7 ways women are turning crisis response on its head

1. As millions face starvation in East Africa, women in Somaliland are leading an emergency response which has reached over 65,000 people so far.  


15 year old Layla Mohamed Yusif helps lead emergency food distribution in Qoyta village, Somaliland. Photo by Ahmed Mohamoud Mohamed/ActionAid.

Women in Somaliland are engaged in leading the response to the East Africa food crisis. They’ve identified and prioritised urgent needs, and have led the distribution of relief items, including water, food, and dignity kits.  Women have also been mobilising in response to increased levels of violence against women and girls in drought affected communities. Right now, women are working together to make sure rights violations are documented and providing referrals to support services. Women have achieved all of this with support from ActionAid’s Arise Fund.


2. Local women across the Pacific are taking action together to shift the balance of power in humanitarian emergencies into their hands. 


Women from the Shifting the Power Coalition participate in the 13th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women, in Fiji. Photo by ActionAid.

Women across six countries in the Pacific have come together to take back power in emergencies from traditional (male dominated!) international humanitarian structures and hold it in their hands. A group of Pacific organisations representing diverse women has forged a coalition to support this shift in power, and ensure that women have the support they need to lead emergency response and make it work for them. FemLINKPacific, Pacific Disability Forum, Pacific Community (SPC), Nazareth Centre, Talitha Project, Transcend Oceania, Vanuatu Young Women for Change,  Vois Blong Mere, and YWCA Samoa have been working with ActionAid since 2016 as the “Shifting the Power Coalition”: an initiative supported by Arise.


3. 200 women leaders in Nepal have been part of local disaster committees that have reached over 1000 households with relief items and led efforts to protect their rights following devastating flooding.


Women respond to severe flooding in Nepal in August 2017, pictured here explaining how pregnant and lactating mothers are being supported. Photo by ActionAid.

Following the heaviest rainfall in Nepal in over 60 years, women have led an emergency response reaching over 1000 households with food, shelter and hygiene support. Women have also been working to prevent the increased risk of violence against women in the crisis through the establishment of four women safe spaces in affected communities. Arise funding has made sure women were resourced and supported to lead the response and establish these initiatives within 48 hours of the crisis.


4. Women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda are building their leadership in conflict resolution and collectively mobilising to build peace across the Great Lakes region.


Women demand that their voices be heard at a displaced persons camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Jenny Matthews/ActionAid.

Women in the African Great Lakes Region have had to live through a period of devastating conflict – many experiencing civil war, ethnic hostilities, political instability and genocide. Now, women leaders in five countries are collectively mobilising and building capacity to protect their rights and their communities from further violence. Arise is supporting women to strengthen their leadership and collective power to influence national and regional discussions on peace and security, including women’s access to justice for widespread sexual and gender based violence.


5. Over 500 women in Haiti led the emergency response to Hurricane Matthew in 2016, reaching 25,000 people.


Ismene is a trained engineer, community leader, and Protection Advisor who helped lead the distribution of emergency hygiene kits after Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti in 2016. She also led ongoing efforts to protect women’s rights after the hurricane. Photo by ActionAid.

When Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti in 2016, over 500 women were supported to develop skills in responding to the increased risk of violence against women, and to lead the establishment of four women safe spaces for women in regions devastated by the crisis. This put the protection of women’s rights at the forefront of the emergency response effort, led by local women. Over 4000 women came together in the most affected areas to spearhead the immediate response. Arise funding was released within 48 hours to support women to lead the emergency response.


6. Across Cambodia, Kenya and Vanuatu, women are rising up to combat climate change and disasters.


Women in Cambodia meet as part of the ‘Women Saving for Change Group’ and plan how to support each other when the next climate change-fuelled disaster hits. Photo by Philip Sen/ActionAid.

Women are rising up in Cambodia, Kenya and Vanuatu to respond to the gendered impacts of climate change and take action to minimise risks in their communities from climate change-driven disasters. Women are disproportionately impacted by climate change and humanitarian crises as a result of gender inequality in access to power and resources. Arise is partnering with the Australian Aid program to support women to take collective action to influence policy and decision making on climate change and related crises, and have increased capacity, knowledge and resources to prepare for and respond to its impacts.


7. Women and their allies from 13 countries came together to learn how to support women to protect their rights in emergencies.


A group photo of participants at ActionAid’s global protection training in Bangkok, 2017. Photo by ActionAid.

As emergencies increase in scale and frequency, so too does the need to support women to protect their rights in emergencies and lead humanitarian response. Recognising this, women humanitarians and their allies from Bangladesh, Fiji, Greece, India, Kenya, Malawi, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, the UK and Australia came together at a global protection training in early 2017. Here participants learned how to support women to lead efforts to prevent and respond to the protection risks women face in times of crisis. Thanks to Arise funding, participants were then able to bring this approach back to their countries and their communities, passing on the skills to hundreds more women – all around the world.


The Arise Fund supports women leading crisis response around the world. By ensuring women’s participation in decision making and access to resources in times of crisis, Arise is driving a long term, transformative feminist agenda of gender equality well beyond the emergency.

Rise up and join the movement at www.arisefund.com

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