Institutionalising gender in emergencies: Ethiopia gender analysis

Steph Avis Emergency, Gender, Humanitarian

Understanding needs and context is vital in an emergency response. A crucial, and often overlooked, factor in this is gender. Here, Steph Avis, introduces the first of a series of reports from the ECHO funded project ‘Institutionalising Gender in Emergencies’. 

In a humanitarian disaster the experiences of men, women, girls and boys can be very different. Access to basic goods and services is compromised for all, but what impact does gender have on this, and how can we ensure that our responses sufficiently address these issues? Beyond basic needs, crises often have hidden, long-lasting, devastating effects on a community based on pre-existing gendered differences and historical patriarchy. Furthermore, power dynamics within households and communities, the gendered division of labour, and gender-based violence could all be worsened or changed by a humanitarian crisis.

With this in mind it is important that all humanitarian responses address these issues in a meaningful way, and that the right people are held accountable. Our programmes need to be planned, monitored and evaluated with gender differences embedded in the design if we are to support men, women, girls and boys in the immediate term, and create lasting and transformational change to their lives.

Crises often have devastating effects on a community based on pre-existing gendered differences and historical patriarchy

This report is the first to be published by the project ‘Institutionalising Gender in Emergencies’ funded by the European Community Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) and implemented by Oxfam in Dominican Republic, Pakistan, Ethiopia and South Sudan. The project works at national level to influence and inspire change within the humanitarian sector. This focuses on institutionalising gender mainstreaming in emergencies, and improving accountability to help aid efforts meet the needs of women, girls, men and boys. The project is a pilot study with the aim of producing learning and recommendations that can be applied to the Global humanitarian system.

The report is a gender analysis developed in collaboration with CARE Ethiopia. It combines a desk review with primary field research in Ethiopia and focuses on the gendered effects of the drought brought by El Niño in 2015. These findings offer an entry point to improve a gender-responsive approach to humanitarian action. The report makes several recommendations relating to a range of emergency areas including:

  • enhancing complex emergency coordination mechanisms;
  • improving targeting practices for humanitarian assistance;
  • seizing opportunities to transform gender dynamics;
  • enhancing holistic water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions;
  • expanding emergency food security and support for vulnerable livelihoods;
  • and, institutionalising protection and safe programming.

The aim is for the findings to be used to influence change throughout the humanitarian sphere and influence how programmes are planned, monitored and evaluated to ensure they incorporate gender mainstreaming and account for how the emergency will impact and how the programme will address the different needs of men, women, girls and boys. We have already inspired change across central Protection Cluster documents and the findings and analysis were used in the UNFPA assessment of Ethiopia’s ‘Belg’ season (the short rainy season which runs around March and April) The findings are also being used in country level advocacy.

So what next? In the coming months we will be sharing the gender analyses from Pakistan, Dominican Republic and South Sudan and will also share case studies of good gender practice alongside the challenges we have faced implementing this project. If you would like to know more about the project and to keep informed of the upcoming reports and activities please email the Project Manager Eliza Hilton, or the Learning and Support Officer, Steph Avis.


Saskia Veen