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A conversation on gender

  • by Fatima Khonat
  • 19 Aug 19

Blog Post

World Humanitarian Day 2019 honours the role of women working within aid. In this piece we speak to Start Fund MEAL Manager, Chaitali, and hear her thoughts around women in crises. 

This year’s World Humanitarian Day is about celebrating and honouring the women humanitarians. What are your thoughts on that?

I think this is a wonderful way of recognising that humanitarian crises are not gender neutral- women and girls face a disproportionally higher risk of violence during a crisis. The UN’s Global Humanitarian Overview 2019 indicates that conflicts and natural disasters “exacerbate gender inequalities, particularly against women and girls”. But it is equally important to recognise them not as victims, but as powerful humanitarians who provide the first line of defence before any of us even arrive.

They play an extraordinary role in the prevention, response, and recovery, and this year's theme provides us with an opportunity to collectively recognise and celebrate their role, resilience, and power.

Start Fund is a rapid response mechanism that initiates disbursement of humanitarian finance within 72 hours. You have been involved in a gender review of the Start Fund projects. Can you elaborate a bit on that piece of work?

We systematically collect gender disaggregated data for Start Fund projects to ensure that women and girls equally participate and benefit from the projects and our data shows that we have been doing pretty good. But that being the starting point, it was important for us to understand more about the gender and equity dimensions of the Start Fund projects.

Start Fund projects are designed in a very short span of time and are completed within 45 days, so we were interested to study the extent to which our projects are systematically applying a gender and equity lens across the project cycle.

We wanted to know what measures our members are systematically taking to ensure that the projects are considering and responding to the differential needs of different vulnerable groups in a population. We were curious to find out what has worked and what has not worked and the reasons behind it so that we can apply those lessons to improve our programme quality as well as make a contribution towards the sector knowledge. And finally, we were keen to come up with a tool, rather an adapted version of some of the existing tools that meets the requirement of the Start Fund projects and can be used to strengthen the programme quality.

How is it different from a usual review?

It is different because we have taken a learning and reflection approach towards this review. When we were conceptualising this review, we felt strongly that this review is an opportunity to open space for dialogue and discussion on this issue. We did not want this review to become a stand-alone activity conducted by a hand full of technical people; we wanted everyone to be part of this process as much as possible.

So, we consciously planned for opportunities for colleagues to complete gender and equity trainings, build their practical knowledge of using gender and equity makers such as the IASC Gender and Age Marker (GAM) as we were developing the gender and equity review tool/framework.

I believe this will help us to come up with something that is quite relevant to a rapid response mechanism like the Start Fund. Another interesting aspect about the approach is the collective knowledge and experience of the gender experts across the Start Network membership. We were keen to develop a framework/tool that builds on and adds value to the existing body of knowledge and tools with regard to gender and equity in the humanitarian sector. We consulted gender advisors from quite a few Start Network member organisations and they all have been very supportive of this initiative and generously offered their advice and input.

You recently organised a training on the IASC Gender and Age Marker, tell us a bit more about that.

When we were reaching out to various gender advisors, we got in touch with Deborah Cliffton from the UN. She is a senior gender advisor and is currently responsible for rolling out the new version of the IASC GAM. She liked the idea of what we were planning to do and was very generous to offer a day long training on gender and GAM for our colleagues. It was a fantastic training -she blended the gender training with the GAM training and the participants had the opportunity to discuss, debate and understand how a tool like GAM can guide transformative humanitarian programming.

One of our training participants, Tasfia Salek, who is with the Start Programme team and a member of the gender review task team said:

“Start prides itself on speed, with a turnaround time of 72 hours between a crisis onset and response. In the rush to deliver life-saving aid as fast as possible, it may be possible to sometimes lose sight of who it is we should be supporting. When disaster strikes, women, men, boys and girls have different needs, vulnerabilities, skills and capabilities – the GAM makes it really easy to take this into account. As I was going through the training, I could see how finding ways to integrate the GAM into our processes at a system-level can help us as a Network fulfil our humanitarian mandate and make programming more effective.”

How was Deborah’s experience with Start?

I asked her about her views, and she said:

“It was exciting to work with staff of the Start Network, to introduce them to the new IASC GAM and discuss how they can support partners to implement gender and age responsive programmes. It was clear to this group that humanitarian action not only needs to have a gender analysis of a context, but that this analysis must then inform a nd shape all subsequent programming steps. We need to recognise the barriers and risks faced by different groups in a population in order to provide services that address and mitigate these challenges.” 

She is very keen to continue this partnership and support us in this journey.

Read more on World Humanitarian day 2019.

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World Humanitarian Day

  • by Fatima Khonat