Where Do We Go From Here? Moving Forward with the Gender Equality Objective of the Call to Action Road Map

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Gender-based violence is deeply rooted in gender inequality and women’s disempowerment. GBV is one of the primary obstacles to achieving gender equality, and gender inequality perpetuates norms that promote GBV. In order to effect change on GBV, gender equality programming must be an integral part of the work.
Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies Road Map 2016-2020

Executive Summary

In recent years, humanitarian actors increasingly have come to understand that crises have differential impacts on people based on their gender. For women and girls, crises can exacerbate prevailing gender inequalities and heighten their harmful consequences. They may face additional barriers to accessing aid and to participating in decision-making processes that affect their lives and livelihoods. Many find themselves at increased risk of gender-based violence (GBV).

To address these challenges, humanitarian actors have taken important steps to develop policies, guidance, and tools to integrate the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls into humanitarian preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery. This issue brief focuses on one particular initiative—the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-based Violence in Emergencies (Call to Action)—which aims in part to address the linkages between gender inequality and GBV.

The Call to Action is a groundbreaking multi-stakeholder initiative involving states and donors, international organizations, and NGOs. The goal of the Call to Action is to fundamentally transform the way GBV is addressed in emergencies so that every humanitarian response—from the outset—mitigates the risks of GBV, especially violence against women and girls, and provides safe and comprehensive services for survivors. The operational framework for the initiative, the Call to Action Road Map 2016-2020, outlines concrete actions all stakeholders can take to support improvements in humanitarian policies, structures, mechanisms, and responses. Partners make specific commitments under the Road Map and report annually on their commitments. The power of the initiative lies in the value and impact of coordinated individual and collective action.

The Road Map has three objectives, one of which is to “mainstream gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls throughout humanitarian action.” Strengthening gender equality in humanitarian response also is specifically referenced in three of the Road Map’s six Outcomes. As the Call to Action heads into the fourth year of the Road Map, it is clear that much work remains to be done in this area. Partners continue to report that the lack of consistent linkages between gender equality and GBV remains a significant challenge in effectively addressing GBV.

In its membership and its operational framework, the Call to Action is uniquely placed to facilitate better integration and coordination of gender equality and GBV work, thereby securing the needed systemic changes and strengthening protection for crisis-affected populations. Based on the analysis detailed in the body of this report, the Women’s Refugee Commission recommends the following individual and collective actions for the Call to Action partnership.


• Develop a more detailed articulation of the linkages between work on GBV and on gender equality. Ensure that it informs discussions with current and prospective members on their commitments, as well as the Call to Action’s external advocacy and the initiative’s work on a post-2020 framework.

• More explicitly reference and measure GBV and gender equality as interrelated rather than as separate areas of work in the Call to Action post-2020 framework.

• Prioritize country-level implementation and, in that process, identify ways to better partner with and support local women’s and women-led organizations. This should include partnering in planning, implementation and assessment, and support for accessing funding, which remains a significant barrier to these organizations’ meaningful participation in the humanitarian system.

• Map the work that is currently being done on gender equality within the partnership, including work that may not be reported under Call to Action commitments. This could include, for example, any capacity-building work that contributes to the promotion of gender equality. Call to Action should also compile and publish examples of promising humanitarian programming practices that address the linkages between gender equality and GBV. This can help clarify what this work may entail, reinforce the message that it is feasible in humanitarian contexts, and help partners develop more relevant and concrete commitments.

• Include in future reporting templates a space for partners to report on successes and challenges in integrating GBV and gender equality work. This section would aim to identify how the partners’ commitment to gender equality work has affected their GBV work and vice versa. This also could encourage partners to reflect on how commitments they may have made under other initiatives (for example, the World Humanitarian Summit) relate to work done within the Call to Action framework.

• Identify actions the partnership should take to more effectively address systemic and organizational norms that contribute to resistance to addressing GBV and gender inequality in humanitarian settings.

• Undertake a comprehensive analysis of the funding issues that impact gender equality and GBV programming in humanitarian settings and identify actions to address them. This is in keeping with Key Action Area 4.1 of the Road Map (identification of funding barriers for GBV work).

• Work to facilitate better coordination among GBV and gender equality coordination bodies globally and in the field. This is consistent with Key Action Area 2.3 of the Road Map, which seeks to “Institutionalize and systematize intersectoral GBV coordination and coordination between thematic/working groups on GBV and gender equality at global and field levels.”

• Consider how the Call to Action engages or could engage with other related global processes such as the Grand Bargain and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda so that they are mutually reinforcing.

• Utilize high-level advocacy opportunities, including with the leadership and senior management of Call to Action partner agencies, to emphasize the linkages between gender equality and GBV and to advocate for attention to both.