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Gender in Humanitarian Action: Different Needs – Equal Opportunities E-Learning course

Gender equality in humanitarian action is about effectively reaching all segments of the affected population. In addition, the integration of gender equality and women’s empowerment into humanitarian action is crucial to ensuring a rights-based and effective humanitarian system for all women, men, boys and girls affected by disasters and conflict.

The Interagency Standing Committee E-learning course “Gender in Humanitarian Action: Different Needs – Equal Opportunities” is a self-paced course that provides guidance on the core issues of gender-equality in the humanitarian context and how it relates to ensuring effective and rights based humanitarian response - including camp management and coordination, education, food security, gender-based violence, health, livelihoods, non-food items, protection, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene. 

The course is available in English and French and takes approximately 2 hours to complete. It is being hosted in the UN Women’s Training Centre eLearning-Campus and can be accessed here.

Gender overview

Gender equality in humanitarian action is about good programming and about effectively reaching all segments of the affected population. Crises impact women, girls, boys and men of all ages differently. As a result, their needs and interests differ, as do their resources, capacities and coping strategies. Women are often the first responders to a crisis, and they play a central role in the survival and resilience of families and communities. Women and girls are not helpless victims. Humanitarian efforts must recognize the fact that women and girls—like men and boys—have much to contribute in preparing for, and responding to, crises.

Humanitarian actors must therefore design programmes to meet the needs of young and old, male and female, and ensure that all have safe and equal access to humanitarian assistance. To achieve this, all groups must be consulted and actively participate in needs assessments and decision-making processes.Women must be included in decision-making about the forms of assistance and protection they need. Humanitarian action can also present opportunities for new and more progressive gender roles and relationships to emerge.

According to existing evidence, improved gender equality programming in humanitarian settings led not only to improved quality of life for all community members, but also to greater access to services, better identification of the needs of beneficiaries, and heightened empowerment and aspirations among young women.

Resources and tools

Here are some of the key documents for gender equality programming in humanitarian action:

Gender Handbook in Humanitarian Action. The IASC Gender Handbook is a tool for clusters/sectors to plan, implement, monitor and evaluate its programmes with a gender lens. It is available  in ArabicChinese,EnglishFarsiFrenchRussian and Spanish.

Guidelines for Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings. The IASC GBV Guidelines is a field-friendly tool on how to set up a multi-sectoral GBV programme stressing the need for a coordinated approach. It is available in English, French and Spanish.

Report on Sex and Age Disaggregated Data (SADD). Good data aids decision making and programming; both crucial to our humanitarian enterprise. But if the data is not specific about the impact of our work on different groups of people, women, girls, boys, men, older people or disabled, it is difficult to know the specific needs of these people have been met. The report "Sex and Age Matter: Improving Humanitarian Response in Emergencies" shows us clearly that the humanitarian community has not invested enough in collecting and using sex and age disaggregated data to inform our programming. Find the new Report here, and the executive summary in French here.

The Effect of Gender Equality Programming on Humanitarian Outcomes. The report presents overall findings, draws comparative conclusions across four case studies and discusses practical recommendations for integrating gender equality programming in future humanitarian interventions in ways that strengthen effectiveness and inclusiveness. It is available in English

IASC Gender GBV and PSEA Guidelines - a leaflet with brief overview of all IASC Gender, GBV and PSEA guidelines

ADAPT and ACT - Flyer on the Adapt and Act Framework for Gender Equality Programming in Humanitarian Action

Recent guidance notes on Gender and Resilience as well as Gender and Preparedness.

An article about the IASC Gender Marker "Improving Effectiveness of Humanitarian Actionhere  (June 2012).

IASC Reference Group on Gender and Humanitarian Action

Since December 2006, the IASC Reference Group on Gender in Humanitarian Action (Gender Reference Group/Gender RG/GRG) has supported the integration of gender equality and women’s empowerment in the humanitarian action system coordinated by the IASC. The Gender Reference Group, which brings together representatives from UN Agencies, NGOs, Donors, Member States and NGO consortia, meets on a monthly basis and its work is structured around an annual work plan and focuses on the implementation of a strategy which is reviewed yearly and revised as needed.

As of August 2015, the Gender RG is co-chaired by UN Women and Women’s Refugee Commission in New York and the World Food Programme in Rome

RG members: CARE, CCF, FAO, INEE, ICRC, IFRC, IMC, InterAction, IOM, IRC, NRC, OCHA, OHCHR, Office RSG/IDPs, OSAGI, OXFAM, UNDAW, UNDESA, UNDP, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNIFEM, UNISDR, UNMAS, WFP, WHO, and the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children.

All documents, work plans, meetings, progress report and contact information can be find here.

Gender Marker

The Gender Marker is a tool that measures whether or not a humanitarian project is designed well enough to ensure women/girls and men/boys will benefit equally or if it will advance gender equality. The Marker is a cooperative effort between the IASC Gender Reference Group and the Humanitarian Programme Cycle process. For general information on the gender marker, please consult the documents below.

Gender Marker Report 20112012 and 2013.

2012 FAQ on the Gender Marker in English, French and Arabic. 

To access tools and guidance for implementing the Gender Marker, please go to the Gender Marker Page.