Special Feature: Making humanitarian action work for women and girls
by HPN May 2019

The theme of this edition of Humanitarian Exchange, co-edited with Women Deliver, is making humanitarian action work for women and girls. Despite gains, including commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit, there is still much to be done to address the gendered impacts of humanitarian crises and improve gender-sensitive humanitarian action.

In the lead article, Jacqueline Paul advocates for feminist humanitarian action based on evidence that improvements in women’s socio-economic status can reduce excess mortality among women after shocks. Jean Kemitare, Juliet Were and Jennate Eoomkham look at the role of local women’s rights organisations in preventing and responding to violence against women and girls, and Marcy Hersh and Diana Abou Abbas highlight opportunities for more concrete action on sexual and reproductive health in emergencies.

Citing experience from Vanuatu, Jane Newnham explains how women will choose to use contraceptives even during a humanitarian response, when services and counselling are delivered in an appropriate and responsive way. Drawing on experience in Bangladesh, Tamara Fetters and colleagues challenge the belief that abortion is a non-essential service, or too complicated for humanitarian actors to provide. Darcy Ataman, Shannon Johnson, Justin Cikuru and Jaime Cundy reflect on an innovative programme using music therapy to help survivors of trauma.

Emilie Rees Smith, Emma Symonds and Lauryn Oates highlight lessons from the STAGE education programme in Afghanistan, and Degan Ali and Deqa Saleh outline how African Development Solutions is helping women and girls take on leadership and decision-making roles in Somalia. Fiona Samuels and Taveeshi Gupta explore patterns of suicide among young people in Vietnam, with a particular focus on girls, and Subhashni Raj, Brigitte Laboukly and Shantony Moli illustrate the importance of a gendered approach to community-based disaster risk reduction in the South-West Pacific. Nicola Jones, Workneh Yadete and Kate Pincock draw on research in Ethiopia to explore the gender- and age-specific vulnerabilities of adolescents. The edition ends with an article by Julie Rialet-Cislaghi on how humanitarian responses can better address child marriage.

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