European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

Service tools

Gender- and age-sensitive aid

© European Union
What is it?

Natural hazards and human-made crises are not gender neutral: they have a different impact on women, girls, boys, and men of all ages. To respond effectively to the different needs of various gender-related groups, EU humanitarian assistance must take gender 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 respond adequately to their specific needs. Furthermore, it could expose vulnerable populations to risks such as sexual and gender-based violence.

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 (GBV), 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 document 'Gender in Humanitarian Aid: Different Needs, Adapted Assistance', of 2013, outlines a reinforced policy approach to gender and gender-based violence in humanitarian settings.

To ensure the effective implementation of this policy, the European Commission introduced a Gender-Age Marker in 2014. This tool measures how EU-funded humanitarian actions integrate gender and age considerations. In 2020, the second assessment report highlighted that in 2016 and 2017, 89% of all EU humanitarian aid integrated gender and age considerations ‘strongly’ or ‘to a certain extent’.

In 2016, the European Commission issued a new policy with further guidance for protection activities, including on gender-based violence. The European Union Gender Action Plan 2016-2020 sets out the framework for action for all activities on gender equality and women's empowerment in the EU's external relations, as well as for EU Member States. In November 2020, the EU adopted its new Gender Action Plan for 2021-2025. It includes several humanitarian priorities, including gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health, and the Gender-Age Marker.

In 2013, the ‘Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies’ was established. This is a global initiative aiming at implementing structural changes in the humanitarian system to address GBV. It brings together 89 partners, including states, NGOs and international organisations. The EU has been an active member of the Call to Action and led this initiative in 2017-2018. During its leadership, the EU set clear priorities, including advocacy on the need to prevent and respond to gender-based violence and increasing the focus on GBV prevention in emergencies. The EU’s annual progress reports can be found on the official website.

In September 2020, the ‘Call to Action’ published a new road map covering the period 2021-2025. In January 2021, the EU renewed its commitments to the Call to Action, welcoming the latter’s new road map for 2021-2025. Among other things, the EU commits to:

  • implement and disseminate its relevant humanitarian policies for GBV in emergencies
  • support capacity-building of its staff and partners to enhance systemic integration of gender considerations into humanitarian assistance
  • continue to advocate for the need to address:
    • GBV in emergencies from the onset of crises
    • the importance of GBV risk mitigation and gender-sensitive humanitarian aid
    • promote the work of the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies, including through its engagement with the EU Member States (16 EU Member States are a partner of the Call to Action)
  • respond to GBV in emergencies against women, girls, men and boys
  • report annually on funding allocations for humanitarian-targeted actions that respond to GBVin line with the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid (2008), incorporate protection strategies against GBV in all aspects of humanitarian assistance
  • promote the active participation of women in humanitarian aid
  • implement a Nexus approach in preventing and responding to GBV, wherever feasible.
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