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Women's Leadership in Disaster Preparedness

Date added

17 June 2018


This research is an output of the Learning Project of the Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP). The DEPP was a 4-year programme funded by the Department of International Development and co-led by the Start and CDAC Networks. It was comprised of 14 projects implemented in 10 countries, each led by a consortium of international and local humanitarian agencies, and aimed to improve the quality and speed of response in countries at risk of natural disasters or conflict related emergencies. The programme included initiatives to address gender in emergencies and capacity building for women as humanitarians. This report aims to build on existing literature by examining women’s leadership and influence within humanitarian preparedness in DEPP and other similar programmes. More information can be found on the DEPP learning platform.

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This report explores how women are involved as leaders and decision-makers within the Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP) and its networks. It further provides an insight into why investing in women as leaders is important, identifies drivers and barriers and examines the effects of women’s leadership for advancing the rights and equality of other women. The research is based on a desk review of relevant literature and interviews with key informants from four of the DEPP operational countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Pakistan, and the Philippines.

Key findings:

  • Increasing women’s participation is still the main topic of discussion rather than their roles as leaders.
  • Evidence suggests that organisations are devising policies and adopting various strategies to increase female leadership. These alone however are insufficient and require dedicated staff that can champion these and ensure implementation. 
  • Women are taking up a central role in community and grassroots decision-making. Respondent views suggest that including women in decision-making forums could help ensure greater visibility of the needs of most vulnerable groups.
  • Cultural contexts will dictate procedures for both men and women’s participation. 
  • Women affected by disasters have a right to participate in the decisions that affect their lives.
  • Evidence of whether women leaders advance equality for and interests of other women is mixed.
  • At the grassroots, women leaders can ensure that the specific needs of women and vulnerable groups are accounted for.
  • Multiple barriers affect the number of women coming into leadership positions.
  • Organisations are putting Strategies in place to increase women’s leadership – but more needs to be done.

Click here to download the report