ender-based violence can occurat any time, anywhere. But itsprevalence is magniied duringemergencies because o the absenceo law and order, the lack o supportservices and the breakdown o communitynetworks. This combination leaves women— and men — extremely vulnerable.Humanitarian organizations working inconict zones or responding to naturaldisaster must make addressing gender-based violence a top priority — at theonset o any emergency.Survivors o gender-based violence needimmediate support in the orm o medi-cal care, police assistance, counselling, andlegal aid. Oten, ew o these services existbeore an emergency — and even ewerremain aterwards.Humanitarian organizations thereorecan and must do more — both beoreand ater — to ensure that these servicesexist, and that they are trained and pre-pared to support survivors in line withinternational good practice. Survivorsalso need to be aware o, and gain accessto, these services. Inormation cam-paigns and transportation support are agood start.Prevention is also critical. This is a longer-term eort that could entail media cam-paigns, positive recreational, cultural orvocational outlets that promote non-vi-olence, and integrating gender-equalitymessages into education curricula. Inemergency contexts, security patrols canimprove saety — particularly or thoseliving in camps. Prevention work must berelevant and appropriate to the local con-text or it will not be sustainable.
RED CRoSS RED CRESCENT
Humanitarian organizations have an ethi-cal responsibility to address these issues.Emergencies may lead women to engagein risky behaviours such as selling sex inorder to survive and eed their children,thereby increasing the risk o gender-basedviolence. Without economic alternatives,women are also vulnerable to sexual ex-ploitation and abuse. Relie organizationsand development agencies involved inlong-term recovery must do more in termso training, zero-tolerance policies, andstrict codes o conduct to prevent this kindo abuse. Clear messaging (‘HumanitarianAid is Free!’ or example) and economicempowerment initiatives can reduce risk and expand choices. These eorts need to be local, relevant,and sustainable. Otherwise, womenmight have to travel urther or work,engage in riskier occupations, or work inunsae areas. From the onset o the emer-gency, we can support women throughvocational skills training and income-generating opportunities. We must alsodo more to ensure that women living incamps or the displaced have access tosae spaces and separate, lit, lockableacilities.We also need to remember to ask womenwhat they need. When I spoke to womenin Haiti, the rst thing they asked or wasaccess to economic opportunity. We cando more to support and protect womenworking in the inormal sector — includingsae storage or cash earned. We couldhave done much better in Haiti to provideeconomic empowerment initiatives at thevery beginning.But women are not just victims — theyare survivors who help countries recovermore quickly rom emergencies. Womencan build bridges between warringcommunities and increase communityresilience. Men are also a key part o thesolution. Not all men are perpetrators andthey need to be engaged as supportersand advocates. The Red Cross Red Crescent Movementis well placed to address gender-basedviolence in a more robust way. The Move-ment’s global reach could enable us toraise the prole o this issue, not just as a“women’s issue” but as an issue that aectseveryone in emergency settings.Humanitarian organizations are increas-ingly recognizing the severity o thisproblem. Now they need to commit realresources and expertise, attract seniorsta and experienced proessionals, andgive them the ability to act and aectchange on the ground where it is mostneeded.
Lina Abiraeh, PhD
has addressed gender-based vilencein Aghanistan, Sierra Lene, Papua New Guinea andvarius ther cuntries. She is the authr
Gender and International Aid in Aghanistan: The Politics and Efectso Intervention
andwrked recently as crdinatr rthe Gender-Based Vilence Sub-Cluster the UnitedNatins Ppulatin Fund/UNICEF in Haiti.
The Movement’s global reachcould enable us to raise the prole o gender-based violence — not just as a“women’s issue” but as anissue that aects everyone inemergency settings.
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. All views expressed in guest editrials arethse the authr and nt necessarily thse theRed Crss Red Crescent Mvement r this magazine.