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Celebrating women in aid: 10 stories for World Humanitarian Day

Women in the back of a lorry, one with her hand stretched to the sky, drive down a road in cameroon.
Members of a women's cooperative in Cameroon. (Ryan Brown/UN Women)

Today marks the tenth World Humanitarian Day, and the UN’s emergency aid coordination body, OCHA, has made “women humanitarians” its focus. The day will feature events in at least 16 countries and content releases including video profiles of 24 women humanitarians.

But while women form a vital part of the humanitarian workforce, they continue to face sexual harassment and discrimination within humanitarian organisations, and are more vulnerable to gender-based violence while working in dangerous or fragile settings.

As in many other industries, leadership positions in the humanitarian sector are more likely to be held by men. A February 2019 report showed that only about one third of the UN’s humanitarian coordinators were women.

A round-up of our reporting offers a look at triumphs of women humanitarians and the challenges they continue to face in the field and within their organisations.

Q&A: How to include more local women in emergency response

“There is a gap between what we're saying we want to do as the humanitarian sector, and what women responders are experiencing on the ground.”

Fiji’s unheralded frontline disaster responders: women

In rural Fiji, where flooding and tropical storms are threats throughout the year, a network of local women is bolstering emergency response and preparedness.

The Healer: In Rohingya camps, a local response reaches untreated refugees

There are nearly 100 NGOs, UN agencies, or government bodies working on the massive refugee response in Bangladesh’s Rohingya camps. But only one – a tiny local organisation – is focused on the neglected field of palliative care.

Opinion | From Syria to Sudan, women rights defenders need more than likes

“We need global leaders to really walk the talk when it comes to supporting girls and women in humanitarian settings.”

Refugee, volunteer, prisoner: Sarah Mardini and Europe's hardening line on migration

Activists say anti-smuggling laws are being wielded against people who are trying to rescue migrants.

Schemes to stop sex abuse in the aid sector off to a shaky start

Before the UK-hosted international Safeguarding Summit 2018 even began, the flagship initiative for which the conference had been intended to serve as a launching pad had already come under sharp criticism.

Towards more diversity in aid agencies

When long-time humanitarian Margie Buchanan-Smith was interviewed for one of her first field posts – in Sudan in the 1980s – she was asked: “Will you burst out crying when you arrive?”

Opinion | Time to confront sexual abuse and harassment in the aid sector

Will the heads of major aid agencies finally give the sexual abuse and harassment of female workers the attention it deserves?

MeToo, AidToo: The next steps

A briefing on how to move forward after Oxfam.

(TOP PHOTO: Members of a women's cooperative in Cameroon.)

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