“Working to improve our own future”: Inclusion of women and girls with disabilities in humanitarian action

Women's Refugee Commission
2016

Summary

While humanitarian organisations are increasingly recognising people with disabilities, women and girls with disabilities are often under-represented in gender, protection and disability forums. This report documents positive practices, gaps and opportunities for the inclusion of women and girls with disabilities in humanitarian programming, as well the role of women’s DPOs in humanitarian response.  It finds that the voices of women and girls with disabilities often have little opportunity to participate in decision-making, with the expertise of women’s DPOs remaining largely untapped. Effective inclusion requires collective action from states, UN agencies and the wide range of humanitarian, development and disability actors.

The report draws on a global mapping exercise consisting of: an online survey, key informant interviews, and participatory self-assessments for women DPO leaders.

Inclusion of women and girls in humanitarian responses: 75% of survey respondents reported their organisations’ activities were inclusive of women and girls with disabilities (in needs assessments, staff training and capacity building, and prioritising them for assistance and services). However, only 35% reported setting specific targets or indicators to monitor access and inclusion of inclusive implementation.

There are no globally endorsed inter-agency guidelines on disability inclusion in humanitarian action, and other forms of operational guidance tend to refer to people with disabilities as a homogenous group, with little specific reference to women and girls with disabilities. When guidelines do refer to giving women and girls with disabilities particular attention they often fail to explain how to do this.

Some strategies that promote the inclusion of women and girls with disabilities in humanitarian action include: advocacy and technical support by women’s DPOs, and positioning of women with disabilities in leadership roles in humanitarian organisations, programmes and activities. These strategies have wide-ranging impact on inclusion across humanitarian responses, bringing appropriate expertise, demonstrating skills and capacities, and raising awareness among humanitarian actors and affected populations alike. Survey respondents also highlighted the role of donors in supporting gender analysis as a way to facilitate more engagement with women and girls with disabilities.

Positive practices on inclusion of women and girls with disabilities are being increasingly documented across the development sector, but less so across the humanitarian sector. The need for programme evaluation around the inclusion of women and girls with disabilities is clearly outlines in several UN agency and donor government policies. Yet very little material was found that reports on the implementation of these policies. Furthermore, there was no documented evidence of the impact these policies may have on the lives of women and girls with disabilities in humanitarian settings.

Key recommendations include:

  • Developing gender-sensitive inter-agency guidelines on disability inclusion in humanitarian action to strengthen accountability for inclusion of women and girls with disabilities. These guidelines should mainstream issues of women and girls with disabilities in all sectors, establish indicators for inclusion of women and girls with disabilities, and ensure equal representation of women and men with disabilities.
  • Increasing support to organisations of women with disabilities in crisis-affected countries through setting targets and monitoring funding to women’s DPOs and prioritising women’s DPOs from crisis-affected countries.
  • Advancing gender equality in humanitarian and development organisations and promoting the leadership of women and girls with disabilities in humanitarian action. For example, through: recruiting women with disabilities as community volunteers and staff.

Source

Women's Refugee Commission. (2016). "Working to improve our own future": Inclusion of women and girls with disabilities in humanitarian action. New York, USA: Women's Refugee Commission.