input from the diversity of voices in the communities in which we plan to implement, and conduct more robust gender equality analyses to inform how we carry out our work in each context. At the international level, Save the Children has a global working group responsible for the quality of gender equality integration in humanitarian settings.


Integrating gender equality into humanitarian responses promotes the humanitarian principles, mitigates any harm our interventions may cause, and fulfils Save the Children’s commitments to reach the most marginalized children. Commitments to gender equality are embedded in Save the Children’s Ambition 2030, which recognises gender inequality as a barrier to the ability to claim rights, and it is in the 2016-2018 global strategy, which refers to mainstreaming gender and resilience across programming contexts. Further, there are a host of international obligations to address gender inequality.

32 – Term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw