European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

Service tools

Gender- and age-sensitive aid

© European Union
What is it?

Natural disasters and man-made crises are not gender neutral — they have a different impact on women, girls, boys and men of all ages. Thus, in order to respond effectively to the differentiated needs of various gender-related groups, humanitarian assistance supported by the European Union must take gender considerations into account.

Why is this important?

Integrating gender and age enhances the quality of humanitarian programming, in line with the EU's humanitarian mandate and other international commitments. Aid that is not gender and age-sensitive is less effective. It risks not reaching the most vulnerable people or failing to adequately respond to their specific needs. Furthermore, it could expose vulnerable populations to risks such as sexual and gender-based violence.

In order to ensure that the humanitarian response is adapted to address the specific needs of different groups, both women and men, and children should be consulted and should participate in the design, implementation and evaluation of humanitarian actions.

How are we helping?

The European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid stresses the need to integrate gender considerations, including protection strategies against sexual and gender-based violence, in humanitarian response. It highlights the importance of promoting the participation of crisis-affected women, girls, boys, and men in the design, implementation and evaluation of humanitarian actions.

The European Commission's gender policy 'Gender in Humanitarian Aid: Different Needs, Adapted Assistance', of July 2013, outlines a reinforced policy approach to gender and gender-based violence in humanitarian settings. To ensure that this policy is effectively implemented, the European Commission introduced a Gender-Age Marker in 2014. This is a quality and accountability tool that measures the extent to which EU-funded humanitarian actions integrate gender and age considerations. In 2015, 81% of all EU humanitarian aid integrated gender and age considerations 'strongly’ or 'to a certain extent'. A first assessment report on the Gender-Age Marker, covering 2014-2015, highlights the usefulness of the Marker and calls upon partners to continue investing in capacity-building on gender and age.

In 2016, the European Commission issued a new policy on protection 'Humanitarian Protection: Improving protection outcomes to reduce risks for people in humanitarian crises' that includes further guidance for programming of protection activities, including on gender-based violence. Ensuring that gender is taken into consideration in the EU’s humanitarian aid is also included in the 'European Union Gender Action Plan 2016-2020', setting out the framework for action for all activities on gender equality and women's empowerment in the EU's external relations, including for the 28 EU Member States.

From June 2017 to December 2018, the EU led the 'Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies', a global initiative which aims to drive structural change in the humanitarian system to address gender-based violence. The Call to Action brings together 82 partners, including 17 EU member organisations. The EU has been an active member of the Call to Action since its creation in 2013. A Call to Action Road Map 2016-2020 sets out an operational framework with common objectives for the humanitarian community to be translated into targeted actions on the ground. During its leadership of the Call to Action, the EU facilitated the drafting of the 2017 Call to Action Progress Report.

Translating these policies into actions, the EU strives to ensure:

  • Adapted assistance: integrating a gender approach in EU relief operations means doing projects differently rather than doing different projects. Minor adaptations are often all that is needed. Building separate latrines with locks and lights instead of mixed latrines can for example reduce the risks of sexual violence against women and girls. Including sanitary pads when distributing relief items; setting up separate spaces for breastfeeding or distributing food packages that are not too heavy to be carried by elderly women or children are also considerations that can make aid more accessible for all people in need.
  • Protection: taking into account gender- and age-related vulnerabilities can help build in protection strategies to safeguard beneficiaries from risks related to the crisis, the context or the relief operation, including the risk of gender-based violence. In a society affected by conflict, where women are traditionally confined to their homes, men might be for instance more likely to suffer from targeted killings, disappearances and arbitrary arrests, while women may lack access to humanitarian assistance.
  • Participation: beneficiaries of all sex and age groups should be encouraged to participate in needs assessments, consultations, as well as in the design, implementation and evaluation of humanitarian interventions. Boys and girls should also be encouraged to contribute, in accordance with their age and maturity.
Last updated
17/12/2018