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Executive Summary


In light of commitments to localisation in ‘The Grand Bargain’ in 2016, recent years have seen increasing discourse on how the aid community can transform the humanitarian system and shift towards preparedness and response that are driven by local actors. In parallel, rather than simply viewing women and girls as passive beneficiaries of assistance, there has been growing recognition of the role women and girls play in actively responding to crises.

However, the extent to which the discourse on both women’s leadership and localisation has been translated into more meaningful collaboration between international actors and national and local women responding to crises varies considerably.

Within this context, this global research study aims to answer a key question:

‘How is the humanitarian protection sector ensuring the participation and leadership of women responders?’

‘Women responders’ refers to individual women volunteers, activists, leaders, women-led groups, organisations* and networks.

Summary of recommendations

Based on the research findings, this paper recommends the following to not only increase the participation and leadership of women responders, but to improve humanitarian response overall:

Humanitarian actors should support protection strategies by recognising and engaging with women’s experiences and priorities The term ‘protection’ is an often-misunderstood term which doesn’t necessarily translate well into the complex realities of people’s lives. Women’s own understandings of protection are strongly gendered, context-specific and deeply personal. Women responders act upon their own understanding and meaning of protection, which may differ to standard humanitarian definitions – humanitarian actors should recognise this and engage with women and women responders accordingly.