Women lead in emergencies in Uganda - Learning Report 1 – October 2021



Women Lead in Emergencies and why humanitarians need it

Women have a human right to participate in public life and decision-making, including in preparing for, responding to and recovering from natural disasters, conflict and other crises. Yet, women directly affected by crises are still excluded from most humanitarian responses and from public decision-making more broadly. Women’s participation in community responses and recovery saves lives and increases gender equality. Conversely, when women’s voices are not heard, women’s rights and needs are often not adequately met, and an emergency response can reinforce inequalities that perpetuate vulnerability, insecurity and poverty.

Women Lead in Emergencies is a CARE global programme that supports local women’s groups to take a lead in responding to the crises that affect them and their communities. It is the first practical toolkit for frontline CARE staff and partners with guidance on how to promote the participation and leadership of women in communities at the forefront of crisis within humanitarian programming.

Learning from our experiences in Omugo zone Rhino camp settlement, West Nile Uganda

Components of the Women Lead in Emergencies model were initially piloted in ‘Eua Island in Tonga during the 2018 Cyclone Gita response.1 Since then, Women Lead pilots have been implemented in different emergency contexts in Colombia, Mali, Niger, the Philippines and Uganda, including with refugees, internally displaced people and communities experiencing cyclical climate-related emergencies.

This report synthesises learning from the Women Lead in Emergencies pilot in Omugo zone (4,5,6) of Rhino camp refugee Settlement in the West Nile. The research focuses on learning from the process of piloting the Women Lead in Emergencies model and toolkit between January 2019 and March 2020, and what it tells us about some of the assumptions underpinning the design of the Women Lead in Emergencies model (Figure 1) and toolkit for practitioners. We explore four key learning questions from the Women Lead in Emergencies programme:

  1. Are there preconditions for women’s participation in community and public life and decisionmaking in humanitarian settings?

  2. How do intra-group relationships and dynamics influence women’s collective organising, planning and action in emergencies?

  3. What role can peer networking play in strengthening the collective actions of women?

  4. How does co-creation of group action plans happen in practice and what are the implications for the Women Lead in Emergencies toolkit?

Key findings

There are foundational conditions for women’s participation, and these should be explored during the initial stages of a Women Lead in Emergencies project. These can include but may go beyond: functional adult literacy, income generating activities, and psychosocial support. In addition, engaging men early in a Women Lead project is important to increase their support for women’s participation.

Different groups have different needs and the toolkit must be used flexibly. Groups that have formed themselves, whether prior to Women Lead activities or at the onset, appear to be more committed to collective planning and action than groups formed by CARE or implementing partners. This should be considered during design and start-up phases.

Peer networking and mentorship between participating women’s groups have been shown to play a positive and influential role in developing women’s individual and collective confidence and power. Women Lead projects should consider facilitating such networks within future projects.

Collective planning and action should be done in a flexible and participatory way that enables each women’s group to progress at different paces, depending on their needs and preferences.