UNRWA Gender Equality Strategy 2016-2021: Annual Implementation Report January-December 2020



The Agency’s Gender Equality Strategy (GES) 2016-2021 is based on the Agency’s 2007 Gender Equality Policy. It builds on the first Gender Mainstreaming Strategy 2008-2015 and is aligned with The Agency’s Medium Term Strategy (MTS) 2016-2021. The GES adopts a ‘dual-track’ approach that focuses on creating mutually-reinforcing changes in the Agency’s organization and programmes in order to achieve more inclusive and equitable services for Palestine refugee women, girls, men, and boys. To do this, the GES Theory of Change articulates four Drivers of Change:

i. A strengthened gender architecture, to ensure that gender structures and coordinating mechanisms effectively provide technical inputs and facilitate gender mainstreaming activities;

ii. A gender marker that effectively tracks the allocation and monitoring of financial resources for gender mainstreaming and ensures gender accountability;

iii. Committed and supportive leadership, including senior and managerial staff, to enable changes in the The Agency’s organizational culture and operations; and iv. Gender accountability, through the monitoring and evaluation of the Agency’s gender mainstreaming activities.
To operationalize the GES 2016-2021 and measure the results of the Agency’s gender mainstreaming efforts, timebound Gender Action Plans were drafted in each field office.
Following the formal adoption of the GES by the Executive Decision-Making Platform (EDMP) in late 2016, a ‘kick-off’ meeting chaired by the Deputy Commissioner-General was convened with all HQ Departments in February 2017, followed by a cascading series of presentations in all field offices and relevant parts of HQ. This report provides an overview of the work that has taken place through the different UNRWA programmes, departments and field offices to implement the GES in order to bring about a more gender inclusive organizational culture, as well as more inclusive service delivery with due consideration to the rights, needs, and experiences of Palestine refugee women, men, girls and boys. mainstreaming gender in the COVID-19 response This year, The Agency’s activities have been disrupted by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, work became largely remote; training sessions, community-based activities and many services for Palestine refugees were taken online; and health centres and education facilities were closed down for a long period of time, following movement restrictions established by authorities in UNRWA fields of operation.

In addition to the significant health risks the pandemic has imposed on everyone, COVID-19 has had a profound impact on women and girls in the region, including Palestine refugees. Rapid socio-economic assessments undertaken by UNRWA showed that the pandemic has led to increased pressure, duties and responsibilities for women within the household, and increased rates of unemployment have led to increased tensions within the home.

From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, UNRWA has adapted its service delivery to the pandemic context, and guidance was provided to fields and programmes on mainstreaming gender and gender-based violence (GBV) in their responses to the pandemic and its consequences.

The guidance provided analysis of the differential impact of preventive measures on women, men, girls, and boys and detailed some of the vulnerable groups to be considered in service delivery, and specifically when implementing safe and accessible cash and food assistance programs.

In consideration of the reported increase in GBV occurrence and irritability, anxiety and distress created by forced coexistence, community closures, economic uncertainty and reduced family and community support, the guidance encouraged field teams to:

• Update the referral pathways and contacts of GBV focal points to ensure that GBV survivors have continued access to support; and

• Raise awareness on available remote GBV services amongst the Palestine refugee communities.

Because specific risks of cyber-violence have arisen amidst the pandemic, the guidance called for particular attention to girls in remote education, and highlighted the importance of disseminating information and providing support to children, their parents, and educational staff on the gendered risks and how to address them.

Finally, as 54 per cent of UNRWA staff is female, the guidance advised to take work-life conflicts and flexibility of work into account whenever possible in the work modalities established in response to the pandemic.