London, United Kingdom, March 7, 2023 — The Government’s new Women and Girls Strategy - launched from Sierra Leone, where the Foreign Secretary is visiting IRC healthcare programmes making a vital difference to the lives of women and girls - comes the same day as IRC research shows that the humanitarian system is not doing enough to fund local women’s organisations and include them in decision-making.
Responding to the launch of the UK’s new Women and Girls Strategy, International Rescue Committee UK Executive Director, Laura Kyrke-Smith, said,
“The Government’s commitments to deepening partnership with local women-led and women’s rights organisations and recognition of the critical role these organisations play in advancing gender equality are very welcome. So too is its commitment to spending 80 percent of bilateral aid on programmes focused on advancing gender equality, and the ongoing priority given to women and girls facing humanitarian crises.
IRC puts women and girls at the heart of our work, because we know that not only do women and girls bear the brunt of every crisis, they lead the response. However, new evidence from the IRC’s report ‘Why Wait’ clearly demonstrates that the humanitarian system is not doing enough to fund local women’s organisations and include them in decision-making.
With its new Strategy, we want the UK to help change that, and to use its influence to help reform the parts of the humanitarian system that still exclude women from leadership and decision-making. Where there is scarce funding, it must be accessible to those who can make the most change.
If the UK is serious about standing with women and girls, it must also make good on its promise to restore the funding it cut to gender equality in 2020-2022. Scaling up accessible funding, directed to those organisations who already have the solutions to realise progress on gender equality is the only way to deliver for the women and girls in humanitarian crises, who simply cannot wait for action.”
Commenting on the release of the ‘Why Wait’ Report, Inah Kaloga, Senior Director of Violence Response and Protection at the IRC, added,
“The lack of funding to women’s rights and women-led organisations is an alarming oversight that disenfranchises women’s voices, capacities, leadership, and agency.
Beyond representation and funding, this is depriving overall humanitarian response from previous knowledge, perspectives, and experiences. Women’s rights and women-led organisations are first responders to conflict and crisis and often are best placed to understand the needs of women and girls in these contexts to make a lasting impact to increase gender equality and end gender-based violence.
For a truly inclusive, global humanitarian response, there must be changes to funding, leadership, and accountability - to recognize that women’s rights and women-led organisations add value to humanitarian planning and that they have a right to be a part of it.”
Notes to Editors
- New research in IRC’s ‘Why Wait?’ report based on fresh evidence including interviews with women-led organiations from Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Ukraine shows how one key part of the humanitarian system is falling short of its commitments.
- Much of the funding for local organisations, including women’s organisations, is channelled through a funding mechanism called “Country Based Pool Funds” (CBPFs), managed by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA).
- Yet in 2021, just 3.5% of the total USD $1 billion allocated through CBPFs reached women-led and women’s rights organisations. In contrast, 27% was distributed to national and local organisations as part of a wider push for “localization.”
- As part of our research, women’s rights and women-led organisations reported particular barriers including inaccessible application processes, applications not available in local languages; underrepresentation of local women-led and women’s rights organisations on the advisory boards that shape funding allocations; and unequal partnerships and power relations with international agencies.
- During crises, women often bear an unequal brunt of impact. Women tend to experience more incidences of gender-based violence, more healthcare complications, and more economic loss.
- The one-year anniversary of Ukraine brings to mind that the war sparked the world’s fastest, largest displacement crises in decades, with women and children representing 65% of the internally displaced people in the country and making up 90% of Ukrainian refugees.
- In East Africa, over 8 million people are facing an unprecedented sixth season of failed rains and impending famine. The prevalence of severe food insecurity is higher among women, who tend to eat least, last, and least well within their households and suffer the most from nutrient deficiencies. Nearly four million women who are pregnant or lactating across Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia are acutely malnourished. Furthermore, an estimated 80% of the people displaced by climate change are women and girls.