Policy Instruction on Gender Equality 2021-2025

Manual and Guideline
Originally published


“We must prioritize and fund services for survivors of all forms of gender-based violence, including sexual exploitation and abuse. And promote the leadership and meaningful participation of women in humanitarian decision-making, including in leadership levels in the humanitarian community. We must address gender inequality, which is the underpinning driver of so many of the problems we have to address.”

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock, remarks to the High- level Panel on combatting and preventing sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian crises at the ECOSOC-Humanitarian Affairs Segment, 9 June 2020


A focus on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in humanitarian action Humanitarian emergencies can have devastating and differential consequences on individuals and communities due to factors such as gender, age, disability, ethnicity, and sexual identity and orientation. Women, persons with disabilities, indigenous persons, persons with diverse gender identity and sexual orientation and identifying as LGBTI, older persons, and adolescent girls – often have additional specific and intersecting vulnerabilities and protection concerns that are further compounded by their sex and gender.

In times of crisis, pre-existing gender inequality can be exacerbated, leading to discrimination, exploitation, and impacting an individual’s access to humanitarian, recovery and development assistance, and their access to human rights. Women and girls have historically been disproportionately affected by crises in comparison to their male counterparts, including reduced life expectancies, maternal mortality, and gender-based violence.

Gender inequality facts and figures:

  • In 2020, only 25 per cent of all national parliamentarians are women , a slow increase from 11.3 per cent in 1995.

  • Only 21 countries have women as Head or State or Government .

  • Only eight countries in the world give women and men equal legal work rights .

  • Between 1992 and 2019, women constituted, on average, 13 per cent of negotiators, 6 per cent of mediators, and 6 per cent of signatories in major peace processes worldwide .

  • Approximately 1 in 3, or 30 per cent of women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence , and prevalence rates are higher in some countries conflict and humanitarian settings. In some crisis settings, more than 70 per cent of women have experienced gender based violence .

  • Sixty percent of preventable maternal mortality deaths take place in settings of conflict, displacement and natural disasters. Every day, 507 women and adolescent girls die from pregnancy and childbirth complications in emergency settings .

  • More than one-third (36 per cent) of children who are out of school globally live in waraffected countries. Adolescent girls in conflict zones are 90 per cent more likely to be out of school when compared to girls in other, conflict-free, countries .

  • Persons of diverse gender identity and sexual orientation or who do not identify according to socially prescribed gender norms may face even greater discrimination and barriers to assistance in humanitarian settings.

  • Nationality laws in 25 countries still prevent women from passing their nationality to their children on an equal basis with men, resulting in statelessness and other risks.

  • Women and girls account for over half of the world’s internally displaced people (IDPs), and in many cases even higher than that of men and boys.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit