On the Frontline: Catalysing Women's Leadership in Humanitarian Action

The World Humanitarian Summit in 2016 provides a unique opportunity for governments, UN agencies and civil society actors to set an ambitious agenda for empowering women and girls as change agents and leaders in humanitarian action and ensuring gender responsive humanitarian programming. However for these commitments to translate into meaningful action, it is critical to respond to the barriers that currently impact women’s leadership in emergencies, and build upon the existing efforts of women first responders and women-led organisations. ActionAid has produced this paper to ensure commitments arising from the World Humanitarian Summit are grounded in the realities of women affected by humanitarian crises and reflect their priorities.

This paper draws together findings from focus group discussions with women from multiple regions and draws upon ActionAid’s experience from a range of humanitarian contexts, including rapid and slow onset disasters and protracted crisis. It presents the barriers and opportunities for women’s leadership in humanitarian response as identified by women from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Nepal, occupied Palestinian territory (Gaza), the Philippines and Vanuatu. This data is overlayed with available evidence to validate the findings and demonstrate their applicability across diverse contexts.

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