Post-disaster Humanitarian Work Key Resources

Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation 
Gender-based Violence 
Organisations and Websites 


Through women’s eyes: a gendered research agenda for disaster social science’ (1998), Elaine Enarson, Disasters 22(2): 157-73
In this article, written by Elaine Enarson, a scholar who has pioneered the incorporation of a gender perspective into disaster sociology, three key questions are discussed: how is gendered vulnerability to disaster constructed? How do gender relations shape the practice of disaster planning and response in households and organisations? And how are gender relations affected over time by the social experience of disaster? The discussion suggests how analysis of the gendered terrain of disaster both develops disaster theory and fosters more gender-equitable and effective disaster practice.

Women, Gender & Disaster: Men & Masculinities’, Gender Note No. 3 (2009), Elaine Enarson,, 4 pp.

This note makes the important point that in disasters ‘[w]hile gender relations typically empower men as decision makers with more control than women over key resources, gender identities and gender norms can also increase their vulnerability’. As such, this short document from the Gender and Disaster Network (GDN) is a welcome reminder – given the (understandable) focus on women in work on gender and disasters – that just as an understanding of societal gender norms as they affect women in humanitarian crises is vital, so too is an awareness of gender norms in relation to men. The paper lists a set of thought-provoking ‘Talking Points’ to be considered in relation to men in disasters, plus research questions, policy guidelines, practical steps, and selected resources.

Gender Equality in Disasters: Six Principles for Engendered Relief and Reconstruction (n.d.), Gender and Disaster Network,, 2 pp.

This short two-sider from GDN sets out six principles to be adhered to in order to achieve a gender-sensitive immediate and longer-term response to disasters. Each principle is fleshed out with a set of bullet points, and the document manages to distil an amazing amount of information into a very small space. It could, therefore, serve as a quick (although perhaps a little daunting) introduction to gender mainstreaming in disaster responses, touching on, as it does, so many of the vital aspects involved in applying a gender lens to disasters and emergencies.

A Little Gender Handbook for Emergencies or Just Plain Common Sense (1999), Deborah Clifton, Oxford: Oxfam,, 38 pp.

Another ‘how to’ guide, aimed at humanitarian field workers needing to implement a gendersensitive assessment and response in emergencies, this short Oxfam handbook sets out in clear and accessible language, first why, and then how to integrate a gender perspective into an emergency response, from the initial situation assessment, through to monitoring, evaluation, and the assessment of further project proposals.

Women, Gender and Disaster: Global Issues and Initiatives (2009), Elaine Enarson and P.G. Dhar Chakrabarti (eds.), New Delhi: Sage Publications, ISBN: 978-8132101482, 404 pp.

This book provides a wealth of learning from around the world, examining gender within the context of disaster risk management. The book analyses both the failure to put into practice inclusive and gender-sensitive responses and positive strategies for change, and emphasises the capabilities and experience of women in community-resource management – vital for building resilience to disasters – and something that the authors consider to be often overlooked. The contributions to the book are organised into the following sections, each of which opens with an introductory overview essay: Part One – Understanding Gender Relations in Disaster; Part Two – Gendered Challenges and Responses in Disasters; Part Three – Women’s Organized Initiatives; and Part Four – Gender Sensitive Disaster Risk Reduction.

Women, Girls, Boys and Men: Different Needs – Equal Opportunities. IASC Gender Handbook in Humanitarian Action (2006), Gender Handbook (Feb 2007).pdf, 112 pp. (also available in Arabic, French, Russian, and Spanish)

With a target audience of humanitarian practitioners working in humanitarian emergencies resulting from conflict or natural hazards, this excellently designed handbook aims to provide guidance on gender analysis, planning, and action to ensure that the needs, contributions, and capacities of women, girls, boys, and men are considered in all aspects of humanitarian response. It also offers checklists to help in monitoring gender equality programming. The Handbook is divided into two sections, A and B. Section A, Fundamental Principles, consists of four chapters – The Basics of Gender Equality; The International Legal Framework for Protection; Coordination on Gender Equality in Emergencies; and Gender and Participation in Humanitarian Action. Section B, Areas of Work, looks at sector-specific areas of work, examining gender in relation to each of the following contexts: Camp Coordination and Camp Management in Emergencies; Education in Emergencies; Food Issues in Emergencies; Health in Emergencies; Livelihoods in Emergencies; Non-food Items in Emergencies; Registration in Emergencies; Shelter in Emergencies; and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Emergencies.

Gender and Disaster Sourcebook, Gender and Disaster Network,

This invaluable online resource is hosted by the Gender and Disaster Network (see the
Organisations and Websites section, below, for more information on the Network), and serves as a virtual library for all those interested in gender mainstreaming in disaster risk reduction (DRR) and post-disaster management. With information categorised under the following headings: Gender Equality and DRR; Planning and Practice Tools; Good Practices; Communication; Cross Cutting Issues; Training and Education; Case Studies and Analyses; Photo Gallery; and Glossary and Acronyms, the Sourcebook holds a huge number of resources. These are being continually added to by network members wishing to share useful information and tools with colleagues working in the same area.

Helpdesk Research Report: Key Resources on Gender and Humanitarian Responses (2011), Oliver Walton, Birmingham: Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham,, 15 pp.

Produced by the Department for International Development-established Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, this report is an extremely helpful and up-to-date survey of some of the key resources on gender and humanitarian action. Resources are grouped into the following categories: General Toolkits; Sector- or Context-Specific Toolkits; Evaluations; Reports and Reviews; Training Resources; and Additional Information. Each resource is summarised, and links to the resource online are included.

‘Constructing ‘‘modern gendered civilised’’ women and men: gender mainstreaming in refugee camps’ (2011), Katarzyna Grabska, Gender & Development 19(3): 81-93,, 12 pp.

For the author of this article, gender mainstreaming in humanitarian programmes with forced migrants is based on a belief that such an approach will lead to greater gender equality, while raising the status of women through their ‘empowerment’. Focusing on the activities of international and local humanitarian organisations in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya, this article contends that the concepts of ‘gender’ and ‘women’ are often over-simplified and essentialised in gender mainstreaming, resulting in programmes that not only exacerbate gender asymmetries, but which may also place women at risk.

Gender & Development, Vol. 9, No. 3 (November 2001), Humanitarian work,

The last issue of Gender & Development to focus on humanitarian work, published in 2001, comprises a set of eight articles, plus an introductory Editorial. Article titles include ‘Reconstructing roles and relations: women’s participation in reconstruction in post-Mitch Nicaragua’, by Sarah Bradshaw, and ‘Gender, conflict and building sustainable peace: recent lessons from Latin America’, by Caroline Moser and Fiona Clark. The issue also contains a Resources section, which is available online to those with a subscription to the journal.

The Humanitarian Response Index 2011: Addressing the Gender Challenge (2011), Madrid: DARA, 

DARA is an independent organisation that works to improve the quality and effectiveness of humanitarian aid for populations suffering the effects of conflict, disasters, and climate change. Since 2007, the organisation has published its Humanitarian Response Index, which surveys the state of the humanitarian sector in relation to efficiency and good practice. The 2011 report, which examined 23 of the world’s major donor governments and nine major crises, included a special focus on gender, with a chapter dedicated to an assessment of the success, or otherwise, of gender mainstreaming within the humanitarian sector. Unfortunately, as the Index’s authors report, the research findings were disappointing, with them stating in the Index’s Executive Summary (, ‘The HRI research shows that gender is far from being mainstreamed into humanitarian action . . . While the majority of donors include gender in their policies, their funding is not always allocated towards projects that incorporate adequate gender analysis, and few donors actually monitor and follow up on how gender is addressed in programmes they support’ (p. 1).

Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation

Building better futures: empowering grassroots women to build resilient communities(2007),, 12 pp.

This short paper outlines a Grassroots Organizations Operating Together in Sisterhood (GROOTS) International programme which has emerged from member organisations’ work in disaster-hit communities in India, Turkey, Honduras, and Jamaica. The programme seeks to build on the expertise of women grassroots leaders in disaster-prone communities who have initiated and sustained innovative community practices after floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and the 2004 tsunami. The paper provides examples of the kind of initiatives undertaken by member organisations in response to disasters – such as directing aid, constructing safe shelters, preparing emergency response teams, and protecting natural resources, upgrading livelihoods and increasing food security – in order to create disaster-resilient communities.

Oxfam Gender and Disaster Risk Reduction Training Pack (2011), Maria Caterina

Ciampi, Fiona Gell, Lou Lasap, and Edward Turvill, Oxford: Oxfam GB, http://
, 84 25 24 20 15 pp.

The authors of this training pack argue that unequal power relations between women and men mean that, despite the resilience and capacity for survival that women often display when coping with disaster, they also experience a range of gender-specific vulnerabilities during disasters. The pack – which was designed for Oxfam programme staff, partner organisations, and agencies working in disaster risk reduction (DRR) – aims to provide a ‘gender lens’ through which DRR workers can plan, implement, and evaluate their work. The pack seeks to develop participants’ skills and competencies in addressing gender issues throughout the project cycle, and provides a self-contained set of modules, case studies, and exercises to be used in training workshops, all written in accessible language, and assuming no prior knowledge of gender issues.

Making Disaster Risk Reduction Gender-sensitive: Policy and Practical Guidelines (2009), Geneva: UNISDR, UNDP, and IUCN,, 152 pp. (also available in Arabic, French, and Russian)

The Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2012: Building the Resistance of Nations and Communities to Disasters is an internationally agreed plan of action for implementing disaster risk reduction (DRR). Aimed at providing national and local governments with policy and practical guidelines in their implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action, this copublication first sets out both the progress in and the challenges to mainstreaming gender perspectives in DRR. It makes the point that there has recently been a major shift in the mainstreaming of gender into DRR, from a women-focused approach, to a gender-focused approach, based on the idea that roles and relationships of women and men in DRR cannot be separated from the overall, gendered, social, economic, and cultural context. There has also been a change in the strategic focus of disaster management from one of reactive disaster response to long-term, proactive disaster risk and vulnerability reduction, where gender and DRR are held to be necessary for achieving sustainable development. The publication then provides practical guidelines on how to: institutionalise gender-sensitive risk assessments, implement gendersensitive early warning systems, and use gender-sensitive indicators to monitor progress made in gender mainstreaming. It ends with a section listing further reading.

Gender, Climate Change and Human Security: Lessons from Bangladesh, Ghana and Senegal (2008), Irene Dankelman and Khurshid Alam, Wahida Bashar Ahmed, Yacine Diagne Gueye, Naureen Fatema, and Rose Mensah-Kutin, New York: Women’s Environment & Development Organization (WEDO), with ABANTU for Development in Ghana, ActionAid Bangladesh, and ENDA in Senegal,, 71 pp.

This excellent study presents a gendered analysis of the impact of climate change on human security, noting that effects such as increased frequency of extreme weather events, flooding, storms, drought, desertification, increases in sea temperatures, hot and cold waves, and the melting of glaciers and permafrost are becoming an ever greater threat to livelihoods, and are likely to lead to intensified competition for food, water, and energy. The study also assesses whether adequate scope exists for women to participate in improved human security in a scenario of changing climate. Based on this analysis, which is supported by three, detailed case studies from Senegal, Ghana, and Bangladesh, recommendations are given for enhancing the integration of a gender perspective in climate change and human security policies and programmes. Women’s contributions to climate change adaptation are also examined, as are related policies including National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs). Global policy frameworks and goals are reviewed, including the Hyogo Framework, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Oxfam Gender, Disaster Risk Reduction, and Climate Change Adaptation: A Learning Companion (2010), Fiona Gell, Oxford: Oxfam GB, 15 pp.

Another document written for use in the field by Oxfam staff, this clearly written and well setout guide looks at gender and disaster risk reduction (DRR) with a focus on women and men who are vulnerable to the impact of climate change. As well as outlining the project management cycle from a gender perspective, the Companion includes short case studies of work undertaken by Oxfam in the area of gendered DRR and climate change adaptation, plus a list of further reading suggestions.

Climate Change: Beyond Coping. Women Smallholder Farmers in Tajikistan – Experiences of Climate Change and Adaptation – Oxfam Field Research (2011), Nidhi Tandon, Oxford,, 52 pp. (also available in Russian and Tajik)

This Oxfam report looks at climate change through the eyes of women farmers in Tajikistan, examining the critical role that women can play in climate change mitigation and adaptation, in order to secure a sustainable food economy in the country. The paper argues that climate change is affecting agriculture across Tajikistan, and threatening the food security of thousands of people who depend on small-scale subsistence farming for their survival. It is women who will most likely bear the brunt of this insecurity as with high levels of male outmigration they are increasingly responsible for securing an income from farming and providing for their families. It is therefore necessary to recognise and support the central role that women smallholder farmers play in growing food and encourage them in addressing and reversing the affects of climate change on land and water resources.

Women, poverty and disasters: exploring the links through Hurricane Mitch in Nicaragua’ (2010), Sarah Bradshaw, in S. Chant (ed.), The International Handbook of Gender and Poverty: Concepts, Research, Policy, Cheltenham UK and Northampton, MA, USA: Edward Elgar pp. 627-32

In this fascinating chapter from the International Handbook of Gender and Poverty, the author notes that the need to ‘disaster proof’ development is something that is increasingly being recognised, as is the link between poverty and disasters, poverty being the key factor in turning hazards into disasters. However, for the author, this may be translating into a ‘feminisation of responsibility’, which is connected to the recent ‘feminisation of disaster response’ – with women becoming a key target of post-disaster reconstruction initiatives – which in turn is connected to assumed relationships between women and poverty (the ‘feminisation of poverty’). The author explores these ideas through studies of post-Hurricane Mitch households in Nicaragua.

‘The dialogue of difference: gender perspectives on international humanitarian law’ (2010), Helen Durham and Katie O’Byrne, International Review of the Red Cross 92(877), 31-52,

Arguing that ‘[i]ncreasing the protection of women during times of armed conflict is a pressing need [and f]urthermore, there is a need to continue to develop jurisprudence and understanding within the law of gendered crimes against any and all people’, the authors of this article examine the potential usefulness of a ‘gender perspective’ on international humanitarian law (IHL). In order to do so, it considers a number of ‘gendered’ themes found within IHL, including the role of women as combatants, and the gendered use of sexual violence during times of armed conflict. The authors suggest that further development and understanding of a gender perspective will contribute to the resilience and effectiveness of IHL as a system of law, and will strengthen the protection of those who are victimised and disempowered during times of war.

Gender-based Violence

Violence Against Women in Disasters Factsheet (2006), Elaine Enarson, 

This short document points out that while data on any increase in gender-based violence after a disaster are often very limited, there is evidence to suggest that it does, and it goes on to provide a list of documented cases, drawn mainly from North America, covering a range of disasters and a subsequent increase in rates of violence against women.

Guidelines for Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings: Focusing on Prevention of and Response to Sexual Violence in Emergencies (2005), Geneva: Inter-Agency Standing Committee,, 87 pp. (also available in Arabic, Bahasa, French, and Spanish)

Intended for use by humanitarian organisations, community-based organisations, and government authorities operating in emergency settings, internationally, nationally, and locally, these comprehensive guidelines give practical advice on how to ensure that humanitarian protection and assistance programmes for displaced populations are safe and do not directly or indirectly increase women’s and girls’ risk to sexual violence. They also detail the kind of response services that should be in place to meet the need of survivors of sexual violence.

Our Bodies are Still Trembling: Haitian Women’s Fight Against Rape (2010), South Boston, MA: Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti/MADRE/TransAfrica Forum/University of Minnesota Law School/University of Virginia School of Law,, 43 pp.

This report is based on interviews conducted in May 2010 – five months after the January 2010 Haitian earthquake – with 54 women survivors of rape in different internally displaced person (IDP) camps and neighbourhoods. The authors state their belief that these women’s experiences are representative of those of many more Haitian women. Divided into three main sections, the report first outlines the nature of rape and its aftermath in the camps, then moves on to examine the responses of the Haitian government and the United Nations, highlighting the abject failure to meet the need for security in the camps. Finally, the report discusses the legal framework: prosecuting rape under Haitian law; obligations under international law to address and prevent gender-based violence; and the obligations of donor states. The report is punctuated with short – and harrowing – accounts of the experiences of some of the interviewees, which bring home the vulnerability of women and girls, often traumatised and bereaved, in badly designed camps with little or no security presence, and the sheer impunity with which the rapists have operated. A one-year update, published in January 2011, is also available, at This draws attention to the work of women in the camps who have set up many ad hoc services, including psycho-social support. This is in the context of continuing rapes, a cholera epidemic, and the violence (including rape) directed towards human rights defenders working to defend the victims of rape.

‘Between rhetoric and reality: exploring the impact of military humanitarian intervention upon sexual violence – post-conflict sex trafficking in Kosovo’ (2010), Samantha T. Godec, International Review of the Red Cross 92(877): 235–57, 

In this thought-provoking paper, the author analyses the doctrine of humanitarian intervention and its impact on women in recipient states, particularly with regard to sexual violence. By analysing the phenomenon of post-conflict sex trafficking in Kosovo following the NATO intervention, the author presents a challenge to ‘feminist hawks’ who have called for military intervention in contexts of systematic sexual violence, and she argues that such intervention is counterproductive for women’s rights and thus constitutes a disproportionate response to sexual violence in terms of the international law governing the use of force.

Organisations and websites

Feinstein International Center, 200 Boston Avenue, Suite 4800, Medford, MA 02155, USA, tel: 1 (617) 627-3423, fax: 1 (617) 627-3428, email:, website:

Part of Tufts University in the USA, the Feinstein International Center is a teaching and research organisation that works to influence the making and application of policy both in countries affected by crises, and those countries in a position to influence such crises. The Center’s current research areas are as follows: The Promotion of Evidence-based Practice; The Future of Pastoralism; Humanitarianism and Politics; Livelihoods, Vulnerability and Resilience; Nutrition and Food Security; Migration, Displacement, Refugees and Urbanisation; and Upholding Rights in the Face of Violence. The Center’s publications are available to download from its website.

Gender and Disaster Network, Disaster and Development Centre, Northumbria University, School of Applied Sciences, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 8ST, UK, tel: 44 (0)191 227 3108, email:, website: 

Working through its website, GDN seeks to share knowledge and resources on gender relations in the context of disasters. This includes work on gender in disaster risk reduction (DRR) and hazards related to climate change, pandemics, and conflicts and displacement. The website hosts and maintains the Gender and Disaster Sourcebook (see above). Members contribute resources to the site, and the GDN Community Mailing List listserve facilitates much helpful information exchange between members.

Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), IASC Secretariat, 8–14 avenue de la Paix, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland, tel: 41 22 917 1438, fax: 41 22 917 0020, email:, website: 

Established in 1992, the IASC is an inter-agency forum for co-ordination, policy development, and decision-making involving key United Nations (UN) and non-UN humanitarian partners, and is the primary mechanism for inter-agency co-ordination of humanitarian assistance. The Committee’s stated objectives are: ‘to develop and agree on system-wide humanitarian policies; to allocate responsibilities among agencies in humanitarian programmes; to develop and agree on a common ethical framework for all humanitarian activities; to advocate for common humanitarian principles to parties outside the IASC; to identify areas where gaps in mandates or lack of operational capacity exist; and to resolve disputes or disagreement about and between humanitarian agencies on system-wide humanitarian issues’. The IASC have published a couple of important documents on gender in emergency contexts – the Gender Handbook in Humanitarian Action (2006) and Guidelines for Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings (2005), both of which are included in this Resources section, above.

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), 19 avenue de la Paix, CH-1202 Geneva, Switzerland, tel: 41 22 734 6001, fax: 41 22 733 2057, email:, website: 

Founded in 1863, the ICRC is an independent organisation that works to ensure humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence, and aims to promote respect for international humanitarian law. As the custodian of the Geneva Conventions, the ICRC has a permanent mandate under international law to visit prisons, organise relief operations, reunite separated families and undertake other humanitarian activities during armed conflicts. It also directs and co-ordinates the international relief activities conducted by the Movement in situations of conflict (according to the ICRC’s website, some 30 per cent of its operational activities are carried out in co-operation with National Societies). Resources on specific protection afforded to women under international humanitarian law can be found on the website at Information on the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (legally independent from the ICRC), which co-ordinates the activities of national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, can be found at

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Case Postale 2500, CH-1211 Geneva 2 Dépôt, Switzerland, tel: 41 22 739 8111, email: via the website, website: 

Established in 1950, UNHCR leads and co-ordinates international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees, with the aim of ensuring that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state. UNHCR’s mandate spans the provision of immediate assistance to refugees and internally displaced people in the form of shelter, clean water and sanitation and health care, to advice on asylum applications, education, and counselling, and the extension of assistance to those who return home, in the form of transport and reintegration programmes. Information on UNHCR’s work with women refugees can be found at

United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), Palais des Nations, CH-1211, Geneva, Switzerland, tel: 41 22 917 8907-8, fax: 41 22 917 8964, email:, website: 

UNISDR serves as the focal point in the United Nations system for the co-ordination of disaster reduction, aiming to ensure co-ordination among disaster reduction activities of United Nations bodies, and regional organisations. UNISDR supports the implementation of the ‘Hyogo Framework for Action 2005–2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters’, the internationally agreed plan of action for implementing disaster risk reduction (DRR). The organisation’s core areas of work – which span both humanitarian and development fields – include ensuring DRR is applied to climate change adaptation, increasing investments for DRR, building disaster-resilient cities, schools and hospitals, and strengthening the international system for DRR. ISDR is also responsible for Preventionweb, which provides information for those working on DRR. Resources on gender can be found at

Women’s Refugee Commission, 122 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 10168, USA, tel: 1 (212) 551-3115, email:, website: 

This US-based research and advocacy organisation, founded in 1989, works to protect the rights and improve the lives of refugee and internally displaced women, children, and young people, and, in the USA, of asylum seekers. The organisation’s areas of work are: Detention and Asylum (within the USA); Disabilities; Fuel and Firewood; Gender-based Violence; Livelihoods; Sexual and Reproductive Health; Women’s Peace and Security; Youth; and Watchlist on Children and Conflict, which monitors violations against children. The website provides valuable information and resources on each of these areas.