ActionAid’s recent emergency work
Women and girls’ rights in emergencies
Ensuring that we work with women means that we do not overlook needs or vulnerabilities that are specific to women and girls in emergencies. We provide women-only safe spaces, where women and girls can access education and training, often for the first time in their lives. They learn to read, gain new skills and start to recognise their own potential.
In these safe spaces, women and girls receive emotional support for the horrors they have experienced. They can also access medical referrals for cases of rape and other forms of violence.
ActionAid Bangladesh has set up six safe spaces for women in the refugee camp for Rohingya Muslims in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh. By the end of 2018, these safe spaces had supported nearly 16,000 women and girls who had escaped the conflict in Myanmar.
Rapid response and recovery led by women
We know from our emergency response work, most recently in Malawi, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Kenya, Somaliland and Nepal, that women bring vital skills, resources and experience to humanitarian response.
Women’s participation in decision-making is not only a fundamental human right. It has been proven to contribute to better disaster preparedness and risk reduction, as well as peace building and conflict resolution in communities.1
Building resilience for the future
In the months and years following an emergency, we work with local women to give them the support they need to face the future with renewed hope. This could be helping raise houses above floods levels, assisting them to get back to work with loans, or providing them with farmyard animals or means of transportation.
We endeavour to listen to what women and girls really need to rebuild their lives after an emergency. In Sierra Leone, our commitment to long-term support means we continue to work with grieving communities who were affected by the Ebola crisis, to help them recover from the physical, psychological and financial losses caused by the outbreak.
In areas that face high numbers of natural disasters, we train women to respond to the next disaster when it hits. For example, in Nepal, ActionAid teaches schoolchildren skills to protect themselves when earthquakes strike. In Bangladesh, we train women to lead people to shelters during cyclones. The results are astonishing: Cyclone Mahasen killed 17 people in Bangladesh in 2013, compared to 3,500 deaths as a result of Cyclone Sidr in 2007.
Women’s leadership in East Africa
In 2017, back-to-back droughts and protracted conflict left over 14 million people at risk of hunger in East Africa. ActionAid UK has helped deliver life-saving support to more than 245,000 people across Kenya, Ethiopia and Somaliland.
Luijah has worked at ActionAid Kenya for 10 years and is a project monitor in Isiolo County, Kenya, which was hit hard by the 2017 drought.
She manages six food distribution points as part of a Food for Assets programme, helping 1,800 vulnerable families in the region.
“I feel great about being a strong female leader in the community,” says Luijah. “With Food for Assets, women are becoming more empowered in their household; they are managing the food. Men used to take charge of the money so women didn’t have control.”
The programme has also kick-started a table-sharing system, where those who have more share with those who have less. “I love working with the community … and helping to empower women and save lives,” says Luijah.