Older women’s role in improving participation and safety

Report’s cover page Report’s cover page © NRC/ Enayatullah Azad

This article is a brief presentation of “Improving Participation and Protection of Displaced Women and Girls Through Camp Management Approaches”

In March 2020, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) published two reports on how women’s participation in community governance mechanisms, both inside and outside camps, contributes to enhancing women’s safety. This report is primarily based on the findings of a global qualitative data in coordination with The International Organization for Migration (IOM), which co-leads the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM). 

The report “Improving Participation and Protection of Displaced Women and Girls Through Camp Management Approaches” presents practical recommendations for Camp Management agencies to improve displaced women’s contribution and inclusion in the coordination of humanitarian responses in camps and informal sites. Similarly, this report analyses the barriers and enablers women face to participate meaningfully in coordination. Furthermore, this report suggests practical steps that Camp Management agencies can take to overcome the barriers women face considering various cultural contexts in displacement settings. 

According to the report, it is imperative to understand how a pervasive patriarchal culture leads to women’s structural exclusion. On the structural side and capacities side, women’s lack of capacities compared to men is derived from the assumption that men have more prior experience and soft skills in coordination. In addition, this research acknowledges that many cultural, structural and capacities challenges are reinforced by humanitarian agencies. Consequently, the report sets recommendations for creating and supporting representative coordination and governance structures. For instance, it is strongly advised that humanitarian agencies facilitate access to an accessible women-only physical space for coordination. The report also lists minimum requirements for the humanitarian agencies, such as ensuring adequate female representation among agency staff. Other recommendations for building women’s capacity and resources for coordination and for improving women’s safety through women’s role in coordination are also given in this report. 

After analyzing four different countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Tanzania and Kenya) the study identified the role of older women as unique and significant to support families and communities across displacement contexts. Older women can help CM agencies to capitalize on wisdom, respect and authority and improve women’s safety and protection in camps. 

In sum, the author recommends prioritizing the role of older women. The report highlights older women’s ability to command respect and authority, provide emotional support and resolve disputes in the community, as well as contribute to the domestic and childcare responsibilities of the household, which should be used appropriately by the CM agencies. 

Finally, the  report suggests a method for CM to include older women appropriately: first, involve local staff; second, consult community members from demographic groups; third, identify older women “leaders” and interview them in-depth; and finally, design activities based on the prior consultations. 

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Author: Carolina Tellez: Editor: Sara Gorelli

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