Hardwiring Gender in Humanitarian Partnerships

CARE is deliberate about partnering with local NGOs committed to gender equality in delivering a humanitarian response, and we also strive to work more, and more meaningfully, with women’s rights organisations in emergencies. This is key to how we “hardwire” gender in our humanitarian partnership work. 

The impact of crises on people’s lives, experiences and material conditions differ based on their gender and sexuality. Gender intersects with other forms of diversity which can exacerbate unequal power relations e.g. characteristics such as race, caste, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability. 

Our humanitarian mandate is to meet the immediate needs of women, men, girls and boys affected by natural disasters and humanitarian conflicts in a way that also addresses the underlying causes of people’s vulnerability, especially as a result and cause of gender inequality.  

Our activities during a humanitarian response can increase and reinforce, or reduce, existing inequalities. Integrating gender into every stage of a response is therefore a core part of achieving our humanitarian mandate, even and especially when we are working with local NGO partners that do not necessarily specialise in gender.  

Who can “do” gender in emergencies? All CARE staff and partner staff should use the four steps in the GIE Approach to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls through humanitarian action. 

A key reminder is that we must link our and our partners’ humanitarian programming to CARE’s existing gender equality development programming before, during, and after a humanitarian crisis. 

GiE Preparedness: Gender as a must in partner trainings

It is an overwhelming priority to strengthen gender in our emergency preparedness phase, especially when we are working with partners without a gender focus. As CARE, it is our duty to accompany them in their gender journey and provide the training and tools that they need.  

In rapid response, it’s rather difficult to begin conversations around gender equality and social inclusion in emergencies if they weren’t already unpacked pre-disaster. Although some partners are rooted in gender justice advocacy on their own, several others are less so (which is expected for the usually diverse pool of partners we engage). Organising elements for rapid gender assessments, learning how to analyse sex-/age-/disability-disaggregated data meaningfully, and designing gender-sensitive responses happen best in the preparedness phase especially for partners with less experience in it. 

Our most important recommendation is to provide Gender Equity and Diversity (GED) and PSHEA training in your preparedness workshops to ensure CARE and partner staff understand gender equality, how we approach gender in emergencies, and what these mean for their roles or responsibilities in a humanitarian response. This minimum activity applies to old and new partners alike.  

Rapid Gender Analysis (RGA) training for, by, or with partners is also helpful if conducted in the preparedness phase. Understanding how an RGA works, what makes it different from standard assessments, and how it can shape the report recommendations, can only enhance the quality of your response once the emergency is ongoing – especially when more CARE and partner staff are capacitated to participate in RGAs. 

Consider including a “Gender in Emergencies in Proposal-Writing” training in your preparedness phase as well, designed for CARE and partner staff whose role is to develop the proposals for humanitarian response. In this way it is more likely that your project or program will budget for gender (capacity development, technical staff, activities); collect, analyse, and make use of SADD data; and incorporate GIE/GBVIE principles and approach in the implementation. 

Key GiE actions in the prapredness phase

  • Use Emergency Preparedness Planning to include gender equality and women’s empowerment in all parts of a response 
  • Prepare a Gender in Brief that will inform preparations, contingency planning, and response; if possible, validate your GIB with local partners or WROs with expert local knowledge 
  • Include budget for Gender in Emergencies technical support and activities (e.g. GED training, RGA activities, engaging a local gender/GBV specialist in training facilitation or RGA report-writing) 
  • Ensure your humanitarian MEAL systems account for sex-, age-, and disability-disaggregated data; and that you and your partners are able to make use of this data after assessment to inform your proposals and response 
  • Balance teams of first responders; assessment teams need to be gender-balanced as much as possible to be able to work with people of all genders and ages affected by crisis 

5 keys to gender-sensitive response with humanitarian partners without a gender focus

In plenty of contexts, we respond to emergencies in partnership with experienced local organisations that don’t necessarily specify a “gender focus” in their work or identity, yet through our partner assessment tools and process we have determined that they are clearly aligned with core humanitarian standards, rights-based approaches, and social justice through equality and inclusion. CARE is committed to ensuring gender-sensitive responses even with limited budget, staff, or time – how then do we accompany our partners in their own gender journey? 

Some ways to do gender creatively include: 

  1. Frame gender as “general learning”. To help partners see gender (its markers, briefs, and action plans) not just as a compliance requirement but as an essential element in the capacity-building and preparedness process, it is recommended to incorporate topics specific to the response such as how to analyse needs assessment data with a gender lens, or how to handle a GBV disclosure during an assessment interview.  
  2. Update your light-touch assessment tools to reflect gender data. This is especially useful if you don’t have time, resources, or capacity to conduct an RGA. An example can be the use of a simple matrix that deliberately asks after the separate/specific needs/impacts of crisis to various vulnerable groups, that even non-gender specialists can easily use. 
  3. Make data analysis participatory. In Fiji and the Solomon Islands, the team conducted participatory data analysis workshops from the rapid gender analyses activities. GEDSI Analysis (what is known in the CARE world as RGAs) can also be used as entry points. External stakeholders such as local government were invited so that the RGA becomes a product that people actually understand and have ownership over. In the Philippines, the COVID-19 Metro Manila RGAs similarly included data analysis and validation sessions with the interviewers before the report was finalised.  
  4. Facilitate pre-deployment briefings with gender guidance. In your usual briefings, include gender messaging and basic GBV referrals training before deploying CARE and partner staff to communities. If partners are already experienced, provide a short refresher or ask them to facilitate the session.
  5. Provide accessible guidance notes to supplement the briefings. A small, printed “field deployment kit” with checklists, bullet points, or images reminding CARE and partner staff of gender considerations in assessment, monitoring, documentation, and the like can go a long way.  

A rule of thumb is to make your discussions as participatory as possible. It takes more time, but this is simply good practice in partnership and meaningful collaboration. When people are included in decision-making and post-activity evaluations, they are able to claim shared ownership and accountability. 

Lessons from CARE’s gender journey

We should acknowledge resistance as part of our strategy and work our way through understanding what our partners and their communities understand by gender mainstreaming.   

We must acknowledge that we have opportunities to learn from our partners and this may mean un-learning and re-learning what we may think may work. It is a journey after all, and every journey is filled with successes and opportunities to learn. Partnership and relationship building takes time to develop trust and nurture [relationships], we must invest in core funding for our partners to enable this to happen.  

The great thing about CARE’s Gender Equality Framework is that it guides us to work with whole-of-society and this is crucial when we consider our approaches to working with partners who are not WROs. 

Gender-based violence in emergencies is a matter of gender equality as it disproportionately affects women and girls[1]. Worldwide, during times of crises, the prevalence of GBV increases as existing gender inequalities are exacerbated by the chaos and tensions within households, communities, and society. Moreover, services to address its outcomes such as health, psychosocial, safety and security, and legal are often unsafe or inaccessible to women and girls as social norms prevent them from making choices about their bodies, health, education, work, and lives.

All humanitarian actors – including CARE and our partners – regardless of mandate and sector, are responsible for identifying and mitigating GBV risks from the outset of a crisis. We must take into account the specific vulnerabilities of women, girls, boys, and men, as well as other potentially vulnerable population subsets, including persons with disabilities, elderly persons, and individuals identifying as LGBTQ.

CARE’s approach to GBVIE is four-pronged: rapid gender analysis, prevention, risk mitigation, and response. There are specific roles that GBV specialists and non-GBV specialists should take, and this applies to both CARE and partner staff.

[1] CARE Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies Approach, v. 2021.

What is a GBV specialist?

A Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Specialist is a humanitarian professional with specialised GBV knowledge and expertise.

GBV specialists have the following core competencies:

  • Understands and applies a survivor-centered approach, including GBV Guiding Principles (Safety, Confidentiality, Respect, Non-discrimination);
  • Demonstrates commitment to gender equality;
  • Promotes and integrates gender analysis and mainstreaming into humanitarian programming;
  • Exhibits empathy and positive interpersonal skills, including cultural competence.

Currently, there are no agreed-upon standards of what training or experience is needed to become a GBV specialist.

A GBV Program Manager is a GBV specialist that implements the projects on GBV prevention and response in humanitarian emergencies, which may be focused on healthcare, legal response, livelihoods, etc. In agencies or local NGOs without dedicated GBV resources, the portfolio will often fall to a gender specialist.

Local CSO or WRO partners may have GBV/gender specialists in their team, which your initial partner capacity assessment would have identified (see: Module 2). Throughout this chapter and toolkit, when we say “GBV Specialist”, we refer to both partner and CARE staff with the above competencies.

A Non-GBV Specialist is a humanitarian professional working on a GBVIE project, without specialised GBV knowledge and expertise. Attending one gender/GBV orientation or training does not automatically make us (or our partners) GBV specialists. It does equip us with what we need to understand our role in GBVIE programs, whether we are humanitarian program managers or project officers.

GBViE with Partners: Risk Identification, Mitigation, and Prevention for non-GBV Specialists

Non-GBViE staff can be trained to undertake GBViE prevention programming in acute emergencies and have a duty to engage in risk mitigation and ensure they are trained to respond safely and appropriately to a disclosure of GBV[2] should they receive one. Our priority is to ensure that we do no harm.

REMEMBER: If you or your partners are non-GBV specialists–

  • DO NOT proactively identify or seek out GBV survivors
  • Instead, design services, and train frontline staff to create a safe and trusted environment for someone who willingly wants to disclose their experience.

There are 2 key roles for non-GBV specialists:

  • Consult with women and girls to identify and reduce relevant sector-specific GBV risks and ensure that all services do not cause any harm
  • If a survivor discloses a GBV incident to you:
    • Know how to safely and ethically support and listen to survivors without judgment
    • Provide accurate information on available GBV services and referral options (if any)
    • With the informed consent of the survivor, know how to safely refer them using the GBV referral pathway

[2] This would include being able to provide appropriate referrals or, where referral pathways/GBV specialized actors are not available, following the PFA-focused steps in the GBV Pocket Guide

PREVENTION: What can CARE and partners do?

GBVIE prevention activities are interventions to prevent GBV from first occurring in a humanitarian setting.

  • Partner with local women who are already responding to humanitarian emergencies
  • Promote positive gender and social norms from the start of the emergency response, to provide a basis for continued efforts throughout the crisis and set a foundation for longer-term interventions
  • Conduct GBVIE sensitization and information-sharing sessions during emergencies to make sure that survivors are aware that services are available and that they have the right to access them

Ask local partners with GBV expertise to facilitate these awareness trainings, or request local government (e.g. GBV specialists from the social work department) to facilitate

  • Target formal and informal leaders, stakeholders, and community members to raise awareness of risks associated with violence and its consequences, and to advocate for effective implementation of protection instruments and mechanisms to monitor, report, and seek redress for GBV.

All prevention activities should be complemented with a GBV services mapping[3] to enable safe referrals in case of spontaneous self-disclosures. For areas where there is no GBV services map, community members are trained in the GBV Pocket Guide on what to do when there is no GBV service provider.

[3] In most emergency settings, the GBV sub-cluster coordinator (e.g. UNFPA) would lead the mapping and would share with partner organisations. In other locations it might be necessary for CARE and/or CARE partners to do it. HOWEVER, only a specialized GBV actor should be doing an actual capacity/quality assessment. (E. Patrick, CARE GBV specialist, 2021)


GBV risks are the factors that increase the likelihood that an incident of GBV will occur. All humanitarian practitioners have the responsibility  to identify GBV risks and take specific actions to mitigate those risks. This ensures that our programming is safer and more accessible to all, and particularly for women and girls and other vulnerable groups.

Risk analysis is a key step toward designing program interventions to address the GBV-related risks that have been identified – one that we should conduct with our partners. We should ask:

  • WHO is most at risk?
  • WHAT are the key risks these groups are facing?
  • WHY do these risks exist? and
  • HOW do these risks affect our programming?

Some concrete steps we can take with our partners include:

  • Consult with women’s groups and at-risk groups about their specific challenges and needs
  • Conduct a safety audit (within your project assessment and implementation)
  • Arrange for people’s access to assistance and services in proportion to need,without barriers; and in a manner that does no harm, pay special attention to individuals and groups who may be particularly vulnerable or have difficulty accessing assistance and services
  • Use the AAAQ framework[4] in designing or monitoring GBVIE programming
  • In project inception workshops, include GBVIE training for CARE and partner staff in the agenda and discuss real-life examples where non-GBV specialist staff can practice risk analysis and next steps

GBV risk mitigation is just good programming: it should not be considered a separate or additional part of a sector’s work. Ensuring that GBV risk mitigation actions are integrated into the sector programs should result not only in safer programming overall, but in better sector-specific outcomes as well.

[4] Availability, Accessibility, Acceptability, And Quality Framework

RESPONSE: What can CARE and partners do?

If you or your partners are non-GBV specialists, GBV response is not your responsibility. Upon receiving a GBV disclosure, administer Psychological First Aid (PFA) and immediately refer out. Make sure that your front-line workers or your partners’ are properly trained on how to ethically and safely respond to GBV disclosures and are able to share accurate information on the GBV referral pathway and options. For more info on how to safely do so, check the field-friendly GBV Pocket Guide.

GBViE with Partners: Rapid Gender Analysis and response for GBV specialists

Rapid Gender Analysis can be used to identify GBV risks, needs and concerns to inform emergency programming. Guidance on mainstreaming GBV within an RGA can be found in the RGA chapter of this module. Some examples of RGAs that identified GBV as a priority within the response include the Philippines and Colombia; a sample of a GBV sector-specific piece is the Uganda RGA.

If you or your partners are not trained GBV specialists, do not conduct a sector-specific GBV RGA. Otherwise, we risk doing harm and putting communities and survivors in danger.

GBViE response ensures survivors have an opportunity to access and receive immediate life-saving medical care, psychosocial resources, and case management services which are critical to the recovery and healing process of the survivors.

When we implement GBVIE programs with partners, GBV specialists also play a key role in training particularly in acute emergencies where time is scarce. Remember to build upon our partners’ GBV experience and expertise, and engage WRO partners as facilitators and key contributors in GBVIE trainings for non-GBV specialists.

GBV Specialists (whether CARE or partner staff) are responsible for[5]:

  • Developing GBV referral pathways in coordination with relevant service providers and actors
  • Disseminating information to other humanitarian actors on the GBV referral pathway in their area
  • Identifying needed services for survivors of GBV
  • Designing and implementing specialized GBV response and prevention services including psychosocial support and case management.

GBV specialists or service providers can also establish or strengthen Women and Girls Safe Spaces (WGSS). WGSS are an entry point for women and girls to report protection concerns and voice their needs, but they are equally physical spaces where women and adolescent girls can be free from harm and harassment. Here, they can gain knowledge and skills; access GBV response services or other available services; and foster opportunities for mutual support and collective action in their community.

[5] From the GBV Risk Mitigation online course developed by the inter-agency GBV Guidelines Implementation Support Team, led by CARE (v. 2021)