Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies (GBViE)

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)