What role can empowered women play in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of humanitarian sector?

There is ample evidence that investing in women is one of the most effective ways to improve social, political and economic developments yet their involvement is still limited. Women face inequalities right from when they are young and this follows them right into adulthood.  While the idea of treating everyone equally seems noble, the principle behind it tends to forget that people have different abilities, capacities, resources and have varied experiences and therefore a one size fits all approach to address inequality cannot work.

Globally, gender inequality still exists despite substantial national and international measures being put in place. For instance, the East Africa Community (EAC) – comprising of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi – states have committed themselves to mainstream gender in all its engagements and enhance the role and participation of women in cultural, social, political, and economic development. The EAC gender equality and development bill makes provision for gender equality, equity, protection and development in the community. However, as it stands right now, the national governments are yet to effectively implement the promotion and protection of women rights in their respective countries. To effectively prevent or mitigate violation of gender rights, policy-makers, senior managers, program staff, sector specialists, technical managers, and gender focal points in government agencies and development organisations need to be aware of what these inequalities are and how to effectively draft policies and programs that can mitigate this.

This year’s International Women’s Day offered yet another opportunity to reflect on the progress made towards gender equality and equity. The 2018 theme #PressForProgress seeks to provoke us to think more creatively and critically about gender inequality and how we can bridge this gap. Needs assessment carried out in 2016 by East Africa Academy Centre in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania reveal that women are generally excluded from humanitarian learning. It shows that there are fewer women than men participating in learning programmes, both online and face to face. The effect of the exclusion means women will not benefit from the learning that may be on offer. This also leads to women becoming ‘invisible’ to disaster risk management decision making thus when disasters strike, they are harder hit. Capacities and skills are needed for the greater inclusion of this excluded group as active agents of change in disaster risk management and for effectively building resilience to disasters.

The Humanitarian Leadership Academy’s e-learning platform – Kaya – provides an opportunity for humanitarian workers to access online training to improve their capacity and knowledge on gender issues in humanitarian action. The courses available offer comprehensive knowledge on how to handle gender issues in humanitarian emergencies. They also provide case studies from around the world on how different needs of men and women, boys and girls have been met during humanitarian crises as well as how to address sexual and gender based violence.

This year, the East Africa Academy Centre is committed to press for progress and will promote and advance more learning opportunities for both men and women in the humanitarian sector through Kaya. We appreciate the fact that as humanitarians, we ought to apply a gender lens during programming or else we may miss out on the opportunity to support and promote equality amongst men and women.


Blog written by Rose Sikhoya, Partnerships & Projects Officer, with the support of James Kisia, Director, and Elizabeth Myendo, Partnership & Engagement Advisor.

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