Every year the UN celebrates World Humanitarian Day, in an ongoing effort to mobilise political will and resources around the world to combat some of humanity’s most pressing problems. This year’s World Humanitarian Day–today, August 19th–seeks to focus on the work being done by women in today’s crises. Women form a crucial, but often overlooked contingent of first responders in humanitarian crises, and this effort by the UN to increase their recognition is extremely welcome.
There are many ways in which the roles of women in conflict are overlooked, but a very basic reason is sometimes a pure lack of gender disaggregated data. The problem of the gender data gap is not new, and has been the subject of numerous recent efforts to better understand the situation of women and girls around the world. In the development world, organisations such as Data2X and EqualMeasures2030 have done excellent work bringing attention to this issue. For a more in depth read on gender development data, you can read our previous blogs here and here.
Why gender data?
It seems self-evident that different types of people experience life…differently! And this applies to people of different genders just as much as it applies to people of different ages or geographical locations. All over the world, women tend to perform different roles in society than those of men. This means that when a major shock occurs, such as a war or a natural disaster, it is unsurprising that men and women will be affected by this shock in different ways.
These differences can manifest themselves in many ways. The following are some examples collected by UN Women of how women experience conflict and crises differently to men, and illustrate just why it’s so important to continue collecting this information:
- Disasters such as droughts, floods and storms kill more women than men. In one province in Indonesian during the tsunami of 2004, 70% of the casualties were women.
- During droughts, girls are more likely to miss school as they are needed to collect water and care for family members.
- More than 70% of women have experienced gender-based violence in some crisis settings, and all forms of violence against women increase during disasters and displacement. Agricultural trade and the informal economy are often the most impacted by crises. As women are over-represented in these industries, they are more likely to suffer economic loss.
- Women work longer hours than men and face a larger share of the caregiving burden, limiting their ability to participate in community decision-making meetings for humanitarian responses.
Without a continued push to collect more and better data on women and girls around the world, we won’t be able to fully comprehend the realities of the lives of these people and thus respond more appropriately – and risk missing huge sections of the population.
The humanitarian gender data gap
In light of this, we thought we would use some of our research on gender data in development, and our project on humanitarian data in order to shed some light on the important issue of the gender data gap in humanitarian crises.
Given the difficulties of gathering gender disaggregated data in humanitarian crises, statistics like those above can represent just the tip of the iceberg. UN Women urges the use of sex and age disaggregated data (SADD) in information collecting and sharing in humanitarian crises as one of the best ways to counteract this data gap and ensure a more equitable response. One of the most important sources of information for tailoring a humanitarian response are needs assessments of affected populations.
Local responder data
Interestingly, this fits with the findings so far from our current project looking at the information needs of local and national humanitarian actors. According to those we’ve spoken to, needs assessment data has consistently ranked as extremely important in helping organisations understand and respond to humanitarian crises. Information like this can usually be best collected by people on the ground, closest to the crises and the people in need. This is one of the reasons we believe it is so crucial to recognize the importance of the information needs of local actors, and work to better understand how we can increase the sharing of the most important information, and get it in the hands of the most important people.
We’re thrilled to see so much time and energy finally being devoted to understanding the needs of women and girls in development and humanitarian settings all over the world. We know that having proper information at both a global macro level, as well as a local micro level, is crucial to tailoring our responses to those most in need, and fulfilling our promise to Leave No One Behind. To find out more about the information needs of local actors in humanitarian settings, make sure to check out the humanitarian section of our website, and check back regularly for updates on our project!