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Gender, Development,

and Humanitarian Work

Oxfam Focus on Gender

The books in Oxfam's Focus on Gender series were originally published as single issues of
the journal Gender and Development, which is published by Oxfam three times a year.
It is the only British journal to focus specifically on gender and development issues
internationally, to explore the links between gender and development initiatives, and to
make the links between theoretical and practical work in this field. For information
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Front cover: Working together to build a cement platform for the water tank at Gode hospital, Ethiopia.
Photo: Crispin Hughes, Oxfam

© Oxfam GB 2001
Published by Oxfam GB, 274 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 7DZ, UK.
http: / /www.oxfam.org.uk/publications
Typeset in Palatino by Oxfam; printed by Information Press, Eynsham
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Oxfam GB is a member of Oxfam International
ISBN 0 85598 4570

This book converted to digital file in 2010

Editorial 2
Caroline Sweetman, Fiona Gell, and Deborah Clifton

Saving and protecting lives by empowering women 8

Deborah Clifton and Fiona Gell

Contested terrain: Oxfam, gender, and the aftermath of war 19

Suzanne Williams

Gender, conflict, and building sustainable peace: recent lessons from Latin America 29
Caroline O.N. Moser and Fiona C. Clark

Empowering women through cash relief in humanitarian contexts 40

Hisham Khogali and Parmjit Takhar

Healing the psychological wounds of gender-related violence in Latin America:

a model for gender-sensitive work in post-conflict contexts 50
Helen Leslie

Gender and power relations in a bureaucratic context: female immigrants from Ethiopia
in an absorption centre in Israel 60
Esther Hertzog

Gendering ethnicity in Kyrgyzstan: forgotten elements in promoting peace

and democracy 70
L.M. Handrahan

Reconstructing roles and relations: women's participation in reconstruction in

post-Mitch Nicaragua 79
Sarah Bradshaw

Resources 88
Compiled by Nittaya Thiraphouth
Publications 88
Organisations 95
Electronic resources 97

illions of people world-wide are for future disasters, mitigating the impact
currently living in a state of of disasters, alleviating suffering, and
emergency, thrown into crisis by rebuilding community life. Women's
conflict or natural disaster to the extent that specific contribution may be different from
they and their communities are no longer and complementary to that of men. Not
able to meet the needs of everyday life. It is only do women bring a gender-specific
now well-recognised that war and natural range of skills, experience, knowledge,
disasters affect men and women in different authority, and leadership to coping with
ways. At a global level, women and crises, but they are also powerful agents of
children form by far the largest proportion change, often adapting more quickly than
of civilians displaced by conflict (both men to new situations, and more easily
internally and internationally). Complex finding alternative means of survival.
emergencies often result in a demographic This collection of articles from develop-
shift such that women make up the ment policy makers, practitioners, and
majority of the post-emergency population. researchers explores the interface between
Men and women are vulnerable to gender issues and humanitarian work.
different types of risk and threat in While some articles in this collection focus
emergencies, related to their physical on humanitarian work during natural
security, food security, health, or other disaster, others analyse humanitarian
issues. Yet the fact that women bear the responses to conflict. A third group of
brunt of world poverty, with fewer assets articles considers the post-crisis period: the
and greater reproductive burdens, have less time when immediate work to save lives
power and status than men, less mobility, gives way to work that aims to promote
and less defence against violence, makes reconstruction. In the case of natural
them particularly vulnerable during crises. disaster, much of this work aims to promote
Roles and responsibilities change during emergency preparedness; in the period
disaster, with men often being forced to after conflict, peace-building is the aim.
migrate in search of work or to take up arms,
leaving women to bear an increased burden
of responsibility for home and family.
Current challenges to
In spite of women's particular vulner- humanitarian policy
abilities during crises, they have a specific During the 1990s, there has been an
contribution to make towards the reduction increase in both the value and volume of
of vulnerability to disasters, to preparing humanitarian assistance, only partly due to

increased need. In addition, it is due to the are seen in perspective, as part of a strategy
greater reach of humanitarian agencies into for institutional transformation. Standards
territories that had been off-limits prior to must also include an analysis that ensures
the end of the Cold War (Macrae 1999). that humanitarian work is performed as
Parallel to the increase in humanitarian efficiently as possible by understanding the
activity has been debate within the aid connection between social identity, power,
community on the current challenges of and survival itself.
working in emergencies that arise from
complex political situations. In turn, these Development and humanitarian work:
debates have taken place concurrently with what is the relationship?
debate within the women's movement Another key difference between schools of
(including feminists in humanitarian humanitarian thought that underlies the
agencies) on the responses from the articles in this collection is the relationship
humanitarian agencies and their impact on between relief and development work.
women's status and practical wellbeing. Perceived by some as distinctly different
This debate is concerned with three sets of kinds of interaction between agencies and
issues: the immediate needs of women in societies on the ground, these concepts are
emergency situations and their role in relief seen as part of a continuum by others, who
work; understanding and challenging the may speak in terms of 'developmental
different forms of subordination of women relief, or reject the terms completely. In
in these situations; and the role of women some contexts of political emergency, this is
in reconstruction and reintegration not a departure from the norm; rather, crisis
(El Bushra 1999, 97). While there has is the norm itself. This state of affairs calls
recently been greater - and timely - into question the classic conceptualisation
attention to men's gender issues in peace- of relief as being a short-term, practical
building, this collection of articles focuses in delivery of essential resources to enable
the main on the three sets of issues populations to ensure survival before
identified by El Bushra, although individual stability returns. Currently, conflict over
articles do discuss masculinity in relation to resources in poverty-stricken contexts
the militarisation of society. where rapid economic change is challenging
age-old ways of life, and growing fears of
Accountability and standards recurrent environmental crisis due to
The debate about the role of humanitarian climate change, are adding to the number of
agencies in intervening in emergencies, and such chronic emergencies.
whether or not it is possible to be impartial
or desirable to be neutral, has led, among
other things, to a renewed awareness of the
Gender-sensitive responses
need for agencies to be accountable to the to these dilemmas
populations who are targeted by relief Gender perspectives on the problems raised
activities. In turn this has led to calls - in the previous section are, firstly, to
at least within the English-speaking understand that humanitarian interventions
humanitarian community (Macrae 1999) - will always have some impact on gender
for internationally-agreed standards for and other social relations, and, secondly,
humanitarian work. Deborah Clifton and to understand humanitarian response in
Fiona Gell discuss the rationale for a long-term perspective, gaining an
standards in their article, focusing in understanding of how life is connected
particular on the development of the Sphere before, during, and after crisis.
initiative in the late 1990s.1 They emphasise Current debates in development and
the importance of ensuring that standards humanitarian agencies include the
importance of understanding social the specific context in which an emergency
relations and the ways in which institutions occurs. This involves drawing on people's
discriminate against marginalised groups. local, rooted knowledge of prevailing social
These debates have implications for how dynamics and power relations, and
agencies should respond to changing challenges to these, as processes. This leads
dynamics between different social groups to a rejection of older ideas of emergencies
which come about as a result of crisis, and as isolated, sudden events. A focus on
how they can ensure that change is positive women's lives, or on the lives of other
for women. While some argue that women, marginalised groups within a society,
men, and children all have the same basic highlights the same underlying power
needs in a crisis, and that challenging social dynamics which lead to unequal outcomes
inequalities is outside the remit of for women and men. In poor communities
humanitarian response, evidence from in peace and in conflict, or prior to a natural
countless different contexts bears witness to disaster and during the period afterwards,
two facts. Firstly, women's needs are male or female social identity gives
distinct from those of men. This means that individuals very different opportunities
humanitarian agencies must give attention and methods for obtaining resources
not only to sectors such as reproductive crucial to survival. In the majority of
health or protection from violence against societies throughout the world - and not
women, but also to the need to integrate a only in 'developing countries' - women's
gender perspective throughout all of their identity as wives, mothers, and daughters
work. This occurs through understanding places them in a position of having to gain
women's unequal power to control and access resources through their relationships with
resources, and to participate in decision- men. Another constant for women in crisis
making at household or community level and stability is the issue of unequal gender
(Moser and Clark 2000). It follows that it is power relations in conjunction with norms
actually impossible to remain detached of female and male sexuality.
from power dynamics within a community Understandings of women's differential
in an emergency response. In the absence access to resources and control over their
of gender analysis and appropriate action bodies are common to crisis and stability;
to ensure that women's interests are the key is to understand how emergency
addressed on an equal basis with those situations affect social relationships
of men, interventions are likely to be between women and men to worsen the
detrimental to women's interests and outlook for women. In a conflict, or
therefore to be of lower quality and following a natural disaster, the men on
efficiency. All interventions, regardless of whom women and children depend may be
their aim, inevitably challenge, alter, or lost, dead, or absent. Women's access to
entrench power relations between different resources may be threatened, and there
social groups. In their article, Deborah Clifton may be a profound threat to women's
and Fiona Gell rehearse the arguments human rights to bodily integrity, and to
around this issue, arguing that in order to physical and mental health. This is because
be impartial, a gender-sensitive approach the physical locations in which women
has to be taken in humanitarian work. feel safe are no longer refuges but places
The second dilemma concerning the to be escaped; normal restraints on
relationship between development and male behaviour may have broken down;
humanitarian response is debated by and, in situations of conflict, women's
feminists as follows. Gender-sensitive reproductive and sexual capacity is abused
responses in emergencies depend on as a weapon of war to degrade and destroy
developing a long-term understanding of not only women themselves, but their men

and their society. The role of humanitarian organisations) may become much more
agencies in ensuring that women are visible, and also increase significantly. This
protected on a day-to-day basis is equalled brings new opportunities for leadership.
by their role in challenging 'official failure How can humanitarian response ensure
to condemn or punish rape [which] gives it that women's need to ensure family and
an overt political sanction' (Vickers 1993,21). community survival is supported, that their
To relate this insight to the debates potential for leadership is realised, and that
about distinctions between humanitarian wherever possible women are supported in
aid and development, it is clear that the challenging gender stereotypes to ensure a
duty to ensure that women have access to sustained change in gender relations?
resources and protection against attack In their article, Hisham Khogali and
exists both in times of stability, when Parmjit Takhar provide an example of
governments and international agencies humanitarian work which sets out
may talk of development, and in times of simultaneously to provide greater benefits
crisis, when they talk of humanitarian aid. to households and communities through
Yet, for many reasons, stemming from the channelling aid through women, and to
male-dominated institutional culture of challenge gender stereotypes surrounding
those organisations involved in delivering women, work, and money. Their discussion
humanitarian aid, women's gender interests focuses on the impact on communities,
are currently vastly more likely to be households, and individual women and
addressed in a 'development' intervention men of channelling resources to households
than in a humanitarian operation. In her in the form of money rather than food, and
article, Suzanne Williams discusses these via women rather than men. In their article
issues and the wider relationship between they consider the strategies of targeting
development and humanitarian work in women as potential workers on cash-for-
relation to Oxfam GB's work in different work programmes in the wake of emergencies.
contexts, including Afghanistan and Kosovo. They ask whether or not, in the medium-
term, women's enhanced contribution to
household livelihoods has an impact on
Harnessing the gendered patterns of decision-making
opportunities offered by power within the household.
crisis An additional useful insight from this
kind of study is that it highlights the
Crises offer opportunities for marginalised synergy which can be built up between
groups within society to adopt new roles efficiency-based rationales for working
and challenge stereotypes. Prior to a crisis, through women, and equity and empower-
women's contribution to income-generation ment-based rationales for focusing on
may be enormously important, but unequal gender relations. However, caution
unacknowledged, and women may be is needed. Targeting women only and not
distanced from decision-making at all levels giving full attention to the social dynamics
of society. The role of wife and mother is between women and men leads to ignoring
often the only one which receives wide an obvious point that will impact on both
recognition, and this work may simul- sets of aims. Workers implementing this
taneously be praised while the skills and type of programme must consider the entire
energy that it requires are underrated. workload of the family - including both
In crises, women's roles in contributing to productive and reproductive work, work
household livelihoods and in other roles within the home and work outside it -
outside the domestic sphere (including when determining whether or not this
decision-making in community bodies and provides immediate practical assistance for
women, or simply over-burdens them. In reveals that violence against women
the absence of male willingness to shoulder increased in the reconstruction period, with
some of the domestic burden, coercing approximately half of the respondents to
women to undertake cash-for-work the audit identifying problems with recon-
activities will reduce the effectiveness of the struction projects and between couples,
project from a practical point of view and including increased domestic violence.
can lead to conflict within the household as Bradshaw suggests that, 'Getting recon-
men feel marginalised and women become struction wrong may impact not just on
targets for their anger. people's material well-being, but may also
How do we ensure that aid fosters affect their health, safety, and emotional
peace and stability within households, well-being.'
communities, and wider society, rather than One article in this collection discusses
unwittingly becoming a tool to be used to the ways in which displaced people,
promote conflict and instability? To an powerless in the highly bureaucratic
extent, of course, all development and context of a temporary settlement, are
humanitarian interventions will promote vulnerable to inappropriate and even
social conflict since, as discussed above, abusive interventions. Esther Hertzog
they all - albeit sometimes unwittingly - analyses the treatment of women and men
pose a challenge to the economic and social from Ethiopia in Israeli 'absorption centres'
status quo. In the case of cash-for-work, a of the 1980s and 1990s. Ethiopian women
full knowledge of gender relations within a immigrants were labelled backward in
particular context, and strategies for terms of their skills in traditional female
supporting both women and men within tasks, and obliged to learn how to perform
households, are critical before embarking these roles in the manner of the wider
on interventions that seek to challenge the Israeli community, while being prevented
gender division of labour. from seeking paid work outside the camp.
In confirmation of this, in her article While Hertzog's article is not concerned
focusing on the impact of Hurricane Mitch with humanitarian relief as such, the power
on communities in Nicaragua, and agency of state bureaucrats over each and every
responses, Sarah Bradshaw discusses the aspect of inmates' lives can be taken as a
findings of a social audit carried out by the cautionary tale of the vulnerability of the
Civil Co-ordinator for Emergency and displaced in relation to those who are in
Reconstruction, a coalition of 350 non- charge of refugee camps or resettlement
governmental organisations (NGOs) and initiatives.
other community- based organisations. In
the audit, women's experience of Moving from palliative aid
participating in reconstruction projects is
considered. Audits of this nature are
to peace-building
essential if humanitarian work is to As stated at the beginning of this introduction,
improve in relation to gender issues. The some of the articles in this collection
picture that emerges is complex and discuss the gender issues within peace-
sometimes contradictory. Critically, Bradshaw building, reconciliation, and reconstruction.
highlights the tension between short-term In their contribution, Caroline Moser
survival goals and longer-term goals of and Fiona Clark discuss the outcomes of a
women's empowerment, as well as high- conference on 'Latin American Experiences
lighting the dangers of targeting women as of Gender, Conflict, and Building
efficient conduits of relief to their families, Sustainable Peace', held in Colombia in
which may only serve to entrench May 2000, and attended by representatives
inequality within the household. The audit of civil society, governments, and inter-

national organisations. Their analysis ethnic identity. Their sense of masculinity

straddles conflict and post-conflict periods, depends on extreme pride in their ethnicity,
and emphasises the poverty of vision which and on participation in violent activities
depicts women as victims of conflict while associated with ethnicity. In contrast,
men are actors in both war and peace. women associate ethnicity with cultural
Groups such as women ex-combatants are factors; and appear to be more receptive to
invisible from this analysis, as are women working across ethnic divisions to end
leaders who could take their place around conflict. While these insights into male and
the table at peace negotiations. Moser and female gender and ethnic identity have
Clark argue for a holistic vision that interesting implications for all those
understands 'the multifaceted relationship involved in promoting peace and
between women, men, violence, and peace', democracy, Handrahan emphasises how
and the different experiences of women women are seldom represented on the
depending on other aspects of their social decision-making bodies that can create
identity, including age, ethnicity, and peace at national level. While women are
geographical location, as well as their active in NGOs, these typically remain at
social, economic and political status. the periphery of the peace process.
Finally, they discuss strategies for healing Everyone involved in peace-building must
war-torn societies, including 'truth pay attention to the need to give women
commissions' and the provision of psycho- their place in official peace talks by
social support to survivors of trauma. ensuring that they are represented in
When psycho-social support has been government.
a feature of responses to emergency
situations, this has tended to focus on
women and children who have survived Notes
sexual violence and other mental and 1 The Sphere Project is a programme of the
emotional trauma - for example, the Steering Committee for Humanitarian
rehabilitation of child soldiers. This Response (SCHR) and InterAction with
collection includes an article which looks VOICE, ICRC, and ICVA. The project
critically at the rationale for such work, its was launched in 1997 to develop a set of
relationship to male perpetrators of such universal minimum standards in core
violence, and the wider need for peace and areas of humanitarian assistance. The
reconciliation in society. In her article, aim of the project is to improve the
Helen Leslie presents a model of healing, quality of assistance provided to people
drawn from the experience of an affected by disasters, and to enhance the
El Salvadorean NGO, Las Dignas. Las Dignas accountability of the humanitarian
uses feminist theory as a tool to enable system in disaster response.
women to move beyond the abuse they
have suffered, and rebuild their lives.
Finally in this section on peace-building
and reconstruction, L.M. Handrahan Macrae, J. (1999) 'Foreword', in C. Pirotte,
discusses the implications for organisations B. Husson, and F. Grunewald (eds)
promoting peace and democracy of Responding to Emergencies and Fostering
recognising differences between women's Development: The Dilemmas of Humanitarian
and men's understandings of ethnic Aid, London: Zed Books.
identity in Kyrgyzstan. She argues that Vickers, J. (1993) Women and War, London:
women's concept of ethnicity appears to Zed Books.
depend less on aggression than that of men.
Men see themselves as the main 'bearers' of
Saving and protecting lives
by empowering women
Deborah Clifton and Fiona Gell
Women and men face different risks and vulnerabilities during disaster, and they bring different
resources to preparing for and coping with disaster. Less well recognised are the ways in which
humanitarian interventions themselves influence the nature of gender relations during crises.
A gender-blind humanitarian response which does not address gender-specific issues and does not pay
particular attention to the situation of women can worsen both the immediate survival prospects for
women and their families, and women's long-term position in society. This article contends that the
process of providing humanitarian aid and the institutions that deliver it tend to be inherently
male-biased and thus discriminatory against women, and that a commitment is needed both to
understanding how institutional bias works against women, and to challenging the status quo.1

H umanitarian agencies and their

multi-million pound interventions
have enormous power to challenge
gender discrimination, perpetuate it, or
primarily as passive and needy victims, a
'vulnerable group'. This limited view has
almost always resulted in humanitarian
responses focusing solely on meeting
even exacerbate it. The use of gender analysis women's immediate practical needs. Good
to determine a gender-/az'r response is a practice on gender in emergencies has come
critical factor in determining the outcome. to mean paying attention to the role of
A review of the literature on gender in women in food distribution, providing
humanitarian response reveals very little sanitary towels, and ensuring adequate
use of comprehensive gender analysis. The lighting and health services for women.
information available is anecdotal rather These are important steps, but they remain
rooted in an approach that is oblivious to
than analytical, and the inability to identify
social relations and power dynamics. It is
specific impact in terms of gender relations
true that gender inequality is a root cause of
is a result of the fact that few programmes
vulnerability, creating or contributing to
set out to challenge gender inequity. It is no particular risks for women. However,
wonder that achieving gender-equitable focusing on women's vulnerability - to the
outcomes remains one of the great unmet neglect of their capacities and resources,
challenges of humanitarian work. and their longer-term interests -
misrepresents the actual experiences of
How humanitarian women and men and negatively affects the
culture and practice of emergency
interventions shape
management (Enarson 1998).
gender relations
Gender analysis recognises women's
Until quite recently, disaster-affected work and decision-making influence as
women have been viewed and portrayed central to preparing for, responding to,
Saving and protecting lives by empowering women 9

recovering from, and mitigating community backlash from men. Women must be fully
disasters. By building on this analysis, involved in determining the pace of
gender-fair humanitarian aid puts women's change, as they are the best judges of
immediate and longer term interests at the resistance and how to overcome it.
heart of the assessment and planning If gender equity goals are considered at
process, thus ensuring that their chances of all, they are typically equated with post-
survival are increased, their coping emergency rehabilitation or development
strategies strengthened, and their status in work, where it is more straightforward to
the community raised with consequent address gender inequities than in relief
improvements for the well-being of the work. However, the role of relief in laying
whole community. It requires inclusive, the foundations for rebuilding the social,
participatory, democratic models of economic, and physical infrastructure
response that involve women not only as of communities is now well recognised.
victims but also as resourceful community The long-term course of a humanitarian
actors. In practice, however, women's response can be set by programme
representation is still often lacking in decisions made within the first few days of
disaster response teams, emergency relief work. Hence, getting the relief
programme management, and the formal response right for women as well as men
and informal participation needed to from day one is of paramount importance.
rebuild communities.
Gender-fair emergency management
also seeks to challenge the longer-term Why gender equity and
structural barriers to women's vulnerability women's empowerment
to disasters. Since disaster mitigation are vital to saving and
seeks to address the underlying causes of protecting lives
vulnerability, in addition to physical
measures such as raising land or building
dikes it must also address longer-term The aims of humanitarian intervention
strategic factors such as unequal land Gender analysis in any programme needs
ownership, wealth distribution, and gender to take as its starting point the following
inequality. Communities are safer and questions. Are the overall goals sensitive to
more resilient to crisis when they are more the interests of both women and men? If so,
egalitarian, and when all social groups are how can these aspirations to achieve
empowered in a way that enables them to gender equity be made explicit and
contribute their respective opinions and developed into actionable plans?
resources. The aim of humanitarian response is to
When external agencies provide save and protect lives quickly and
resources without considering gender effectively in the event of an emergency, in
issues they can seriously jeopardise the order to ensure that fewer people die, fall
position of women. With already fewer sick, or suffer deprivation.2 Underlying
opportunities for education, employment, these aims are two fundamental principles
and leadership than men, women are likely recognised by the humanitarian community:
to be further disadvantaged by interventions that those affected by disaster have a right
that reinforce traditional roles and relation- to life with dignity and therefore a right to
ships. If too many resources are targeted to assistance; and that all possible steps
women without adequate analysis of the should be taken to alleviate human
risks involved and without adequate suffering arising out of conflict and
participation of women, their security and calamity (Sphere Project 2000). This includes
position may be further jeopardised by the right to an adequate standard of living,

and to freedom from cruel, inhuman, or Communities and agencies also need to
degrading treatment or punishment. support women to hold on to gains in
Two further principles with significant gender relations made during the crisis.
implications for gender equality are A series of structural barriers work
laid out by the Red Cross Code of Conduct against women's active participation and
for NGOs in Disaster Relief. Firstly, empowerment in disaster response,
'proportionality' - humanitarian aid should including their reproductive burden, lower
be provided in measures proportional to levels of education, lower access to and
the degree of suffering it seeks to address. control over resources, lower status, and
Secondly, 'impartiality' - the provision of limited mobility. Humanitarian agencies
aid must be made on the basis of need need to recognise and challenge these
'regardless of race, creed, or nationality of
barriers, and at the very least ensure that
the recipients and without adverse
their interventions do not exacerbate them.
distinction of any kind'. This principle
They need to address the practical and
implies that the aims of saving and
protecting lives must apply equally to protection needs of both women and men
women and men, and that we must strive in the immediate crisis, recognise and build
for equity, or fairness, of outcome. The on the roles and resources that men and
Code of Conduct also states that inter- women bring to coping with the crisis,
ventions should support and not diminish and address the longer-term needs and
the role of women in disaster-affected interests of women and men. If these
populations. needs are appropriately addressed, the
coping capacity of communities for future
This section sets out why a gender-fair
disasters will be strengthened. Steps must
approach is essential to fulfilling the
principles and aims set out above. The be taken to include a fairer distribution
rest of the article discusses how to of power between women and men, and
achieve this. this may imply an extension of the typical
sectoral scope of humanitarian response
The efficiency rationale which precludes attention to several critical
It is widely recognised that women's gender issues. Strengthening women's
empowerment 3 and greater equality leadership role will involve finding ways
between women and men are a necessary to share their reproductive burdens,
pre-requisite for social justice, sustainable and strengthening men's role in household
development, and for peace (United work.
Nations 1995). This applies equally to the
The focus of the approach needs to be
humanitarian context. Empowered women
will be able to make a much greater on analysing the situation of both women
contribution to preparing for and coping and men, and working with both to achieve
with disaster. In addition, the experience gender-equitable outcomes. However, the
of participating on an equal footing with fact that women start from a relative
men in disaster management can be a very position of greater suffering, poverty, and
empowering one for women. Communities disempowerment means that, if the aims
and agencies therefore need to seize any of proportionality and impartiality are to
opportunities resulting from the crisis for be achieved, special attention must be paid
improvements in the relative condition and to the situation of women, and resources
status of women. Such opportunities are must be allocated accordingly. Only then
often created by shifts in demographic can progress be made in restoring a balance
patterns, when women and men may in gender relations.
assume new roles and responsibilities.
Saving and protecting lives by empowering women 11

Such a gender-fair approach has the rights. The right to life with dignity, to
potential to increase humanitarian impact exercise one's human rights, and the right
in the following ways: to self-determination are significantly
dependent on gender. A rights-based
• Lives can be saved and protected (i.e. approach to humanitarian aid involves the
mortality, morbidity, and malnutrition equal protection of the human rights of
reduced) by the most effective and efficient
women and men, special attention to the
means when gender-specific needs are violation of human rights of women, and
met appropriately and gender-specific the equal and active representation of
capacities and resources fully utilised. women and men at all levels of decision-
Improvements in the condition and making.
status of women will have overall
The Sphere Humanitarian Charter and
benefit for the survival and well-being
Minimum Standards represent a rights-
of the whole family.
based approach to humanitarian
• Lives can be saved and protected with a intervention. The principles of impartiality,
greater degree of proportionality and proportionality, and a right to life with
impartiality because achievements in dignity are concerned with achieving equal
'fewer people dying, falling sick, or rights for all social groups regardless of
suffering deprivation' will benefit gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, age,
women and men in better proportion to or any other form of social identity. Equal
their relative suffering. However, it is rights for women and men are fundamental
important to note that in order to to this approach. This is reflected in the fact
achieve an outcome (lives saves and that among the wide range of human rights
protected) which is impartial to gender, instruments that underpin the
the process needs to focus on the Humanitarian Charter is the Convention on
interests of women in order to restore the Elimination of All Forms of
balance to an unequal situation. Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
• The chances of a life with dignity being CEDAW legally obliges the states that are
enjoyed by women and men equally party to the convention to take measures to
will be significantly increased with prevent violence against women, and to
women having greater control over their eliminate discrimination in issues such as
situation during the crisis and hopefully access to health care, ownership of
in the longer-term. property, and participation in public life.
The Beijing Platform for Action, which
• The overall capacity of communities to resulted from the Fourth World Conference
prepare for and cope with future on Women in 1995, is another key rights-
disasters will be enhanced through based agreement. It sets out the most
harnessing the resources and active radical global agenda yet for the
participation of both men and women in empowerment of women. Most of the
more productive ways twelve Critical Areas of Concern in the
Platform for Action relate in some way to the
The rights-based rationale humanitarian context, but the most critical
Because gender-based discrimination is a strategic objectives are those set for
critical inhibitor to poverty alleviation, violence against women, women and
sustainable development, and good armed conflict, and the human rights of
governance, gender advocates argue for an women. While not legally binding, this
approach that recognises and confronts agreement is signed by 189 states, and
gender inequities and the denial of represents an important lever for change. It
women's social, economic, and political provides a set of benchmarks towards

which international actors can strive in community is at its most vulnerable and
humanitarian as well as development has little power to challenge humanitarian
practice. agencies on which it depends. Yet, how
A rights-based approach aims to enable often is this concern cited by crisis-affected
all poor and marginalised people, women women? Striving for gender equity is part
and men, to exercise their rights. It must of a universal human rights agenda. It is, of
therefore address the many ways in which course, imperative that local communities
women and men can be marginalised as a regulate the pace of change and shape its
result of other aspects of their social course to ensure their own protection from
identity such as ethnicity, class, caste, cultural backlash. Hence the need to strive
disability, and age. for full and active participation of women
The rights-based rationale for a gender- in programmes.
fair approach to humanitarian aid supports There is an understandable but misguided
the efficiency rationale. Acknowledging concern that a gender-equity approach to
women's rights as human rights is essential humanitarian aid is actually a development
if gender awareness and analysis are to agenda, fed by the fact that empowerment
help determine the most appropriate work with women has traditionally
response. But this will only happen if there been done during rehabilitation work
is an understanding of why upholding which often, but not always, leads into a
women's rights is essential in both development phase. It is important to be
efficiency and human rights terms, and clear that the approach is primarily about
a commitment to seek opportunities to delivering relief and rehabilitation
make this happen from all actors within the equitably, and that this needs to be
humanitarian operation. If agencies fail to accompanied, where possible, with an
follow these principles, they risk becoming attempt to tackle the longer-term barriers to
complicit in further discriminating against women's development. It is not about in-
women and worsening their position in depth, time-consuming social research that
society. will see months of inaction before any
suffering is alleviated. Nor is it simply
Understanding and about setting up women's projects, though
these may be needed as part of a strategy to
challenging resistance engage and strengthen the capacity of
There remains a baffling level of resistance women to participate. It is about working
in the humanitarian community toward an with men as well as women to ensure the
approach that seeks gender equality. This equitable delivery of aid.
seems to stem from lack of understanding, There is an underlying resistance to
skills, and commitment to identify and the perceived threat of the feminist or
challenge gender discrimination. More 'politically correct' agenda to the humani-
fundamentally, it reflects an inherent male tarian imperative, a suspicion that gender
bias in humanitarian institutions, and the advocates attempt to use humanitarian
fact that the personal relations of many programmes to further the aims of the
staff may also be based on inequitable unrelated agenda of gender equity. The
gender relations. Here we cite and respond case of Oxfam GB's shift from delivery of
to some of the arguments raised against winter relief to advocacy on women's
striving for .gender equity during rights following the Taliban take-over in
emergencies. Afghanistan in 1996 and the banning of
There is a concern that attempting to women's rights to education, employment,
empower women during disasters is to and freedom of movement has been cited
unfairly manipulate local culture when a in this regard (Williams 2001). For some
Saving and protecting lives by empowering women 13

time, the principles of the humanitarian While there has been a great deal of
imperative and gender equity were rhetoric about gender mainstreaming over
unhelpfully juxtaposed as competing the past decade, there are few examples of
agendas that polarised the debate and where it has been achieved. This is partly
masked the fact that with no access to owing to confusion about what it means,
women, Oxfam GB did not believe it could the promulgation of myths about
deliver humanitarian aid with impartiality the dangers of including equity as a
and proportionality, and without further humanitarian goal, and, no doubt, partly
undermining the position of women. owing to organis-ational reluctance once its
However, the Afghan situation was, and implications are thoroughly understood.
still is, unusually complex. In most cases Mainstreaming is a process undertaken
the upholding of women's rights clearly to achieve gender equality, not a goal in
strengthens humanitarian impact. itself. It requires gender-specific measures
Others argue that addressing gender for advancing equality throughout
equity costs more in terms of time, human, organisational mandates, within a coherent
and financial resources. Yet the need for policy approach focused on the empower-
extra gender specialists would be minimal ment of women. To propose or adopt
if gender-fairness became a perspective, a mainstreaming, as many organisations have
lens through which all humanitarian done, without substantial accompanying
workers viewed the work in their respective changes in the policies, mandates, and
sector. It may well involve targeting more doctrines that govern organisational action,
resources specifically at women, but this is meaningless. While there has clearly
should increase the equity and efficiency of been increased will on the part of inter-
the overall response as we have seen above. national organisations to address gender
Achieving gender-fair outcomes depends issues, this commitment has not been
largely on changing humanitarian culture backed up by the systematic changes
and attitudes. Part of this work will be to necessary to translate it into reality.
demonstrate and communicate that a The first step in successfully main-
gender-fair approach does not threaten but streaming gender equity goals in any
enhances humanitarian aims. This requires institution is high-level commitment
long-term research to gather baseline data to establishing a cohesive framework,
on gender relations, track change over including a rationale for why gender equity
the course of crises and humanitarian is important, a clear strategy, with specific
interventions, and measure its impact. goals and standards for achieving equity,
We need to collect and document case sufficient gender expertise, and adequate
studies where comprehensive gender resources, mechanisms, and regular
analysis has led to good practice, and reporting to hold staff accountable.
communicate this in dynamic ways across The ways in which gender is integrated,
the humanitarian community.4 particularly in humanitarian emergencies,
also need to be situation-specific, seizing
Gender mainstreaming opportunities as they arise. It requires
attention to how change happens at both a
strategies technical and political level. At the
Several humanitarian organisations technical level, gender mainstreaming
attempting to improve their performance requires solid data, sound theory, and
on achieving equity have developed skilled people who recognise opportunities
strategies for mainstreaming gender 5 and can act as credible advocates for
within their work and organisations. gender equality. At the political level it

requires advocacy and action on the specific vulnerabilities of women,

implementation of policies and mandates, protection from violence, and women's
whether these are international mandates participation. However, it falls short of
such as those provided in the Beijing asserting gender equity as a guiding
Platform for Action, national mandates such principle of humani-tarian work, of
as legislation, or the internal gender explicitly acknowledging women's rights
policies of humanitarian agencies. The as human rights, and of recognising the
political level also requires inter-agency importance of under-standing gender
support and collaboration. relations and barriers to equal
Performance standards on gender Because of these shortcomings, Oxfam
One of the ways Oxfam GB has chosen to
GB has developed a set of standards on
advance its gender mainstreaming efforts is
gender equity in humanitarian response
through the development of performance
designed to be used alongside the Sphere
standards on gender in humanitarian
standards (Clifton 2001). These include
response. Attempts to establish minimum
standards for integrating gender throughout
standards for humanitarian work go back
more than a decade in response to widely the programme cycle including protection
felt needs for improved response and from violence, and for modelling gender
accountability, but it is only recently equality within Oxfam itself. These standards
that steps have been taken to improve are now being piloted to assess their
performance and accountability on gender. impact on gender equity in humanitarian
The Sphere Project was the first major programmes.
effort to succeed in translating abstract So how useful are standards on gender?
humanitarian ideals into specific standards, The Sphere standards have been widely
achieving a wide consensus across a broad acknowledged as a useful practical guide
spectrum of humanitarian agencies. The and reference point for attempting to
purpose of the Sphere Humanitarian Charter provide a consistent, comprehensive
and Minimum Standards is to increase the response to disaster. Although their impact
effectiveness and quality of humanitarian is still being assessed, they have certainly
assistance and to make humanitarian proved effective as an awareness-raising
agencies more accountable. The tool. Gender equity standards provide a
Humanitarian Charter is a recognition and language to articulate concrete practical
elaboration of the right to assistance objectives and make a complex subject
of persons affected by calamity and conflict more tangible. It is, however, crucial that
based on existing laws, conventions, and accountability mechanisms are put in place
practices, while the Minimum Standards and monitored.
outline the goods and services to be Standards also have limitations and
provided in fulfilment of that right. associated risks (Brabant 2000). There has
Standards are prescribed for five service been a hot debate about the universality of
sectors: water supply and sanitation, Sphere standards, and their applicability in
nutrition, food aid, shelter and site different socio-cultural contexts and in the
planning, and health services, along with initial phases of emergency response or in
indicators which can be used to judge volatile contexts. Achieving standards can
whether the standard has been attained. become a technocratic process of 'bean
A review of the gender-blind draft of counting' without any underlying contextual
the Sphere standards (Sphere Project 1998) analysis. Standards can inhibit innovation
resulted in significant improvements on and be misused as tokenistic measures to
gender-sensitivity in the 2000 edition gain cheap credibility with managers or
which does, to some extent, address the donors. They also require broad consensus
Saving and protecting lives by empowering women 15

if they are to be effective, and, as the Sphere organisations, and in the programmes they
Project has found, setting standards on seek to implement (Women's Eyes on the
gender can be particularly controversial. World Bank 1997).
Most importantly, standards are only a Mainstreaming gender also means
first step in a process of changing attitudes building the capacity of women and
and practice toward increasing equity. Like women's organisations to advocate for
rules, they do not lead to meaningful or their legal rights and priorities on their
long-term change in isolation. They can own behalf. A commitment to main-
simply set a process in motion. Once streaming does not preclude a focus on
implemented, the focus must be on women. Rather, supporting strong groups
examining actual outcomes and impact on and networks of activist women to acquire
the lives of women and men. And they know-how, and to identify opportunities to
must be accompanied by a much wider intervene in mainstream development and
process of institutional change and humanitarian processes, is a core part of
transformation to achieve real impact. strategy, enabling women collectively to
'Practice only changes when practitioners assess their situation, express their
themselves acknowledge that change is priorities and concerns, strengthen their
essential, and accept that the "old way of public voice, advocate and lobby for policy
doing things is over". To be successful reform, and develop approaches to
practice standards must be owned equally influence decision-making. It is the only
by the agency and its personnel.' (Lancaster way to ensure that ongoing work for
2000) gender equality and development at the
Until organisations, donors, and national level is sustainable after the
governments are trained to measure outside involvement has ended (UNICEF,
'results' on gender beyond countable undated).
outputs, and to looking at competence and
performance in achieving sustainable long- Institutional
term impacts on gender relations, there will
be a temptation to subscribe to gender transformation
standards as a superficial measure of A recent development in the discussion of
gender sensitivity. achieving equity in emergency aid work is
In addition to implementing practice the growing recognition that humanitarian
standards, agencies seeking to integrate a agencies, like many other institutions, are
gender perspective fully into their themselves inherently resistant to gender
humanitarian work must take action on a equality. Organisational and feminist
number of other levels. The use of gender theory suggests that organisations, like
analysis, and the collection of gender- society, have unconscious or submerged
disaggregated data, need to become a values in their culture, and a history that
systematic and mandatory part of influences their ways of working. When
intervention, as do procedures for ensuring organisations themselves are historically
the active engagement of women. Plans to deeply gender biased, trying to 'add
increase gender expertise in staffing, to gender' into their structure through policy
conduct gender training at all levels, and to and program initiatives is unlikely to bring
implement gender policies, need to be about significant change (Goetz 1997; Rao et
time-bound, with management and staff al. 1999). Helping humanitarian agencies to
held accountable for their achievement. learn to operate in equitable ways and
Most importantly, rigorous evaluation achieve equitable results requires examining
criteria need to be developed to measure all aspects of the organisation through a
success in closing gender gaps, both within gender lens. It means understanding and

transforming the conditions and factors attributes of professionalism, and a

that enable or prevent gender practices significant level of internalised sub-
within each of the technical, political, and ordination is often accepted without
cultural subsystems of an organisation, and question. 'Soft' behaviours such as
transforming those towards greater gender consultation, cautious shared analysis,
equality and social justice. Fundamental gender-sensitivity, or empathy with those
issues such as power structures and affected by the crisis, more often displayed
relations, organisational values, staff by women, are often disregarded as
attitudes, and decision-making systems all unimportant and irrelevant if not ridiculed.
need to be addressed. The process of This reflects the predominance of a
organisational transformation is complex masculinised value system. It is exacerbated
and requires debate and space for by the fact that the 'hardware' sectors of
reflection between institutions.6 water, shelter, food aid, and logistics which
In order to pursue a social-transformation represent the backbone of humanitarian
agenda, organisations need to address the response, and command the greatest
underlying assumptions and values that resources, are mainly staffed by men,
inhibit gender equality. Examining 'how whereas the 'software' sectors of health,
the job gets done' in emergency response community mobilisation, education, and
reveals a lot about the dissonance between human resources tend to be staffed by
espoused organisational values of gender women.
equity and the deeper culture of The masculinised emergency culture
humanitarian agencies. places high value on staff who are willing
Humanitarian interventions carried out and able to take personal risks, work long
in situations of conflict operate within a hours under high pressure, live under
highly militarised and masculinised difficult conditions with little privacy,
external environment which has resulted in travel at short notice, be unencumbered
the internalisation of some elements of by personal commitments, and remain
military language, behaviour, and culture emotionally detached from crises. Women,
in aid agencies. Emergency staff need a partly due to their greater reproductive
heightened awareness of security issues, and family responsibilities and partly due
knowledge and skills such as radio operation to internalised female values, less readily
and off-road driving, and the ability to meet these criteria for the 'ideal' committed
work alongside rebel, government, or UN humanitarian worker. As a consequence,
military forces. These areas are typically they may need to work harder to prove
the domain of men, although to some men themselves, they may adopt a stance of
they will be less familiar. Women and men male bravado becoming 'one of the boys',
both face risks in militaristic environments, often suffer ridicule and discrimination in
but women staff are often constrained in the workplace, and in some contexts
their actions and mobility by the threat of simply find themselves excluded from
gender-specific forms of abuse. certain areas of work. Male staff who do
The urgency, chaos, and scale of crisis not live up to these ideals of masculinity
response also provokes a militarised and may suffer discrimination in similar ways.
masculinised internal environment for These usually dysfunctional and highly
agencies, whether in a situation of natural gendered organisational attitudes and
disaster or conflict. Hierarchical, typically behaviours unfortunately characterise
male-dominated, top-down structures tend emergency management, and help to
to be adopted, where action-orientation, explain why mainstreaming gender has
quick decision-making, efficiency, risk- proven so difficult in this field, and why, as
taking, and heroism are valued as important a consequence, humanitarian programmes
Saving and protecting lives by empowering women 17

have little positive impact on gender Changing the way that states negotiate
equity. The challenge for humanitarian conflict and humanitarian agencies deliver
agencies is to recognise and expose the aid will require fundamental institutional
masculinisation of their environment by transformation. It will require bringing
listening to and validating the experiences feminist goals of social transformation
of their women staff, to provide appropriate together with espoused organisational
support and training, and to find ways to values to effect a major cultural shift. It will
moderate the values and culture of their mean changing the way we think and make
internal working environment so that decisions, and recognising that these new
women feel able to contribute on more ways of working will not only contribute to
equitable terms with men. greater gender equity but will also save
As this article goes to press, the world and protect more lives. In the process of
faces the threat of international conflict evolving, organisations will need to
following terrorist attacks on the USA. The articulate and take action to establish the
debate over the balance to be struck direct connection between women's
between retaliatory action and efforts empowerment, gender transformation, and
toward peace is strikingly gendered. The the explicit values and aims of humanitarian
voices of women in the debate have almost intervention.
been silenced. Virtually all the central actors
in the crisis are men: men perpetrated the Deborah Clifton is a researcher and writer
violence, men are organising the response, on gender and social justice issues, and
and providing the public and media former Emergency Support Staff (Gender and
analysis. Women are depicted as passive Representation) with Oxfam GB. R.R.I Site
victims of the crisis. The peace protests, 18C29, Gabriola Island, B.C., Canada VOR1X0.
organised principally by women's organi- E-mail: debclifton@hotmail.com
sations, are receiving little media coverage. Fiona Gell works as a Gender Adviser in Oxfam
The protagonists of military retaliation are GB's Policy Department, and previously worked
mainly men, while women are becoming as a Gender Adviser in Oxfam GB's Humanitarian
the sceptics of a war devised, controlled, Department. Oxfam GB, 274 Banbury Road,
and reported by men. This bears out the old Oxford 0X2 7DZ, UK.
gender stereotype of women's tendency to E-mail: fgell@oxfam.org.uk
nurture life rather than destroy it. Women
are less assured than men that a war on
terrorism will make the world safer. 'Men Notes
are socialised to intellectualise the world, 1 There is a large literature on institutional
analyse and objectify it, in a bid to discrimination against women in
emotionally distance themselves and development situations (Goetz 1997;
control it. Women, brought up to Rao et al. 1999) but very little that
empathise, have few distancing techniques.' addresses this issue in the humanitarian
(Bunting 2001) While men's 'outrage context specifically.
translated instantly into concrete demands', 2 This is the Oxfam GB definition of its
for women, 'the extent of the horror was in humanitarian objectives.
itself a bar to certainty... it demanded that 3 Women's empowerment can be under-
we ask questions rather than furnish stood as a process whereby women,
answers.' (Miles 2001) The domination of individually and collectively, become
men in the crisis has exposed the prevailing aware of how power relations operate in
power structure and marginalised women their lives, and gain the self-confidence
in a way that would have seemed barely and strength to challenge gender
possible before the crisis began. inequalities.

4 Examples can be found in Oxfam GB Goetz, A. (ed.) (1997) Getting Institutions

(1997, 2001); Gell (1999); Walker (1994). Right for Women in Development, London:
5 The UN defines gender mainstreaming Zed Press
as 'the process of assessing the implicationsInterAction Commission on the
for women and men of any planned Advancement of Women (2001) 'How
action, including legislation, policies or Mainstreamed is Gender Mainstreaming?',
programs, in all areas and at all levels. http: / / www.interaction.org / caw / artide21
It is a strategy for making women's, as Lancaster, W. (1998) 'The code of conduct:
well as men's concerns and experiences whose code, whose conduct?', Journal of
an integral dimension of the design and Humanitarian Assistance, policy paper
implementation, monitoring and Miles, A. (2001) 'Men are from Mars,
evaluation of policies and programs in women are from Earth', The Times,
all political, economic and societal 19 September
spheres so that women can benefit Oxfam GB (1997) 'Gender and food
equally and inequality is not perpetuated. security', Links, October
The ultimate goal is to achieve gender Oxfam GB (2001) 'Gender equity and
equality.' (ECOSOC 1997) humanitarian response', Links, March
6 The recently founded Gender at Work Rao, A., R. Stuart, and D. Kelleher (1999)
Collaborative aims to build a Gender at Work, Bloomfield CT: Kumarian
north-south network dedicated to Press
institutional change on gender equity. Sphere Project (2000) Humanitarian Charter
http://www.genderatwork.org and Minimum Standards in Disaster
Response, Oxford: Oxfam GB
UNICEF (undated) 'Mainstreaming Gender
References in Unstable Environments', in Gender
Brabant, K. (2000) 'Regaining perspective: and Humanitarian Assitance Resource Kit,
the debate over quality assurance and http: / / www.reliefweb.int / library / GHAR
accountability', Humanitarian Exchange, kit /files / GenderlnUnstableEnvironments
October 2000 .pdf
Bunting, M. (2001) 'Women and war', United Nations (1995) Beijing Declaration
The Guardian, 20 September and Platform for Action, New York:
Clifton, D. (2001) 'Gender Standards in United Nations
Humanitarian Response', unpublished Walker, B. (1994) Women and Emergencies,
paper, Oxford: Oxfam GB Oxford: Oxfam GB
ECOSOC (1997) 'Gender Mainstreaming in Williams, S. (2001) 'Contested terrain:
the United Nations', New York: Oxfam, gender, and the aftermath of
UN Department of Economic and Social war', Gender and Development 9(3): 20-9
Affairs Women's Eyes on the World Bank (1997)
Enarson, E. (1998) 'Gender and disaster: 'Gender Equity and the World Bank
what are the issues?', in Women in Disasters: Group: A Post-Beijing Assessment',
Conference Proceedings and Recommendations, October, http:/ /www.interaction.org/
May 1998, Vancouver: University of caw/wewbl
British Columbia
Gell, F. (1999) 'Gender concerns in
emergencies', in F. Porter, I. Smyth, and
C. Sweetman (eds) Gender Works,
Oxford: Oxfam GB

Contested terrain:
Oxfam, gender, and the aftermath of war
Suzanne Williams
In this paper I explore the terrain of the international NGO (INGO) - in this case Oxfam GB -
and some of its difficulties in integrating gender equity goals in the institutional structures and
policies which govern its activities in conflict and its aftermath. I look at terrain that is divided into
areas that are treated very differently. These are, on one hand, the field of humanitarian interventions
in the throes of an emergency, and on the other, the 'non-conflict' field of reconstruction and
development. Historically, these two fields of activity have been governed by very different ways of
thinking and acting, often in conflict with each other. Gender analysis and gender-sensitive
programming are central to these differences, and essential tools in the attempts to overcome them.
In Oxfam GB at present, the differences in approaches to gender equity in these two territories are
acknowledged, if not routinely addressed; but the importance of addressing gender equity in order to
overcome some of these differences, is more complicated and controversial.

Introduction: and vanquished, and those who do not fit

setting out the terrain neatly into either of these categories,
women, men, and children have to deal

he aftermath of war itself unfolds in with the emotional, psychological, and
unstable and dangerous terrain, physical injuries inflicted during the war,
contested at all levels. Social and with loss and bereavement, with
political groups begin to re-organise, uncertainty and fear. Feelings of hatred and
jockeying for position and power, mis- the desire for revenge may still run high,
trustful of old alliances while seeking to and reprisal attacks increase in the absence
form new ones. Community-based networks, of effective judicial institutions and in the
patterns of social interaction, and other context of impunity for human rights
forms of social organisation will have been violations during the war. The use of
affected to different degrees depending on violence as a means to resolve problems
the nature of the conflict and the networks and disputes, backed up by increased
and organisations pre-war. Displacement, circulation of weapons, and nurtured by
flight, and experience of refugee camps the militarism which governs the conduct
have dramatic impacts on individuals, of armed conflict, bleeds on in the post-war
social relationships, and social roles and context. This commonly translates into high
responsibilities. levels of criminal violence and increased
Women and men struggle to re- violence within households and families.
establish their livelihoods. Patterns of land The end of war rarely brings peace. The
ownership and land use, disrupted by the post-war terrain can be particularly
conflict, take new forms. Amongst victors dangerous for women.

'Oxfam and its partners have observed that which are gender-based, are rarely built
from the townships of Natal to the shanty towns into the analysis of violent conflict or the
of El Salvador, the result of many years of planning of interventions to address its
armed conflict is that violence has become the consequences. Failure to do this can be
socially accepted means of resolving conflict and attributed to lack of expertise in gender
achieving change which infiltrates all aspects of analysis, but also to a profound resistance
society, including family life.' to incorporating it, for a number of reasons
(Oxfam 1998a) that will be examined later in this paper.
Allegiances and identities come into question To address gender relations in the context
during conflict and in its aftermath, usually of conflict entails entering highly contested
identified and described in political and /or terrain, not only within the war-torn society,
in ethnic or religious terms. The struggle but within all the institutions intervening in
may be about control of territory, assets, the situation, including the INGOs.
resources, political status and power, and In this paper I look at some of the
opposing groups mobilised around class, 'institutional imperatives' which govern
ethnic, religious, or regional identity, or Oxfam's work during conflict and its
combinations of any of these. But there is aftermath, and discuss problems inherent
another fundamental form of identity that in some key conceptual and programmatic
is commonly ignored or regarded as
divides which make programme imple-
secondary to the ethnic and nationalist
mentation in this area complicated and
divides. Gender identities are central to
war-making, as they are to peace-making. difficult. Thinking and action can polarise
War is gendered. Male and female identities in relation to relief and development
are manipulated in the preparation for war, responses, conflict and post-conflict
its conduct, and its aftermath. This may be contexts, technical and social interventions.
through the dissemination of militaristic Interwoven with these are different
ideology, which promotes male aggression, perceptions of the division between the
dominance, and the capacity for violence, public and private domains, and what
and praises female passivity, family constitutes peace. Violence against women
nurturing, and support to fighting males. in wartime, such as strategic rape, is located
Individual men and women are affected in the public domain. 'Domestic' violence,
differently by these gendered stereotypical is commonly regarded as a private affair,
within the household and family. The
While it is now widely recognised essential feminist insight that the
amongst INGOs that armed conflict public/private divide must be broken
presents women with opportunities as well down to understand gender relations and
as threats, and the chance to re-negotiate
the organisation of power has only recently
gender roles following de facto assumption
of male responsibilities in the absence of begun to inform Oxfam's thinking.
men, understanding of how war constructs Taking examples from Oxfam's
gender has been more elusive. Gender is programme I look at some of Oxfam's
not identified by INGOs as a key defining experience in adressing gender equity in
factor of identity in relation to how war the aftermath of war. In conclusion, I
begins, what it is about, how groups are consider some of the current changes
mobilised to fight, and how ceasefires and within Oxfam GB, and point to some of
peace agreements are reached. The power the areas needing strengthening to
relations which define gender identity, the underpin the positive changes which are
allegiances, the beliefs and behaviours taking place.
Contested terrain: Oxfam, gender, and the aftermath of war 21

Oxfam GB's institutional Oxfam GB has worked on the concept of

imperatives 'net impact' or 'net benefit' in relation to
humanitarian relief. This arose from the work
Oxfam GB's mandate is to relieve poverty, - and the challenge - of Mary Anderson's
distress, and suffering, and to educate the 'Building Local Capacities for Peace'
public about the nature, causes, and effects project. The question addressed by
of these. In recent years, Oxfam GB has Anderson's work is this:
defined its purpose as helping people to
'How can international and local aid
achieve their basic rights, drawn from
agencies provide assistance to people in areas
relevant articles in the Universal
of violent conflict in ways that help those
Declaration of Human Rights, and the two
people disengage from the conflict and
International Covenants. Work to achieve
develop alternative systems for overcoming
gender equity, expressed as 'women and
the problems they face? How can aid
men will enjoy equal rights' is a core
agencies and aid workers encourage local
institutional goal.
capacities for peace?'
Oxfam GB has had a Corporate Gender (Anderson 1996)
Policy since 1993, but its implementation
throughout the organisation has been Oxfam GB, along with other international
patchy. The profound transformations humanitarian agencies, has to ask itself
envisaged by the Gender Policy in human some difficult questions. When does our
resources policy and the structure and presence do more harm than good, by
culture of Oxfam GB as a whole have not exacerbating the conflict through diversion
taken place. Other strategies are currently of aid, inadvertent support to perpetrators
underway to try and address these issues. of human rights violations in conflict, or
Progress in implementing the Gender perpetuation of the war through provision
Policy was mapped in 1997, and pointed to of humanitarian relief that enables national
little overall consistency. Strengths resources to be allocated to arms and the
revealed by the study were considerable war itself? What are the alternatives to
success in working at grassroots level with providing immediate help to victims of
women's organisations and in Oxfam GB's violent conflict? How do we balance high
gender publishing programme. There has profile advocacy with the security of staff
been less success in relation to and partners? How do we continue to
mainstreaming gender in large-scale provide humanitarian aid within all these
emergency or development programmes, constraints and difficulties?
and little to point to in relation to gender- These questions could well be applied
sensitive advocacy and campaigning work to gender equity and the impact of external
(Oxfam GB 1998b). agencies on women and on gender relations.
Oxfam GB has a number of sets of When do our interventions bring more
guidelines and standards relating to gender harm than good to women? Are we
for its emergency programming, and these exacerbating inequitable gender relations
have been implemented successfully in by intervening in ways that do not
some instances, but are not routinely positively address gender inequality,
applied. Oxfam GB was a key collaborator and tackle male dominance? Are we
in an interagency initiative known as the inadvertently exacerbating male violence
Sphere Project, which aims to 'improve the against women by targeting our aid
quality of assistance provided to people without a clear analysis of gender power
affected by disasters, and to enhance relations? Are we making it easier for male
accountability of humanitarian system in oppression to continue by focusing on
disaster response' (Sphere Project 2000; women's projects that do not disturb the
Clifton and Gell 2001). status quo? Are there times when we

should be making a judgement and practice. 2 A second fault-line divides

deciding to pull out of a direct intervention, conflict and 'post-conflict', in spite of recent
or choosing to focus on high profile thinking in both academic and NGO circles
lobbying and campaigning for women's which describes an analytic framework of
rights? In the context of conflict, and in turbulence and cyclical dynamics in
highly militarised societies, these dilemmas conflict-prone societies, rather than a linear
are particularly acute. progression from conflict to peace. A third
Oxfam GB had to address these issues divide separates technical and social
in Afghanistan, when the Taliban took approaches to programme planning and
control of Kabul in 1996, and Oxfam's local implementation. Threading in and out of
female staff were prevented from coming these issues, as was mentioned above, is
to work. Oxfam had to find a way to the divide between the public and the
balance the delivery of humanitarian aid private, and the implications for
with a principled stance on the abuse of perceptions of violence against women in
the rights of women under the Taliban war, and outside armed conflict. All of
regime. There was considerable debate these divides have critical implications for
between those who thought Oxfam GB gender equity goals in responses to conflict
should take a high-profile position on what and to its aftermath.
was happening to women, and not Programming in conflict-prone areas
implicitly support an unjust system still tends to be divided into emergency
by working with 'approved' women, relief response, focused on immediate and
and those who thought Oxfam should try life-saving objectives, and response based
to find ways of working with women on longer-term developmental aims,
wherever possible, within the constraints. seeking to improve people's life options
In the end, it was judged that the net and prevent further conflict. The divide is
benefits to women of Oxfam GB staying gradually narrowing, but its persistence in
and working with the opportunities both policy and practice means that
which could be found, were greater than the nature of the relief effort is only
abandoning direct interventions to focus peripherally influenced by the longer term
exclusively on advocacy for women's rights.1 prospects for the victims of the conflict.
This judgement is not routinely applied Often, the aims of relief and recovery
in Oxfam GB's work, nor are the tools to themselves seem to be in conflict -
make them consistently available to staff. particularly if resources are limited. Moral
However, Oxfam GB is currently in the claims by each raise the temperature. Staff
process of developing standards and focused on rapid, large-scale response
frameworks of analysis that will begin to accuse those emphasising the social
help staff make these difficult decisions. impacts of the emergency of fiddling while
Rome burns. While the 'technicians' are
Programming in conflict- saving lives, the 'social workers' complicate
prone areas: overcoming the issues, achieving little that is
measurable - or worse still, exacerbating
the classic divides social and political tensions they do not
Gender equity programming in conflict- fully understand. Social development staff,
prone areas is itself prone to conflict. on the other hand, accuse the technical staff
Although INGOs like Oxfam GB have of rushing in blindly, treating people like
theorised the end of the 'development- objects, potentially doing more harm
relief divide, the division still persists than good by ignoring social and gender
institutionally, and in field policy and differences in the population, creating
Contested terrain: Oxfam, gender, and the aftermath of war 23

dependencies, and paying little attention to relationships with partners, many of whom
the long-term consequences of the relief aid were women's organisations, and a strong
itself. local team. The focus was on long-term
Add gender equity to the mix and the development initiatives aimed at the social
environment may become explosive. It is and political empowerment of women,
common to find strong resistance to through capacity building with women
building gender equity goals into activists. With the intensification of the
emergency response on the grounds that conflict in 1998, Oxfam's work focus shifted
(a) lives have to be saved quickly, to the needs of displaced women and
information is not available, and there is no children. Women's Centres were funded in
time for social surveys; (b) there is Viti, Pristina, Obiliq, and Gjilan as relief
immense pressure from donors and the distribution points as well as meeting
media to show that measures are in place places for psychosocial support. The
rapidly and having an immediate impact, programme also included substantial work
while the gender dynamics in the society on water and sanitation and public health.
are of less concern, and certainly less In March 1999 with the onset of the
visible; (c) while we know distribution NATO campaign, Oxfam evacuated with
is more effective through women, often other INGOs, setting up an office in Skopje
there is no time to organise it that way; with several of its staff from Pristina. The
(d) an emergency is not the right time to existing Albania programme was rapidly
challenge gender power relationships; and expanded to cope with the refugees
(e) why should special attention be paid to flooding into Albania. During the period of
women when everyone is suffering? exile and displacement, Oxfam GB
While this may sound exaggerated, continued to work in Macedonia with its
I have heard all these arguments in the highly committed ex-Pristina staff, and
field. They are familiar arguments which some of its Kosovar partners, principally in
frustrate practitioners on both sides of the the refugee camps. With the continuity
debate, all of whom are trying to get the job provided by the ex-Pristina staff, and
done as best they can. There are complex programme experience from several years
issues which are not easily resolved in the in Kosovo, the chances of a well-integrated
clash between speed of response and the programme building the relief response
social, cultural, and political composition of within longer-term strategies for recovery
groups which will determine the quality of and return, with gender equity goals at its
that response. core, seemed to be high, if not optimal.
However, this integration did not happen,
Oxfam GB in Kosovo for a number of reasons. A large-scale
Oxfam GB's response to the Kosovo crisis humanitarian relief programme was
brought these issues out quite clearly, and mounted, with an enormous budget raised
managers of the programmes made real by emergency appeals in the UK, and in the
efforts to work across the relief-development, limelight of the high media interest in the
technical-social, and conflict-post-conflict crisis. The pressure was on Oxfam GB to
divides. The process was fraught with spend the money, and spend it fast. A large
difficulties. And yet, it seemed to have had number of expatriate staff, mostly water
a good start. technicians and engineers, flew into
Oxfam GB had been in Kosovo since Macedonia to set up Oxfam GB's water
1995, working closely with women's programme in the camps. Money flowed
groups and associations in several regions freely for the emergency response. But the
in the country. Oxfam-Pristina had strong dynamic between the social and technical

responses, when I arrived to look at the social aspects. In fact, as in any

gender, human rights and protection issues emergency, all staff were clamouring for
in April 1999, was difficult and more resources, whether logisticians,
competitive. Kosovar staff members, engineers, managers, or social development
themselves refugees, were dealing with staff. Where all eyes are on the crisis, and
their own personal and family trauma, and the pressure is there externally as well as
with loss and uncertainty, as a result of the from the desperate plight of the refugee
war. The problem was heightened by the population, competition over resources is
fact that the new arrivals who came to run inevitable and, where other divisions exist,
the relief programme were expatriates, very difficult to manage.
some with no previous experience of the As is often the case, strong feelings
region. The ex-Pristina Kosovar staff felt focused on access to vehicles. I travelled
overrun by the new technical 'expats', with staff from all three parts of the
misunderstood, and alienated from a programme, and observed that indeed the
programme which had been theirs, and water programme staff in each camp
had now inflated beyond recognition. had access to their own new four-wheel
Kosovar refugees - mostly educated drive vehicles. Meanwhile, the hygiene
young men and women - were taken on by promotion, disability, and social develop-
the technical and social programmes to ment staff had to share older vehicles, one
carry out the work in the camps. There was of which was quite unsafe, with a cracked
a heated debate about payment of the windscreen and a field radio which did not
young workforce. In the old Pristina-based work. I vividly recall sitting on the dusty
programme, much of the work was based roadside at the exit of one of the Stankovic
on voluntarism. But in the refugee situation, camps for some time trying to hitch a lift
many of the other international agencies back to Skopje because the social develop-
were paying their local recruits. Initially, ment programme did not have its own
the debate was played out in gendered vehicle. This put extra pressure on the
terms - the young men working with the social development, disability, and hygiene
water engineers were paid, and the young
promotion teams, and made it harder for
women, working as hygiene promoters,
them to accomplish all they had to do in
were not. This was subsequently adjusted.
the dispersed camps where they worked.
The 'hard' and the 'soft' There were other specific and more general
'The thing about this programme,' one of problems around access to programme
the water engineers said to me in Kosovo resources that exacerbated the divisions
in 1999, 'Is that it's the soft side of the between teams responsible for different
programme that is the hardest to do.' responses. This in turn militated against
The technical staff, running the water the integration of the social and technical
programme (the 'hard' side of the aspects of the programme.
programme), were almost exclusively I reported at the time that Oxfam's
male, and were perceived by the almost programme was a three-pronged effort
exclusively female staff working on gender, (community development, with special
disability, social development, and hygiene emphasis on women and disabled people;
promotion (the 'soff side of the programme) hygiene and public health promotion; and
to have privileged access to the emergency the provision of clean water) with many
resources. The technical aspects of the strengths, particularly Oxfam's long and
programme were thus perceived by those established reputation in the fields of
working on the other parts of the emergency relief and development, and
programme to be valued more highly than skilled and experienced staff.
Contested terrain: Oxfam, gender, and the aftermath of war 25

My report recommendations included the Kosovo crisis the result was the running
the following: of parallel programmes in Macedonia,
'For further development ofOxfam's response, which was carried forward into the
its three elements need to be built into a post-conflict work of reconstruction and
single integrated programme, with the three recovery after the refugees returned.
aspects based on a clear analysis of the needs The nature of the funding environment
and rights of women, men and children. during a crisis and in its aftermath has
Data collection and appraisal methods important implications for longer-term
sensitive to gender and age are needed to work. 'Red' money is tied to specific donor-
provide the information Oxfam needs for defined goals; 'green' money comes from
planning of all parts of the programme. Oxfam GB general programming budgets,
Oxfam will then be well placed to make a offering more flexibility. The 'red' appeal
significant contribution not only to the money that sustained the Kosovo humani-
current crisis but to the future in Kosovo.' tarian programme ran out in due course.
(Williams 1999) The Oxfam GB programme had to fund
its development and gender work under
Nonetheless, and in spite of not managing the Kosovo Women's Initiative (KWI),
to achieve the desired programme managed by UNHCR, but which came
integration, Oxfam GB's programme in from an emergency budget-line in the
Macedonia was respected for both its US State Department. Although the KWI
technical and social achievements, and project set long-term empowerment
some of the key issues were addressed. goals, the spending for this Fund, totalling
Specific needs related to gender and US$ 10 million, was short-term. This created
disability were taken into account by the considerable pressure on Kosovar NGOs as
technical team in, for example, the design well as on the international NGOs, such as
of washing facilities in the camps. The Oxfam GB, acting as brokers or 'umbrellas'
work of the social development and gender for this fund, to get new projects up and
team in providing separate tents for social running and spending money, often
spaces for women and men set the context beyond the organisational capacity of the
for beginning to address the gender-related partner groups. The KWI is in itself an
violence experienced by women and girls, example of the tension between short-term
and Oxfam GB lobbied UNHCR to provide emergency funding demanding quick and
better protection measures for women and visible returns, and developmental goals
girls in the camps. whose benefits are only measurable in the
One of the real difficulties, common to longer term. When the emergency money
all humanitarian response, was the tension moves on to the next crisis, the gap left can
between the pace and style of work of be devastating to organisations which were
quick-impact emergency relief, and longer- mobilised, or created, in the plentiful
term social processes, and the substantial funding climate, who subsequently find
differences in scale and funding levels of themselves without support, and often
these programmes. Staffing patterns in collapse, amidst their dashed expectations.
humanitarian relief are based on rapid Gender assessments were carried out
scaling-up of numbers, high turnover, and during the Kosovo crisis in both Macedonia
short-term contracts. Induction processes and Albania. The consolidated recommend-
for these staff members are usually sketchy, ations drawn up by gender advisers for the
and the culture of 'hitting the ground response in both countries hold for Oxfam
running' is not favourable to training in GB programming in general. They include
social and gender awareness in the field. In the following:

• Gender and social development issues nationalistic broadcasts on the evening

need to be fully integrated in the news in Bosnia, has been reported by
emergency response and future Bosnian women's groups running rape
programme development, with every crisis hotlines and support services. In
aspect based on a clear analysis of the South Africa, a township gang of ex-
needs and rights of women, men, and combatants formed to rape women, seeing
children, and disabled people. this as a way of recovering male identities
• The social and technical aspects of the lost after the fighting. These ex-combatants
programme should inform each other replicate militaristic patterns of discipline
effectively for maximum impact. Social and punishment while asserting dominant
and community services must run hand- behaviour through acts of gendered
in-hand with distribution of non-food violence - raping women. The leader of the
items and water, sanitation, and health/ organisation stated in an interview:
hygiene planning from the start, must be 'I was a comrade before I joined this
as well resourced, and should operate organisation. I joined it because we were no
concurrently in Kosovo as soon as Oxfam longer given political tasks. Most of the tasks
has access to the designated sector. were given to senior people. Myself and six
other guys decided to form our own
• Unified programme aims and objectives organisation that will keep these senior
for social and technical interventions need comrades busy all the time. That is why we
to be set for the region, within the formed the South African Rapist Association
framework of Oxfam's strategic change (SARA). We rape women who need to be
objectives, to which gender equity is disciplined (those women who behave like
central and gender-sensitive indicators for snobs), they just do not want to talk to most
success should be set. people....'
• Setting up a new programme in Kosovo (Vetten 1998)
presents an excellent opportunity for
Oxfam to implement best practice in Where do we go from here? In setting out
gender-sensitive programme response in the terrain for this paper, I discussed the
view of the above recommendations. links between militarism, gender identities,
Baseline data and indicators for gender and the role of men and women in war and
equity should be set at the earliest stage in the construction of peace after the end of
programme planning for effective hostilities. I explored some of the problems
monitoring and impact assessment. Oxfam GB faces in working on gender
(Clifton and Williams 1999) equity, and looked at some of the
institutional obstacles and resistances that
affect Oxfam GB's work in conflict and
Conclusion post-conflict recovery. I briefly mentioned
At the beginning of this paper I highlighted changes that are underway in Oxfam GB
conflict-related nationalism, militarism, to enhance its effectiveness in addressing
and post-war violence, and their gender in conflict and its aftermath. To
consequences for women. Examples of the underpin these changes, some key areas
brutalisation of men by extreme need attention:
nationalism and military action have been • Oxfam GB must deepen its analysis of
well documented in Bosnia, Uganda, gender identities, gendered power, and
Sierra Leone, and other parts of the world. the way male and female roles and
The 'post-TV news syndrome' where men behaviours are linked and manipulated
violently attacked women and children in in war and peacetime. This would bring
their households after listening to bellicose, together all aspects of programming
Contested terrain: Oxfam, gender, and the aftermath of war 27

(development, relief, and advocacy) and Suzanne Williams is Policy Adviser on Gender
generate strategies to address causes as and Conflict in Oxfam GB's Policy Department.
well as effects of gender inequities in the Oxfam GB, 274 Banbury Road, Oxford 0X2 7DZ,
context of conflict. UK. E-mail: swilliams@oxfam.org.uk
• A clearer analysis of militarisation and
war and its impact on male and female This article is based on a paper delivered to an
identities and behaviours is required. Expert Seminar at the Humanist University in
This would deepen Oxfam GB's under- Utrecht in October 2000, convened by Professor
standing of the social and political Cynthia Cockburn and Dubravka Zarkov, on
processes underlying conflict, and gender relations in the aftermath of war. The
generate strategies to address conflict original paper will be published as Williams, S.
prevention, as well as indicating ways of (2002 forthcoming) 'Conflicts of interest:
engaging with the military in the context gender in Oxfam's emergency response', in
of emergencies. C. Cockburn and D. Zarkov (eds) The Post-
War Moment: Militaries, Masculinities and
• Programming in post-conflict must International Peacekeeping - Bosnia and
move away from a perception of women the Netherlands, London: Lawrence and
as a 'vulnerable group', and should Wishart.
work to build strategic alliances
amongst women's organisations, and
between women's and mixed-gender Notes
organisations. Women's organisations
1 This situation is discussed in an internal
and individual women must be part of
Oxfam GB programme report on
national political structures and policy
Afghanistan (1999). See also the article
making for reconstruction and peace-
by Deborah Clifton and Fiona Gell in
building. this publication, for a further discussion
• Systematic integration of gender equity of the decision-making surrounding
goals within all aspects of emergency Oxfam's work in Afghanistan in 1996
response programming during conflict (Clifton and Gell 2001).
is essential. This would help to establish 2 Many writers have emphasised this.
greater coherence between immediate Oxfam's Regional Representative for
emergency relief and longer-term the Great Lakes region from 1991-4,
recovery work, and begin to overcome Anne Mackintosh, writes, 'Even agencies
some of the divides outlined in this who recognise the inappropriateness of
paper. regarding "relief" and "development" as
• A clearer analysis of the dynamics separate phenomena perpetuate this
between violence and conflict and the false dichotomy, through resourcing
maintenance of gender identities, long-term and emergency programmes
interests, and power, and of the in different ways and having them
different stakes women and men have managed by different departments and
in war and peace is needed. Gendered staff. This often leads to unhelpful
violence and armed conflict are tensions and rivalry.' (Mackintosh 1997)
fundamently linked, and a clearer
understanding of this would help
Oxfam GB overcome the divide between References
the private and the public spheres and Anderson, Mary B. (1996) Do No Harm:
direct its programmes towards peace Supporting Local Capacities for Peace
and human security at all levels - from through Aid, Cambridge MA: Local
the household to the nation. Capacities for Peace Project

Bryer, D. and E. Cairns (eds) (1997) 'For Oxfam GB (1998b) 'The Links: Lessons
better? For worse? Humanitarian aid in from the Gender Mapping Project',
conflict', Development in Practice 7(4): Oxford: Oxfam GB
363-74 Sorensen, B. (1998) 'Women and Post
Clifton, D. and F. Gell (2001) 'Saving and Conflict Reconstruction', War-Torn
protecting lives by empowering women', Societies Project Occasional Paper 3,
Gender and Development 9(3): 9-19 Geneva: United Nations
Clifton, D. and S. Williams (1999) 'Gender Sphere Project (2000) Humanitarian Charter
Assessment of Oxfam's Emergency and Minimum Standards in Disaster
Response to the Kosovo Refugee Crisis Response, Oxford: Oxfam GB
in Albania and Macedonia', Oxford: Stewart, F. (2000) 'Conflict Prevention:
Oxfam GB Tackling Horizontal Inequalities',
Committee on Women's Rights and Equal WIDER Policy Brief 2, Helsinki: WIDER
Opportunities (2000) 'Draft Report on Thompson, M. (1999) 'Gender in times of
Women's Involvement in Peaceful war (El Salvador)', in F. Porter, I. Smyth,
Conflict Resolution', Brussels: European and C. Sweetman, Gender Works, Oxford:
Parliament Oxfam GB
Enloe, C. (1993) The Morning after: Sexual Vetten, L. (1998) 'War and the making of
Politics at the End of the Cold War, men and women', Sunday Independent,
Berkeley: University of California Press South Africa, 16 August
Mackintosh, A. (1997) 'Rwanda: beyond Williams, S. (1999) 'Gender and Human
"ethnic conflict'", Development in Practice Rights in the Macedonian Refugee
7(4): 464-74 Camps', internal document, Oxford:
Oxfam GB (1998a), 'Learning from Oxfam's Oxfam GB
Experience About How to Help Prevent
or Resolve Conflicts', internal document,
Oxford: Oxfam GB

Gender, conflict, and

building sustainable peace:
recent lessons from Latin America
Caroline O.N. Moser and Fiona C. Clark
Latin American experiences of conflict and building sustainable peace have tended to show a clear
neglect of a gender analysis of the impacts of conflict and the peace negotiations that end it, much to
the detriment of many women and men affected by and involved in the civil conflicts that have
ravaged the region during the last thirty years. What do Colombian women and men have to learn
from these experiences? In May 2000, a workshop entitled 'Latin American Experiences of Gender,
Conflict, and Building Sustainable Peace' was held in Bogota, Colombia with representatives from
several Latin American countries. This paper briefly highlights some of the issues raised at the
workshop and aims to provide lessons and recommendations for others working in the fields of conflict
analysis and resolution, humanitarian assistance, and interventions for peace and development.

conflict resolution, violence reduction, and

umanitarian aid is only one stage
in the process of post conflict peace-building. However, in countries such
reconstruction, as war gives way to as Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and
peace and development. Just as the Peru, recent experiences of post-conflict
gendered causes, costs, and consequences reconstruction have failed to incorporate a
of violence and conflict are frequently gender perspective into preparations for
marginalised in international and national sustainable peace.
debates, so too are the gendered nature of While Colombia is still in the midst of a
conflict resolution and the associated bloody civil war, serious attempts to
humanitarian aid and develop-ment. In all negotiate peace have already begun. As this
cases, the diversity of experiences that process gets underway it is important to
women and men have in conflict and consider what lessons Colombian women
peace-building are largely ignored, and can learn from their counterparts in other
their multiple identities obscured by countries in the region in order for them -
simplistic representations in conflict and and indeed those in other parts of the
peace. These deny men and women their world struggling to make peace - not to
agency as both victims and actors of armed repeat the same mistakes but to include a
conflict and building sustainable peace gender perspective to place women's needs
(Moser and Clark 2001a). and demands firmly on the negotiating
As one of the most violent regions in the table.
world today, Latin America has witnessed To explore this question, a global
both civil wars and political unrest in conference was held in Washington DC
recent decades (Ayres 1998). Consequently, in 1999, followed by a regional follow-
it is also an important region in terms of up workshop entitled 'Latin American

Experiences of Gender, Conflict, and The need to recognise conflict and building
Building Sustainable Peace' in Bogota, sustainable peace as gendered, with
Colombia, in May 2000.1 The workshop, on implications for both women and men,
which this article is based, took a practical became evident early on in the work
and operational approach and was programme. By introducing the importance
attended by some 170 representatives of of a gender analysis into conflict and
civil society, government, and international humanitarian emergencies, and breaking
organis-ations. It brought together men and down oversimplified understandings
women from El Salvador, Guatemala, portraying men as the actors and women as
Nicaragua, and Peru to discuss their the victims, the Bogota workshop
experiences of gender in conflict and emphasised the need for a holistic approach
building sustainable peace, and to identify to conflict and peace.
lessons for Colombia (Moser and Clark
2001b). A holistic approach to conflict and peace
A full understanding of the causes, costs,
and consequences of violence and conflict,
The objectives of the and their implications for peace and
Bogota workshop development, requires a holistic approach
The purpose of the Bogota workshop was encompassing several issues.
to carry forward key global themes identified • Different types of violence - political,
at the Washington conference (see Moser economic, and social - coexist and
and Clark 2001a) at a regional level, with overlap, and can be identified at four
increased practical and operational focus. different levels - the individual, inter-
More specifically, its objectives were to personal, institutional, and structural
increase understanding of the gendered (see Table 1). Violence and conflict erode
nature of conflict and post-conflict levels of physical, human, natural, and
reconstruction for peace in Latin America; social capital with differing effects on
and to identify practical initiatives at the men and women (Moser 2001).
policy, programme, and project levels to
build peace during and after conflict. The • The historical, social, cultural, and
conference was structured around six main economic antecedents to conflict must be
themes, considered key to a holistic and taken into account as the contextual
integrated understanding of conflict and background within which conflict
peace in Colombia and elsewhere.2 develops.
• A broad conceptualisation of human
1. The gendered nature of conflict and security takes into account macro and
building sustainable peace micro levels, the public and the private,
the material and the psycho-emotional,
'It is true that men and women share a set of
and shifts responsibility for human
circumstances during armed conflict that
security beyond being solely that of
exposes them to particularly adverse
the State, to include individual and
conditions and to the abuse of their human
collective responsibility.
rights. However there are certain gender-
based risks, dangers and disadvantages, • A gender perspective recognises that
which particularly and disproportionately men's and women's experiences and
affect women.' actions during conflict are determined
(Giulia Tamayo 2000) by gender roles and identities assigned
by society.
Gender, conflict, and building sustainable peace 31

Recognition of the multiple relations between 2. Diverse voices of conflict and peace
women and men, violence and peace. 'Despite human rights being universal, each
It is important to recognise the multifaceted proposal and intervention has to be adjusted
relationship between men, women, violence, to the specificities of age, culture, ethnicity,
gender and geography of the context to avoid
and peace. Since these have been seen
standardised solutions.'
predominantly as male domains, women -
(Maria Eugenia Vasquez Perdomo 2000a)
and gender issues - have generally been
excluded from discussions and interventions People's experiences and capabilities in
armed conflict can be influenced by their
for conflict and peace. Recently, women
age, ethnicity, and geographical location as
have become more visible as refugees and well as by their socio-economic and
internally displaced people, as victims of political status. A myriad of identities were
sexual violence and abuse in conflict zones, represented in the meeting - young and
and as war widows. old, rural and urban, indigenous and
Afro-Colombian. All people have multiple
Vulnerability and agency identities, which interact, overlap,
Recognising men's and women's reinforce, and contradict one another
vulnerability in conflict situations is key if in daily life. This precludes standardised
they are to be actors in their own survival 'all fits one' policies and interventions for
and rehabilitation. To portray women assistance to conflict-affected populations
solely as victims denies them their agency, and countries.
and fails to identify the opportunities that Indigenous communities affected by conflict
conflict may create up for them. Similarly, Particular attention needs to be paid to
men are not always the perpetrators of indigenous populations, who often live in
violence, but are also victims of violence very independent and self-contained
and conflict. communities with specific values and
mechanisms for interaction among
themselves as well as with surrounding

Table 1: Categories of violence

Category Definition Manifestation

Political The commission of violent acts motivated Guerrilla conflict; paramilitary conflict;
by a desire, conscious or unconscious, to political assassinations; armed conflict
obtain or maintain political power. between political parties; rape and
sexual abuse as a political act, forced

Economic The commission of violent acts motivated Street crime; carjacking; robbery/theft;
by a desire, conscious or unconscious, drug trafficking; kidnapping; assaults,
for economic gain or to obtain or including rape occurring during economic
maintain economic power. crimes

Social The commission of violent acts motivated Interpersonal violence such as spouse
by a desire, conscious or unconscious, and child abuse; sexual assault of
for social gain or to obtain or maintain women and children; arguments that get
social power. out of control

Source: Moser 2001


society. Frequently, their indigenous Gendered experiences of displacement

identity overrides their gender identity, Research from Colombia shows that
separating indigenous women from although women find the process of
contemporary women's movements and displacement itself more traumatic than
feminist debates. Similarly, Afro-Colombian men, they show greater flexibility in their
women face particular discrimination, adaptation to new environments and in
often exacerbated in conflict and difficult to the development of survival strategies.
rectify during the transition to peace. Men tend to expect assistance from formal
institutions, and their skills are often not
Gendered experiences over the life course transferable (Segura and Meertens 1998).
Women's and men's experiences of conflict This leads to a change in roles and
and peace vary according to their age, their relations, which can be both empowering
stage in the life course, and their related and challenging. It is important to provide
responsibilities. Young people, for example, accompaniment to returning and resettling
are at risk of disillusionment by war if their populations to support the continuation of
life opportunities are circumscribed or positive social change - and to include both
destroyed by violence, armed groups, men and women.
and conflict itself. Older people are often
'de-sexualised' (Marquez 2000) and From victims to actors
excluded as a target group for gender and Identity is of critical importance - the
development debates (Clark and Laurie identity displaced people lose when they
2000). Similarly their specific needs and are uprooted from their homes, the identity
potential contributions may not be included imposed on them when they arrive in their
in humanitarian and developmental location of refuge, and the identity that
interventions (HelpAge International 2000). emerges from the crisis situation. Displaced
Latin American women's movements have people are often perceived merely as
tended to ignore the age dimension, or 'victims of displacement', obscuring these
failed to acknowledge the cumulative multiple identities, and resulting in an
effects of lifelong gender disadvantage for overemphasis on welfare rather than
older women. capacity building in humanitarian inter-
vention. Participants identified a need to
3. Forced Displacement shift from programs that focus solely on
humanitarian aid to those prioritising the
'Forced displacement is the clearest violation
longer-term development of individuals
of human, economic, political and social
and their communities.
rights and of the failure to comply with
international humanitarian rights law.'
Rebuilding human and social capital
(Gloria Tobon Olarte 2000) The human, social, and psychological
Forced displacement from the repeated changes that displaced populations and the
threats and attacks on local communities of recipient communities experience are
armed conflict and political violence is also not fully understood, and the gendered
a gendered experience, according to men's differences within these populations even
and women's roles as fathers, mothers, less so. It is important to take into account
husbands, and wives (Benjamin and Fancy the effect of conflict and displacement on
1998; Segura and Meertens 1998). Experiences families and households, often torn apart
of displacement in Guatemala, El Salvador, and fragmented. The middle generation
Peru, and Colombia provide a number of may have been killed, recruited, or have
lessons that were identified in the third fled, leaving children with grandparents or
theme of the conference. other relatives. At times the older generation
Gender, conflict, and building sustainable peace 33

remain behind due to mobility constraints officially acknowledged, leaving women

or a reluctance to abandon home and land invisible subjects during the peace negoti-
(Project Counselling Service 1999). It is ations and decisions concerning their
essential to create an environment where country's future. The speed and euphoria
social relations, networks, and inter- surrounding the peace negotiations in
generational support structures can be El Salvador meant there was no time or
rebuilt, and where the stories and experiences space for the inclusion of gender issues,
of displacement and conflict can be told and, while heralded as highly successful,
and processed. The critical importance of the peace accords failed to include women.
psycho-emotional support programmes for With their contributions not valued, women
the displaced, as for all conflict-affected were made invisible in their organisations.
populations, to aid this process cannot be On returning to their communities they
overstated. were stripped of the autonomy, political
role, and leadership they had gained as
4. Ex-combatants: gendered experiences combatants. Precise numbers of women
of war and peace combatants therefore need to be established
to make visible their needs and demands in
'Ten years have passed since our groups laid
peace negotiations and reconstruction
down their arms in Colombia, and we
women who formed part of this process still
have paths to tread, pains to process, and
Reinsertion and reintegration
rebuilding to do. For various reasons the
As a result of their invisibility, women
process of reintegration was not a homogen-
ex-combatants in Latin America as elsewhere
eous one for everyone who took part in it and
have not benefited from the demobilisation
women, especially, have had to face greater
programmes as much as men. Women's
economic, social and cultural inequalities
emotional and mental health needs did not
and inequities because of our gender.'
receive adequate attention on reintegration
(Luz Estela Navas Murimacho 2000)
into civil society despite the gendered
One of the most invisible groups to date in challenges of combatant life, and its impli-
interventions in conflict and peace are cations for reintegration (Herrera 2000;
women ex-combatants. Increasing numbers Ibanez 2001; Vasquez Perdomo 2000b).
of women are joining armed groups as Women combatants had adapted to life
combatants and supporters. The ELN, the under a masculine regime in which strength,
FARC,3 and the right wing paramilitaries courage, and control were valued, and
recruit largely in rural areas. Many 15-17 submissiveness, weakness, and sensibility
year old rural women, with little education, were seen as fundamental failures. When
join up to escape the oppression and demobilised they encountered severe
drudgery of their families and communities feelings of personal guilt and societal
(Navas Murimacho 2000). Despite this, rejection relating to the suppression of their
women are invisible within armed groups. feminine role, and to the perceived
transgression of the parameters surrounding
Invisibility of women combatants the exercise of their sexuality. Such
The exact number of women combatants in recriminations were not generally held
Latin America's revolutionary armed forces against men who often were promiscuous
is not known. Figures from El Salvador or abandoned their parental responsi-
suggest they made up 60 per cent of the bilities. Through making visible women's
FMLN's4 support base, and 30 per cent of multiple roles and experiences of combatant
demobilised soldiers (Herrera 2000; Ibanez life, women must gain equal access to
2001). However, these numbers are not demobilisation programmes. These pro-

grammes must be designed with a gender despite women's presence in revolutionary

perspective that recognises the specific armed groups, and civilian women's efforts
needs of men and women on return to to protest against conflict, they have not
civilian life (Vasquez Perdomo 2000b). gained the necessary space to contribute in
a constructive and influential way to peace
Memory processes.
A critical step towards meaningful reinte-
gration into society is to recoup and value Danger of community organisation
one's history in 'memory'. The multiple The presence of armed conflict severely
personal and collective stories of combatant jeopardises community interaction and
and non-combatant men and women must organisation. In many cases, different
be told in order for communities to process warring parties misconstrue community
and come to terms with the pain that organisation as mobilisation against them.
invariably accompanies conflict. Women Community leaders, both men and women,
combatants, who face particular social come under threat. This is especially true if
stigma due to their perceived transgression they are advocates for human rights, such
of political and social norms, need to find as the right to life, security, and peace.
the space to express, value, and re-interpret Armed groups and government forces
their history in a positive and meaningful particularly suspect men's mobilisation,
way, instead of denying their past but women's organisations are also
(Vasquez Perdomo 2000c). Only then can threatened. Increasingly, women are forced
they maintain their independence and into hiding or exile by threats against them,
leadership and become actors in a peace attacked, and even killed. As a result,
process to which they have much to women's organisations often disband,
contribute. Oral histories, written accounts, which not only loses them their foothold in
and collective recollection of the lives of local organisation and politics but also
those who fought in armed groups are destroys a vital source of mutual support
important to bridging the gap in under- and reciprocity, crucial for family survival.
standing and trust between ex-combatants Protection measures need to be put in place
and civil society. to shield community and women leaders
from violent attacks.
5. Women's organisation and
participation in peace Lack of gender-sensitive peace processes
Lack of gender awareness in peace
'We see the great need for a strong, resistant negotiations further marginalises women's
and coherent women's movement in order to needs and contributions to peace. Gender,
influence all public and private spaces, to social exclusion, and human rights are all
address not only the peaceful resolution of too often relegated as secondary issues to
this conflict, but all manifestations of social, be dealt with once peace accords are
political and cultural violence.' signed. Yet, if the equal rights and
(Sara Gomez et al. 2000) opportunities of marginalised groups of the
After discussing in detail the gendered population are not written into the peace
impacts and effects of conflict, the conference accords, they are likely to be absent from
then looked towards building peace and reconstruction processes. Other Latin
reconciliation. The fifth theme identified American experiences convey the clear
opportunities and obstacles for women to message that women's participation is
participate in peace processes, where their crucial from the outset of negotiations if
presence and acceptance is still very limited. there is to be a gender perspective at the
Experiences from the region show that negotiating table.5
Gender, conflict, and building sustainable peace 35

The women's movement in Colombia representations of women to ensure a

needs to find space in the current peace coherent and strong movement. Only then
process if it is to ensure women's visibility can they put forward concrete inter-
in any peace agreement. Similarly, ventions for the inclusion of women in the
government departments, ministries, and public arena. See Box 1 for an approach to
organisations working with conflict- finding this vision.
affected populations need to ensure the
greater participation of women in the 6. Justice and reconciliation
design, implementation, and evaluation of 'If those responsible for the atrocities of war
policies and practice. In addition to assisting are not identified it is not possible to repair
women to restore their economic and social the physical and psychological injury
well-being, they need support to strengthen inflicted. That which is ignored cannot be
their political participation. punished and therefore cannot be forgiven.'
(Edelberto Torres Rivas 2000)
Women's common project for peace
Before they can find a legitimate space in Justice and reconciliation, the key issues
the peace process, the different groups addressed in the final theme of the
within the Colombian women's movement conference, are contradictory but necessary
must collaborate to develop a clear vision components of any peace process. While
within civil society, and thereby to obtain there are high expectations that the
'space' at the negotiating table. This vision perpetrators of abuses will be brought
needs to be inclusive of women in all to justice, at the same time national
sectors of society. The challenge is to find reconciliation is necessary if a society is to
the common ground among the myriad move on, and to unite in the (re)construction

Box 1: Challenges for the women's movement in a gender perspective for peace

To build a plan for the country with the active participation of women, taking Into account their
differences and diversity, as political and cultural actors In the search for their social, economic, and
cultural Inclusion

Challenges during conflict Post-conflict challenges

• Are there clear gender-sensitive diagnoses that • Have women developed a proposal to
explain the impacts of violence and conflict on mainstream a gender perspective into the
women? socio-cultural, economic, and political arenas
• Has it been possible to create plans and of the country?
programmes that allow us to address the • What is the role that women could play in the
effects of violence on women? transition from war to peace, the reconstruction
• Have we sufficiently analysed the participation of social capital, injustice and reconciliation,
of women in conflict? and in the democratisation of institutions?

• Do women have strategic plans to address the

current situation of the country
• Do women have the energy or the
organisational force to make women visible and
position their strategic plans in the peace
• Have women undertaken actions that allow for
the creation of alliances with other sectors to
raise awareness, input, and support for these

Source: Rosa Emilia Salamanca 2000


of a peaceful country. Three important A number of countries have gone through

components of a programme for justice and the process of a truth and reconciliation
reconciliation were identified. commission with varying successes at
justice. Guatemala is the most prominent
Processing pain example in Latin America. Its experience
The anxiety of conflict relates to the highlights the fact that for a truth
inability to express and share the pain and commission to be truly effective and lead to
deep-seated feelings of abandonment and real reconciliation, the government, and
abuse by the State or other authority. other forces involved in the conflict need to
Again, memory plays a crucial role as part be fully committed to the process and its
of a national reconciliation process. This findings. The main hindrance to the REMHI6
refers to the importance of recollection of project in Guatemala was the c6mmission's
people's experiences, sufferings, and inability to identify the perpetrators, and to
actions - allowing for their visibility, their call them to justice. In addition, the fact
public processing, and their acknowledge- that neither senior government nor military
ment as a part of 'official' history. This officials agreed to receive the report
includes documenting human rights
considerably diminished its legitimacy and
abuses, and in particular acknowledging
the potential for debate around its contents
women as victims of sexual assault and
and implications. Justice is a vital part of
rape, and the forced recruitment of young
any peace and reconstruction process, but
girls and women into armed groups. It
it has to be meted out very carefully and
would also include compensations for
with great sensitivity. Political will and
widows and orphans of the conflict.
Similarly, the experiences and associated commit-ment are key for justice and
pain of all combatants must be included if reconciliation, and one is meaningless
the reconciliation process is to be complete. without the other.

Psycho-social support is key to survival Recommendations and

The importance of psycho-social support
for dealing with emotional burden was
stressed in all six themes, but none more 'Peace is democracy, self-esteem, and the
strongly than justice and reconciliation. For absence of individual and structural
people to come to terms with their past, it violence.'
is crucial to redress psychological (Magdala Velasquez 2000)
imbalances as much as economic and
In positioning these six themes firmly
material losses. This is essential if the cycle
inside the current wartime discourse in
of vengeance, hate, and violence is to be
Colombia, the conference played a part in
broken, and communities are to be restored.
increasing the profile of a gender perspective
Programmes need to be designed and
for conflict and peace. Furthermore, it
delivered with a gender perspective, and to
facilitated the exchange of experiences and
pay particular attention to indigenous
contacts between women of very diverse
populations' trad-itional healing and
groups and backgrounds, supporting
reconciliation methods, and other linguistic
the informal networks so important to
and cultural specificities.
overcoming the obstacles to peace and
Gender, justice, and truth reconciliation and to women's participation.
Truth is the most powerful tool for coming A number of concrete recommendations
to terms with loss and pain, but needs to were made at the conference (see Box 2).
be accompanied by adequate measures Three particular priority areas were
of justice for the perpetrators of atrocities. identified:
Gender, conflict, and building sustainable peace 37

1. The lack of voice of afro-Colombian and In response to these priorities, and the
indigenous women in the peace process; widespread interest in issues raised at the
2. The important role that ex-combatant conference, a seed corn fund, supported by
Sida 7 w a s
women can play in providing a support- ' established. Its objective is to
structure for other female ex-combatants provide modest resources to women's
as they experience reinsertion back into organisations in Colombia to strengthen
civil society; and capacity to participate in peace
„ _. . processes. Eleven projects have been
3. The need for a greater common voice and , , , . _.., ,. . ,. . .
° funded in 2001, reflecting a diversity of
unity among women s organisations in , . L. ,
, , women s organisations and groups
rparticular, and in the women's move- . , , . .-,. J A <• ^> • i •
including indigenous and Afro-Colombian
ment as a whole, in Colombia. , . ,, ,
women, a female youth group, and a

network of ex-combatant women among

1. A
Box 2:holistic approach to violence
Recommendations reduction, conflict
for interventions resolution,
for gender, andand
conflict, building sustainable
building peace peace
sustainable must
incorporate a gender perspective, and must take account of different, interrelated types and levels of
violence, the historical, cultural, social, political, and economic antecedents in the conflict, and a wider
understanding of the concept of human security.

2. We need to acknowledge and support women's and men's multiple roles as victims and perpetrators
in conflict and peace.

3. Women's and men's vulnerability and agency require recognition, especially in policies relating to
displaced people, where interventions need to move from a focus on people as victims of war to
people as actors in their own development.
4. There exists an urgent need for comprehensive, concrete, and reliable information on the situation of
women during conflict, relating to numbers involved in armed groups, types, and levels of violence
affecting women, and the survival strategies they may employ.
5. We must identify the diversity of experiences of conflict, displacement, reintegration, and the transition
to peace based on gender, age, ethnicity, and geography, and avoid standardised, blueprint policies.

6. We need to develop psycho-emotional and social support interventions for conflict victims and
combatants to restore destroyed human and social capital.

7. We must recognise and value the 'memory' of all experiencing conflict to assist reconciliation across
the country, and in processing the pain and anxiety relating to these traumatic events.

8. We must provide opportunities for ex-combatant women to address the stigma attached to their past,
to initiate dialogue with their families, communities, and civil society organisations, and to establish
their space in the construction of peace.
9. We need to include a gender perspective in demobilisation processes for armed groups to guarantee
women combatants the same rights and access to reintegration programmes and fair political
10.We must ensure women's participation throughout the peace process through the promotion of a
gender perspective from the outset. We must protect and promote women leaders at all levels, and
remove barriers to women's political participation.

11. We need to build on the richness of women's diverse identities to find a common agenda for peace.
12. We must develop a new culture of peace, based on a new social contract that replaces violence,
retribution, and punishment with values of dialogue and non-violence in the peaceful resolution of
conflicts at family, community, and national level.

others. The interventions include establishing

available from the authors.
networks between marginalised groups, 3 ELN: Ejercito de Liberacidn Nacional
research on the situation of women in (National Liberation Army); FARC:
conflict, developing a communication Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de
strategy between women in civil society Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces
and women in the armed groups, and of Colombia)
promoting women's role in an agreement 4 Frente Farabundo Marti de Liberation
of a code of conduct between an indigenous Nacional
community and the armed groups present 5 Bearing in mind that merely being a
in their region. It is hoped that these pilotwoman does not qualify them as gender
projects will provide clear indications of experts, these women will need support
the opportunities and constraints in and training.
carrying forward the recommendations 6 Proyecto para la Recuperacidn de la
outlined above. Memoria Historica
7 Swedish International Development
Caroline Moser is a Research Fellow in the Corporation Authority
Poverty and Public Policy Group of the
Overseas Development Institute, 111
Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7JD, References
UK. Tel: +44 (0) 20 7922 0325; Ayres, R. (1998) Crime and Violence as
E-mail: c.moser@odi.org.uk Development Issues in Latin America and
the Caribbean, World Bank Latin American
Fiona Clark is Policy Officer with Help Age and Caribbean Studies: Viewpoints,
International, 207-221 Pentonville Road, Washington DC: World Bank
London Nl 9UZ, UK. Tel: +44 (0) 20 7278 Benjamin, J. and K. Fancy (1998) The Gender
7778; Dimension of Displacement: Concept Paper
E-mail: fclark@helpage.org and Annotated Bibliography, New York:
Clark, F. C. and N. Laurie (2000) 'Gender,
1 The background to this event was the age and exclusion: a challenge to
Urban Peace Program, an initiative led community organisations in Lima, Peru',
by Caroline Moser as the World Bank's Gender and Development 8(2)
lead specialist for social development in Gomez, D., C. Carrabus, and L. Gonzales
the Latin America and Caribbean region, (2000) 'Refugee and Returnee Women in
in close collaboration with the World Guatemala: Challenges and Lessons for
Bank's Colombia field office, with Refuge and Reintegration', Project
financial support from the Swedish Counselling Service, Guatemala, paper
International Development Corporation presented at a conference on Latin
Authority (Sida). Key components of American Experiences of Gender,
this programme included the Conflict, and Building Sustainable Peace,
development of a conceptual framework Bogota, Colombia, May 2000
for violence reduction (Moser 2001), and HelpAge International (2000) Older People
participatory urban appraisals of in Disasters and Humanitarian Crisis:
perceptions of violence in urban poor Guidelines for Best Practice, London:
communities of Colombia and HelpAge International
Guatemala (Moser and Mcllwaine 2000a, Herrera, M. (2000) 'El Salvador: Women
2000b). Ex-combatants and Reconstruction.
2 For a full account of the conference A Reflection on the Impact of War on
proceedings, see Moser and Clark 2001b, the Subjectivity of its Women Actors',
Gender, conflict, and building sustainable peace 39

paper presented at a conference on Latin Peace in the Colombian Reality', paper

American Experiences of Gender, presented at a conference on Latin
Conflict, and Building Sustainable Peace, American Experiences of Gender,
Bogota, Colombia, May 2000 Conflict, and Building Sustainable Peace,
Ibanez, A.C. (2001) 'El Salvador: war and Bogota, Colombia, May 2000
untold stories: women guerrillas', in Segura Escobar, N. and D. Meertens (1998)
Moser and Clark (eds) (2001a) 'Lo que dejan las guerras' (The aftermath
Marquez, A.M. (2000) 'Age and Gender in of war), in Vidas sin violencia: Nuevas
Conflict and Peace', paper presented at voces, nuevos desafws (Living without
a conference on Latin American violence: new voices, new challenges),
Experiences of Gender, Conflict, and Santiago de Chile: ISIS Internacional
Building Sustainable Peace, Bogota, Tamayo, G. (2000) 'Women in situations of
Colombia, May 2000 Conflict, Post Conflict and in Militarised
Moser, C.O.N. (2001) 'The gendered Zones: Latin American Experiences',
continuum of violence and conflict: paper presented at a conference on Latin
an operational framework' in Moser American Experiences of Gender,
and Clark (eds) (2001a) Conflict, and Building Sustainable Peace,
Moser, C.O.N. and F.C. Clark (2001a) Bogota, Colombia, May 2000
Victims, Perpetrators or Actors? Gender, Torres Rivas, E. (2000) 'Guatemala:
Armed Conflict and Political Violence, Experiences of Truth and Reconciliation',
London: Zed Books paper presented at a conference on Latin
Moser, C.O.N. and F.C. Clark (2001b) Latin American Experiences of Gender, Conflict,
American Experiences of Gender, Conflict and Building Sustainable Peace, Bogota,
and Building Sustainable Peace: Challenges Colombia, May 2000
for Colombia, report of a conference held Tobon Olarte, G. (2000) 'Commentary',
in Bogota, Colombia in May 2000, Bogota, presented at a conference on Latin
Colombia: Tercer Mundo Editores American Experiences of Gender,
Moser, C.O.N. and C. Mcllwaine (2000a) Conflict, and Building Sustainable Peace,
Urban Poor Perceptions of Violence and Bogota, Colombia, May 2000
Exclusion in Colombia, Conflict PreventionVasquez Perdomo, M. (2000a) 'Commentary',
and Post Conflict Reconstruction Series, presented at a conference on Latin
Washington DC: World Bank American Experiences of Gender, Conflict,
Moser, C.O.N. and C. Mcllwaine (2000b) and Building Sustainable Peace, Bogota,
Violence in a Post Conflict Context: Colombia, May 2000
Urban Poor Perceptions from Guatemala,Vasquez Perdomo, M. (2000b) 'La vida se
Conflict Prevention and Post Conflict escribe en borrador y se corrige a diario',
Reconstruction Series, Washington DC: paper presented at a conference on Latin
World Bank American Experiences of Gender,
Navas Murimacho, L.E. (2000) 'Women ex- Conflict, and Building Sustainable Peace,
combatants in Colombia', paper presented Bogota, Colombia, May 2000
at a conference on Latin American Vasquez Perdomo, M. (2000c) Escrito para
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Building Sustainable Peace, Bogota, so as not to die: story of a militancy),
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Project Counselling Service (PCS) (1999) Velasquez, M. (2000) 'Commentary',
Colombia: Report on Forced Displacement presented at a conference on Latin
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Salamanca, R.E. (2000) 'A Gender Analysis Conflict, and Building Sustainable Peace,
of Conflict and Building Sustainable Bogota, Colombia, May 2000

Empowering women
through cash relief in
humanitarian contexts
Hisham Khogali and Parmjit Takhar
This paper discusses the rationale behind cash transfer strategies as an alternative means of
channelling resources to women and men in humanitarian contexts. It highlights key gender-related
considerations that contribute to the success of the strategy. Food aid remains the largest part of
United Nations appeals, but it is often delayed, inadequate in quantity and quality, and donated as a
means of disposing of surpluses from developed countries.1 Despite these criticisms, little
consideration has been given to alternatives - more specifically, to cash - as a means of ensuring
entitlements. This paper highlights the factors that should be considered in determining the
appropriateness of cash interventions, and explores the potential of cash interventions directed to
women for improving household food security and women's status in the household and community.

vulnerable. A case study is presented as an

he use of food aid has been criticised
for some time in disaster situations example of recent Oxfam GB cash transfer
for the reasons given above (Clay and experience. The article highlights a case
Stokke 2000). Conversely, cash transfer study of flood rehabilitation in Bangladesh,
strategies are not used often. However, to highlight some of the key differences in
when they are used, they have proven to be the use of cash between male and female
effective. A review of Oxfam GB's response recipients, and the impact on gender
in Kenya and Ethiopia, undertaken in 2000, relations of targeting cash to women.
recommended the use of cash interventions
as an alternative to food aid (internal
Oxfam document). This recommendation The rationale for cash
was made on the basis of conclusions interventions
regarding the inadequacy of food aid in
emergency responses in general, and the Entitlement theory
success of a cash-for-work recovery The rationale for cash interventions is
programme implemented in Wajir, Kenya. implicitly based on entitlement theory,
This article gives an overview of Oxfam which fundamentally changed our
GB's and other organisations' experience of understanding of famine dynamics.
cash interventions. Oxfam's cash Entitlement theory is based on the premise
interventions have usually occurred in that famines seldom result from a
response to a loss of employment straightforward lack of food in a region;
opportunity (Naik and Brown 2000). Until rather, famines result when people lose
recently, they have predominantly occurred their entitlements - that is, the means of
in Asia, reflecting the dominance of waged acquiring food (Sen 1981). Two forms of
labour in the region as the primary means entitlement failure are described by
of ensuring entitlements amongst the most Amartya Sen (1986). A 'pull' failure occurs
Empowering women through cash relief in humanitarian contexts 41

where, for example, loss of employment Arguably, without an understanding of

leads to the loss of the means to purchase how people access food, it would not have
food. In essence, it refers to a loss of been possible to avert famine in
demand. In contrast, a 'response' failure Maharashtra.
occurs when there is an absence of food
supply, including when traders corner the Coping strategies
market. In essence, it refers to a loss of The fact that entitlement theory focuses on
supply. Entitlement theory has guided a the processes of famine is particularly
more informed approach to famine important in that it recognises that famine
prevention and response, through an
or disaster victims are rarely passive
increased focus on the processes of famine,
rather than the outcome. bystanders. In order to recover their food
entitlements, people caught up in disaster
During the Maharashtra drought in
or famine often seek an income (Wilson
Western India in 1970-3, large-scale loss of
agricultural production and income- 1992; Dreze and Sen 1989; Corbett 1988).
generation opportunities occurred. Rural This income is secured through different
areas of Maharashtra had suffered from mechanisms; however, its importance
environmental degradation and a decline in cannot be underestimated by humanitarian
agricultural production, and these had agencies in determining an appropriate
threatened rural livelihoods prior to the response to emergencies.
drought. The drought therefore served to Famine-affected populations attempt to
damage an already precarious way of life. adapt to the changing environment brought
The Government of India adopted a policy about by shocks such as prolonged
to avert famine through protecting people's droughts or conflict. These coping
entitlements through large-scale public
strategies are planned and sequenced, and
works programmes, and increasing food
availability through the public distribution focus on reducing the threat to household
system.2 Payment for the public works was livelihoods. Judgements are made on the
made in cash, with free food relief provided trade-offs between maintaining current
to those unable to work. However, an food consumption, and protecting future
important feature of famine prevention income-generating capacity (Corbett 1988).
during the Maharashtra drought was the For instance, reducing food intake (either
non-government-controlled movement of by eating fewer meals, or consuming
food by private traders into Maharashtra smaller quantities) is often an early coping
from surrounding states. This was essential strategy in famines. Economic migration in
for the prevention of famine, since the search of employment, often to urban
Government of India's efforts to improve centres, is another. Households consider
food availability through the public two important factors when deciding on
distribution system would not have been
appropriate coping strategies:
adequate. These private food movements in
fact bypassed government restrictions on • What is the commitment of resources
inter-state movement of food, required?
demonstrating the strength of market
forces (Dreze and Sen 1989). The • How reversible is each response?
Government of India's success in averting (Corbett 1988)
famine in Maharashtra demonstrated the Since seeking an income plays such a
key elements of entitlement theory. The
crucial role in household coping strategies,
interventions addressed both the 'pull' and
'response' failures, in order to avert famine. the provision of cash to famine or disaster-
affected populations may be justified.

An overview of cash was undertaken as part of a diverse range

transfer strategies of interventions. The second example was
during the prolonged flood in Bangladesh
A range of 'income-transfer strategies' have in 1998. Cash, up to 400 taka,6 was
been used by humanitarian aid providers distributed during food distribution. The
in response to disasters. These often reflect cash injection was provided in order to
the coping strategies adopted by disaster- revive a stagnant local economy affected by
affected populations. For example, re- the prolonged floods (Oxfam GB 1999).
stocking of pastoralists is a form of income The most recent example of a cash
transfer, since pastoralists rely on the sale intervention by Oxfam GB in humanitarian
of livestock for purchase of grain and other work in Africa is a cash-for-work programme
commodities. Another income transfer in Kitgum, northern Uganda. Despite
strategy has been the use of cash. There are concerns over security, cash-for-work
three different forms of cash programming. programming in Uganda has proved
These include the provision of a cash successful. The programme was imple-
grant,3 cash for work,4 and vouchers.5 There mented in response to raids by the
are contrasting benefits and problems with Karimojong people on the Acholi people in
each of these approaches (Peppiatt et al. Kitgum. The Karimojong, a pastoralist
2001). In this section, I will offer a summary population, migrate with their herds on an
of Oxfam GB's experience of cash inter- annual basis in search of pasture. Their
ventions in different contexts (see Table 1), migration route means that they cross
and discuss each of these. neighbouring districts where the Acholi live.
Oxfam has provided cash grants in two Tensions between the Acholi and Karimjong
contexts in the Horn of Africa and Asia. arise from the grazing of animals on Acholi
The first, in Ethiopia in 1985, was a cross- lands, and recurrent raids dating back
border operation during the liberation approximately fourteen years. As a result of
struggle against the Dergue regime in the raids, Acholi people lost their homes
Ethiopia. The trigger was a rebellion in and assets, as well as a potential harvest,
Tigray, northern Ethiopia, and Eritrea, in since there had been no planting.
response to food insecurity resulting from Oxfam GB's experience of cash pro-
drought (Darcy 1991). More recent analysis gramming consists predominantly of cash-
suggests that the conflict, and the Ethiopian for-work programmes in Asia, in response
government's failure to respond to needs, to natural disasters such as floods or
had a greater part to play in the crisis than droughts. Cash-for-work programmes have
did drought (de Waal 1997). The aim of the usually been implemented after or during
programme was to support food purchasing food distribution programmes, by local
and agricultural production. The programme partner organisations working with Oxfam.

Table 1: Oxfam experience of cash interventions

Cash grants Cash-for-work

Floods Conflict Drought Floods Insecurity

• Bangladesh 1988, • Ethiopia 1980s • Wajir, Kenya 1998 • Bangladesh 1998 • Kitgum,
1998 • Rajasthan/Gujarat, • Orissa, India 1999 Uganda 2001
India 2000 • West Bengal,
• Hazarajat, India 2000
Afghanistan 1998 • Bangladesh 2000
Empowering women through cash relief in humanitarian contexts 43

The most recent programme was approach predicts that the identity of the
implemented in 2001 in west Bangladesh in recipient will affect how the transfer is
response to flooding, and is discussed used, and who benefits.
further in the case study later in this article, This approach recognises that women
which traces the links between women's tend to use resources differently from men,
involvement in cash-for-work, and as they tend to spend more on their
changing gender relations in the household children. Empirical studies have shown
and community. that the percentage of income that a
household spends on children and its
allocations of food and medical care vary,
Cash transfer, household based on the proportions of income earned
welfare, and women's by women and men (Visvanathan et al. 1997).
empowerment Studies have shown that where women
What are the links between cash transfer retain control over income, there is a
strategies and the twin aims of increasing greater positive effect on food expenditures
the efficiency and equity of humanitarian and child well-being, compared to men
work and empowering women? retaining control (Hoddinott and Haddad
1995). Similarly, the control of resources by
Empowering women to allocate men as opposed to women is also associated
resources within the household with low rates of schooling for girls, lower
The way in which resource allocation takes status of women, earlier marriage, and high
place within households plays an rates of malnutrition (Ramalingaswami et
important role in determining what kind of al. 1996). These findings suggest that it is
humanitarian intervention is appropriate critical to target women with cash inter-
for a particular context. ventions, if the objective of the project is to
Gender analysis challenges conventional improve child nutritional status or food
theories on intra-household resource security. If it is impossible to target women
allocation that suggest that households act in cash interventions, it may be better to
as a single or unitary decision-making body distribute food rather than cash, since
(Haddad et al. 1997). Other theorists women are the main contributors to food
understand the household as a collective preparation. In contexts where women
entity, in which the (sometimes conflicting) cannot participate in cash for work prog-
preferences of individuals within the rammes for some reason, men can be paid
household are combined in various ways to in food rather than cash to increase the
reach a final outcome (Visvanathan et al. likelihood that the benefits of the
1997). This understanding of the household programme will reach women and
means that programmes targeting particular children.
individuals within households will have
different outcomes depending on the Increasing women's status and decision-
identity of the person targeted. This making power
identity, and the relative amount of Ensuring that women have some control
bargaining power that the person over the distribution of resources within
commands in the household, will affect
the household involves challenging
how benefits from the programme are
prejudice about what women are capable of
used. To sum up, the unitary approach
in their households and the wider
to understanding the household predicts
community, and increasing their status and
that the success rate of a programme will
be the same regardless of who in the
household is targeted, while the collective

1. Challenging prejudice about 'women's work' due to their wage-earning capacity, which
There is evidence arising from Oxfam GB's was either equivalent to, or greater than,
experience of cash-for-work of its role in the wages earned by men through other
challenging the gender division of labour, employment.
and prejudices about women's capabilities, Overall, women beneficiaries of the cash
at both community and household level. transfer strategies reported that they felt
In 1999-2000, a cash-for-work programme empowered by receiving cash. However,
was developed by Oxfam in response to women were undecided how permanent
devastation caused by a cyclone in Orissa, this change of status would be, with some
India. This demonstrated that women suggesting that when men were able to
could contribute to work that was usually return to normal wage-earning opportunities,
associated with men. The programme the benefits of the cash-for-work
specifically targeted women to receive programme would not have the same effect
cash, and women were hence engaged in (Clifton 1999).
all aspects of the work. Free food relief was
provided for vulnerable groups who could 3. Increasing women's self-esteem
not participate in the work schemes. An increase in women's self-esteem due to
Involvement in the programme allowed being given cash grants in a humanitarian
women to demand equal wages for equal response is reported by ActionAid Ghana,
work after the intervention, as a result of which provided cash grants to approximately
equal wages being paid to men and women 1000 beneficiaries in response to a drought
during the programme (Naik and Brown affecting Bawku West District. The cash
2000). The evaluation of Oxfam's Orissa grants were provided to tarims, a social
Cyclone suggested that the status of women group that includes vulnerable sub-groups
such as disabled people, widows, elderly
improved as a result of the cash-for-work
people, members of women-headed
programme. However the review also
households, and people who lack poultry
stated that because of the programme's
or livestock assets. As a result of being able
temporary nature, it was unlikely that this
to participate in market and other economic
would have a lasting impact on women's
activities due to cash-for-work, the tarims'
status (Taher et al. 2000). In the case of social status improved. Targeting the tarims
Kitgum, Uganda, men stated that they also resulted in a reduction of pressure on
were impressed by women's ability to those households that would have been
contribute to work, which in some cases obligated to support the tarims through the
they said was better than that of men. drought. The grants were spent predomi-
nantly for the purchase of food. However,
2. Increasing women's status with others
some tarims were able to invest in livestock.
Evidence from Oxfam GB's humanitarian
An evaluation of the programme states
interventions during floods in Bangladesh
that, 'One of the least expected positive
in 1998 suggests that the ability of women
impacts of the cash grants was the
to contribute a greater share of household
increased confidence and self-esteem
income is linked to their increased
exhibited by the tarims.' (Buchanan-Smith et al.
status within communities and increased
1995, 36) The reasons for this increased self-
decision-making authority within house-
esteem were given as follows:
holds. Women reported that they were
involved in decision-making at household • Ability to contribute to household food
level, and were accorded respect for security;
participating in the work. They also • Ability to control a significant amount of
reported a greater acceptance and respect money and make decisions about its
accorded them by community members, use;
Empowering women through cash relief in humanitarian contexts 45

• Participation in community life. Oxfam's relief response, through

partner organisations, included provision
The following case study illustrates the
of food, shelters, water and sanitation
points made in this section. inputs, and curative and preventive health
care. As the floods receded, a recovery
Case study: cash-for-work programme was designed by Oxfam GB to
flood rehabilitation address employment opportunities amongst
other things. The resulting programme
programme, Bangladesh targeted 10,000 beneficiaries, who would
As a result of heavy rains in West Bengal, receive 30 days' employment each. The aim
India, and Bangladesh in 2000, the of the programme was two-fold in nature:
south-west and north-west of Bangladesh first, to provide employment in order to
suffered flooding. Estimates suggest that support vulnerable households' normal
the flood affected 3.3 million people. livelihood strategies; and second, to
The areas most severely affected were stimulate the local economy. The programme
Meherpur, Chaudanga, Kustia, Jhinaidah, was designed to be implemented through
Jessore, Satkhira, Rajshahiand, and partner organisations, and the aim was for
Chapai Nababgonj. These areas are not 50 per cent of those employed to be
usually flood-prone, in contrast with other women. Committees would be formed to
parts of Bangladesh. Consequently, the decide on activities. The government
affected communities were not prepared minimum wage of 50 taka per day would be
for flooding. For example, houses in these paid. Oxfam GB staff were to engage in
regions are not constructed to withstand monitoring activities and accounting. Only
floods, being made of mud, which makes one person per family was allowed to
them susceptible to water damage. participate; however, household members
Damage to people's shelter was wide- could replace those registered if they were
spread, and possessions were lost and not able to participate. For example, if a
damaged. The affected areas are renowned woman fell ill her husband could replace
for vegetable production, and important her in order to receive the payment.
vegetable crops as well as the staple rice The population of the programme area
crop were damaged as a result of the is Muslim. Women were often restricted to
flooding. Livestock losses were also household chores and limited household-
considerable. Fish ponds were inundated based income-generating activities, such as
with flood water, resulting in fish being basket weaving or cigarette making.
carried away. Women reported that it was normally
The most vulnerable households in forbidden for them to work outside the
these areas are those relying on daily village, particularly if they did not have a
waged labour for income. People from chaperone. This was one reason why
these households experienced a severe loss women had not worked on feeder road
of employment opportunities, since agri- construction; the other reason was that the
cultural work was not available because of physical nature of the work meant that it
the crop damage and loss. Women-headed was widely viewed as more suitable for
households relying on waged labour are men than women.
particularly vulnerable. The programme After the programme had been running
aimed to ensure that at least 50 per cent of for four months, a series of separate
its participants should be women. Despite discussions with women and men
concerns by partner organisations about beneficiaries of the cash-for-work programme
this quota, the programme was estimated were conducted, in order to determine the
to have an 80 per cent female enrolment. effectiveness of the programme, and to

draw lessons from the implementation of gave for this was that there might be a need
the programme. A number of issues were for unforeseen expenditure in the future
discussed with beneficiaries, including and that the money should be kept for
problems faced as a result of flood, the these contingencies. Men reported that they
question of how the cash was used, often kept the money earned but gave
workload, household dynamics, and money to women for specific purchases.
people's preferences for food or cash. Men reported that they did not have a
propensity to save, sometimes spending
Problems caused by the flood money on cigarette purchase. Women
Those involved in the discussions said that appeared to be thinking more than men of
the majority of households faced similar the future, investing in productive asset
problems. The predominant response was creation, maintaining savings, and paying
that shelter and food were the two off loans - often loans provided by NGOs.
immediate problems faced as a result of the Paying off their loans meant that they were
flooding. In some instances, the term then eligible to take out a larger subsequent
'shelter' was used to include latrines, with loan to tide them over the crisis and invest
privacy being emphasised as an important in the future.
factor by both men and women. Women
identified the problem of needing to have Workload
privacy when relieving themselves, while When asked whether the extra workload
men found it difficult to provide for this was causing difficulties at home, most
privacy. women reported that it wasn't. Men could
It was reported that during the floods not find employment, and often the wage
the price of rice had risen from 12 taka/kg earned by the women was the only income
to 18 taka /kg. This was as a result of many for the household.
markets being closed, due to a lack of Most women reported that they were
supply as a direct effect of the flood on managing the additional workload created
access to markets, and damage to by involvement with the programme. Only
infrastructure. This finding suggests that, one group suggested that a reduction of
at this early stage of flooding, the injection programme working time of one hour
of cash to workers on the Oxfam would be helpful. Women would rise
programme may have resulted in earlier in the mornings to prepare food and
increasing food prices further as a result of carry out other household duties. Some
diminished supply of food on the market. women reported that in some instances
men were participating in household
How the cash was used activities such as cooking and child care as
Women reported using cash to purchase a direct response to the participation of
food, pay loans, buy books for their women in the programme. Men undertook
children's schooling, pay school fees, household work because they were unable
purchase clothes, purchase fertiliser, and to to secure work outside the household. In
save to buy animals/livestock. Men some cases women also reported that
reported using the case to repay debt, children undertook household activities.
purchase food, purchase clothes, and buy
books for school. Intra-household dynamics
Women reported that they often made No women reported that they had been
joint decisions on how to spend the money persuaded not to participate in the
that they earned with their husbands. programme. When asked about others,
However, women also withheld some of they also said that although some women
the cash from men. The reason women had doubts about participating, they
Empowering women through cash relief in humanitarian contexts 47

eventually did so. The most likely reason Although some men felt that the work
for this was that the programme was one of should go to men, the majority thought that
the few employment opportunities the women had worked well, and were
available at the time in the affected area. impressed by women's ability to carry out
Those women who had experienced work previously associated with men.
persuasion not to join the programme
reported that this persuasion was often not Food versus cash
on the part of their husband, but primarily Both men and women said they preferred
came from mothers in law, extended family to receive cash wages rather than food.
members, and religious leaders. While They considered that the receipt of cash
some husbands were sceptical of women gave them the choice to prioritise their
working on the programme, women needs. They also thought that receipt of
reported that they became less so once the food instead of cash would result in losses
women began to earn income. Where as a result of transport costs.
difficulties arose regarding women joining
the programme, committee members Evaluation conclusion
would act to mitigate between husband Overall, the cash-for-work programme in
and wife, or disputes would be resolved Bangladesh seemed to be an appropriate
within the household. As mentioned above, strategy. The use of cash at an earlier stage
when it came to decision-making on in the crisis may have proved inappropriate,
spending women's income, women reported particularly because markets were reported
that decisions were often made by men and to have been closed by the flooding for
women together. three weeks. Although initially it was felt
Of course, the fact that women reported that achieving a 50 per cent enrolment of
joint decision-making does not account for women would prove difficult, it appears
the possible use of domestic violence that in fact a much higher rate was
during decision-making. An attempt to achieved. Beneficiaries often thought this to
determine whether there were any cases of be the most useful programme available,
such violence suggested that there was especially in the face of prolonged
none. However, the researchers recognised unemployment resulting from the floods.
the difficulties in reporting such cases Different groups also appreciated the social
by women. Women reported that the benefits of the works carried out as part of
programme resulted in little dispute over the programme, through raising land,
decision-making, since the households feeder road construction, and burial site
targeted were vulnerable and their needs raising.
were basic essentials. Women suggested
that were the situation different and their Conclusion
needs no longer merely for basic
commodities, there may have been more This article has discussed Oxfam GB's
problems. experience of targeting cash to women in
Many women suggested that their humanitarian work, tracing the links
status in the community was improved, between delivering an efficient and timely
because they were seen to earn a wage. programme, men's and women's different
However, they suggested that this patterns of resource allocation and their
empowerment was short-lived, because the impact on the household, and the aim of
employment opportunity was only for one empowering women to take a greater part
month. Women reported that despite the in decision-making. It has suggested that
additional workload, the improved social channelling cash to women is likely to have
standing was worth the additional work. a beneficial impact on overall household

food security, since women's decisions on 6 The minimum wage stipulated by the
expenditure focus less on personal Government of Bangladesh is 50 taka per day;
spending, and more on food and other however, daily wage rates for landless
essentials for the household. In particular, labourers are normally 25-30 taka.
involving women in cash-for-work also
challenges long-held assumptions about
the gender division of labour and women's
capabilities, assisting women to improve The authors would like to acknowledge
their status in the community and house- the support of the Oxfam GB Bangladesh
hold, and increase their self-esteem. team, in particular Anamul Haque and
However, such programmes need to be Provash Mondal. The authors have also
aware of the danger that women will received valuable support from Elsa Gill,
increase their workload without support Sue Chowdhury, Caroline Sweetman, and
from men in performing more work within Jean McCluskey.
the home. In addition, programmes may
not challenge inequitable food distribution
patterns within the home, which stem from References
either ideological or practical considerations Buchanan-Smith, M., S. Jones, and
regarding men's role in earning outside the B. Abimbilla (1995) 'Review of the
home. Bawku Emergency Programme', Ghana:
Hisham Khogali is a Food and Nutrition Adviser Corbett, J. (1988) 'Famine and household
for Oxfam GB, 274 Banbury Road, Oxford, coping strategies', World Development
0X2 7DZ, UK. 16(9): 1099-112
E-mail: hkhogali@oxfam.org.uk Clay, E. and O. Stokke (2000) Food Aid and
Human Security, London: Frank Cass
Parmjit Takhar is a Humanitarian Programme Clifton, D. (1999) 'Gender and
Assistant working with Oxfam GB. Development: A Brief Review for Oxfam
E-mail: ptakhar@oxfam.org.uk Bangladesh', Oxford: Oxfam GB
Darcy, J. (1991) 'A Review of Oxfam's
Cross Border Work in Eritrea-Tigray
Notes 1975-1989', Oxford: Oxfam GB
1 Disposing of surpluses results in the De Waal, A. (1997) Famine Crimes: Politics
distribution of inappropriate commodities, and the Disaster Relief Industry in Africa,
and sustains an arguably less Oxford: James Currey
competitive agricultural sector in Dreze, J. and A. Sen (1989) Hunger and
developed countries. Public Action, Oxford: Clarendon Press
2 The public distribution system of India Haddad, L., J. Hoddinot, and H. Alderman
provides subsidised food commodities (1997) Intra-Household Resource Allocation
to the most vulnerable in the population. in Developing Countries: Models, Methods
It operates to varying degrees of and Policies, Food Policy Statement 24,
efficiency in different states. Washington DC: IFPRI
3 'Cash grant' refers to the distribution of Harriss, B. (1995) 'The intrafamily
cash for free. distribution of hunger in South Asia', in
4 'Cash-for-work' refers to the distribution J. Dreze, A. Sen, and A. Hussain (eds)
of cash in remuneration for work done The Political Economy of Hunger, Oxford:
5 Vouchers can either be denominated in Clarendon Press
money terms or in physical quantities of Hoddinott, J. and L. Haddad (1995) 'Does
specific commodities. female income share influence
Empowering women through cash relief in humanitarian contexts 49

household expenditures? Evidence from Sen, A. (1981) Poverty and Famines: An Essay
Cote d'lvoire', Oxford Bulletin of on Entitlement and Deprivation, Oxford:
Economics and Statistics 57(1): 77-96 Clarendon Press
Naik, P. and R. Brown (2000) 'Oxfam Orissa Sen, A. (1986) 'Food, economics and
Livelihoods and Employment entitlements', Lloyds Bank Review 160:1-20
Restoration Programme (OOLERP)', Taher, M., K. Alam, P. Pathi, and V. Patnaik
Bhubaneswar, India: Oxfam GB (2000) 'Evaluation of Relief and
Oxfam GB (1999) 'Oxfam Bangladesh Flood Rehabilitation Programme for Cyclone
Programme, September 1998 to March Affected Coastal Orissa August 2000',
1999: Final Report to DEC April 1999', Bhubaneswar, India: Oxfam GB
Oxford: Oxfam GB Visvanathan, N., L. Duggan, and L. Nisonoff
Peppiatt, D., J. Mitchell, and P. Holzmann (1997) The Women, Gender and
(2001) 'Cash Transfers in Emergencies: Development Reader, London: Zed Books
Evaluating Benefits and Assessing Wilson, K.B. (1992) 'Enhancing refugees'
Risks', Humanitarian Practice Network own food acquistion strategies', Journal
Paper, London: ODI of Refugee Studies 5(3/4)
Ramalingaswami, V., U. Jonsson, and
J. Rodhe (1996), The Asian Enigma:
The Progress of Nations, New York: UNICEF

Healing the psychological

wounds of gender-related
violence in Latin America:
a model for gender-sensitive work in
post-conflict contexts
Helen Leslie
This article presents a model of healing which conceptualises and addresses the psychological effects
on women of gender-related violence in the post-conflict context. The model is drawn from the
experience of an El Salvadorean NGO, Las Dignas, and from key insights from gender and
development literature.

too heavily on aid and development

he need to support survivors of
gender-related violence is increasingly models addressing psychology, rather than
being perceived as important in relief on social development models which
and development programmes. This address suffering (Summerfield 1996).
situation has transpired partly as a result of In contrast, Las Dignas, a women's
increased awareness of gender-related organisation in El Salvador, utilises a
violence amongst development practitioners, gender-specific approach to heal the
and partly because of changes in thinking traumatic impacts of gender-related
about development over the last two violence suffered by women members of
decades. Such changes have emphasised the opposition movement during the
the emancipation of women as the key to 12-year-long civil war. Las Dignas'
sustainable development, and, as a approach recognises the differing impacts
corollary, the importance of formulating of gender-related violence on men and
practical strategies to address the barriers women, and employs feminist theory to
that impede women's participation in the enable women to reconstruct their sense
development process. of themselves as women, and as strong and
Despite such understandings, and capable citizens.
despite the importance currently being I learnt of Las Dignas' work when
accorded to mental health in humanitarian working for a justice and development
work (Costa e Silva 1998), there remains a NGO in New Zealand. I subsequently
dearth of information within the gender undertook fieldwork with the organisation
and development literature on practical from June 1997 to February 1998, to learn
strategies for dealing with the impacts more about its approach and to fulfil the
of gender-related violence. The strategies requirements for my PhD research in
which are put forward do not generally development studies. My background is in
focus on gender relations, and tend to rely mental health nursing, and I had viewed
Healing the psychological wounds of gender-related violence in Latin America 51

the study of development as a significant actions began to impact more and more on
departure from my previous experience. the power of the authoritarian State,
However, I believe that the model of however, women involved in social change
healing I developed during my time with movements were detained and tortured
Las Dignas not only integrates mental along with various other opposition
health issues into gender and development groups. In the case of El Salvador, 'After
debates, but also offers a constructive tool women established the street as their
that can be applied to gender and territory through participation in marches,
development practice in the many countries sit-ins, hunger strikes and public meetings,
that have experienced political conflict. the members of El Salvador's security
Before discussing the model in more forces began to view all women in public
detail, it is necessary to gain an under- spaces with suspicion and treated them
accordingly.' (Stephens 1995, 812)
standing of the forms of gender-related
violence enacted against women in Latin Latin American women paid dearly for
America in the era of authoritarian rule, disrupting dominant cultural constructions
and the intense psychological trauma that of femininity by participating in social
this has caused. While women's experiences movements for change. As well as
of gender-related violence do vary, it can be becoming specific targets of military and
argued that there are similarities to be paramilitary repression, they faced
found in the nature and context of these growing misogynistic attitudes. Escalating
experiences. The following section thus assassination, torture, and disappearances
generalises Latin American women's of women were accompanied by a legiti-
experiences where appropriate, and offers mation of violence against women in society
specific examples where possible. more generally, causing an increase in
violence and rape in the domestic arena
(Hollander 1996).
Gender-related violence in State-sponsored gender-related violence
Latin America embodies the power imbalances that exist
in patriarchal societies (El-Bushra and Piza
From the early 1960s, Latin American Lopez 1993). Gender-related violence in
women's participation in social movements political conflict, particularly sexual
has been a response to the rise of military violence, is often consciously designed to
dictatorships and the concomitant closing violate women's dignity and identity
of channels of popular participation (Jelin (Bunster-Burotto 1994). Gender-related
1990). These movements have enabled violence acts to disempower women by
groups of women in Latin America to terrorizing them into submission and by
politicise social spaces, and to struggle instilling in them the impossibility of
for recognition and identity as citizens. struggling for social change.
As members of mothers' movements, Torture was one form of gender-related
feminist organisations, peasant unions, and violence employed by the military against
guerrilla armies, Latin American women women in many Latin American countries.
have pushed back the boundaries of their Gang rape, body slashing (especially of
traditional gender identities, empowering nipples and breasts), various forms of bearing,
themselves and their communities. rape by trained dogs, the penetration and
Initially, because women in Latin decimation of women's genitalia by electric
America have been understood by military rods, and the introduction of live rodents,
regimes as apolitical social actors, their were some of the forms of gendered
actions for social change were largely violence employed in order to debase
ignored by the State (Safa 1995). As these women (Bunster-Burotto 1994).

Along with these physical forms of The psychological effects of

sexual torture, the military, in countries gender-related violence
such as Argentina, Chile, and El Salvador,
also used psychological torture, designed to In a volume dedicated to the prevention of,
exploit 'the female psychological connection and appropriate responses to, sexual
with others' (Hollander 1996, 69). This took violence in the context of women refugees
many painful forms including the threat of of warfare, the United Nations High
and actual torture of a woman's children in Commission for Refugees (UNHCR 1995)
front of her; the rape of heavily pregnant cited terror, intense self-disgust, power-
women in front of other women; women lessness, depression, denial, and an inability
having to endure the screams of other to function in everyday life, as some of the
women being tortured and raped nearby; psychological effects of gender-related
and the delivery of false news concerning violence. The UNHCR concluded that all
the death or torture of a loved one victims experience psychological trauma
(Bunster-Burotto 1994). and that in the worst cases this trauma can
lead to chronic mental illnesses.
Disappearance, or, '...the kidnapping,
The psychological trauma of gender-
illegal detention, torture and execution of
related violence may also be expressed
real or imagined opponents of military rule'
through psychosomation, when its symptoms
(Fisher 1993, 104), was another form of
are the constant physical ailments such as
psychological torture central to the military
headaches, sore backs, and gastrointestinal
State's campaign of gender-related violence.
disturbances that often plague victims of
By removing loved ones from their lives, gender-related violence. Allodi and
the military State was attacking women's Stiansny's (1990) study of 28 tortured
roles as wives and mothers (ibid.). The women from Central and South America,
military had invaded the very private for example, revealed that these women
sphere that women had occupied and were suffering from physical symptoms
nurtured for centuries and women were such as insomnia, headaches, body pains,
powerless to prevent it. Moreover, by stomach discomfort, and lack of appetite, in
pursuing a form of 'censorship of memory' addition to their affective symptoms of
(ibid.) through the tactic of disappearance, depression, fear, feelings of hopelessness,
the military also prevented the mourning loss of self-esteem, crying, irritability, and
that is necessary to remember and to sexual anxiety/avoidance.
valorise the actions of the disappeared. In attempting to understand the
The long-term psychological effects, dynamics of trauma following torture in
both individual and collective, of the types Chile, Agger and Jenson (1996) identified
of gender-related violence that have been the psychological dynamics of dissociation
outlined above should not be under- and victimisation as concepts useful not
estimated. As El-Bushra and Piza Lopez only in understanding the experience of
stress (1993, 1), gender-related violence torture, but also, in understanding a
affects women's mental health, 'by sapping person's subsequent reactions to it.
their self-esteem and self-confidence, Dissociation, or 'turning yourself off during
limiting their capacity to solve their own the torture process is a common psycho-
problems, as well as their capacity to logical survival mechanism necessary to
develop relationships with others'. Thus, avoid an 'overwhelming anxiety which
gender-related violence inflicted against would lead to total disintegration'
women involved in political conflicts (Weinstein and Lira 1987, 49 in Agger and
throughout Latin America has resulted in Jenson 1996, 92). In contrast, victimisation
some level of disempowerment for many. is a form of moral death where the tortured
Healing the psychological wounds of gender-related violence in Latin America 53

betray their families and their political held responsible and blamed for the
beliefs to escape physical pain (Agger and violence perpetrated against them (Byrne
Jenson 1996). 1996; El-Bushra and Piza Lopez 1994).
The trauma resulting from gender-
related violence thus extends beyond the Recognising and defining post-traumatic
individual (Herman 1997). As Martin-Baro stress disorder
(1988) stresses, the nature of repression that From the early 1980s, psychiatrists have
took place in the political conflicts of Latin often identified the types of psychological
America (silencing of opposition, rape, effects of gender-related violence discussed
torture, disappearance, massacres, above as post-traumatic stress disorder
displace-ment, isolation, economic (PTSD) (MacDonald 1996). PTSD refers to:
pauperisation) was also responsible for the
'A response, sometimes delayed, to an
traumatisation of families and of society in
overwhelming event or events which takes
general. It is then a 'psychosocial' trauma,
the form of repeated, intrusive hallucinations,
or, the 'traumatic crystallisation in persons
dreams, thoughts or behaviours stemming
and groups of inhuman social relations'
from the event, along with numbing that
(Martin-Baro 1988,138).
may have been begun during or after the
Judith Zur (1993) in her study of the experience, and possibly also increased
psychosocial effects of 'La Violencia' (a arousal to (and avoidance of) stimuli
period of government-sponsored terrorism recalling the event.'
[1980-83] directed against the civilian Caruth 1995, 4
population during the 30 year civil war) on
widows of El Quiche, Guatemala, attests However, defining the psychological
further to the wider implications of gender- trauma of gender-related violence in such a
related violence for society. She states that universal way is problematic. Experts in
La Violencia led to a loss of identity for the fields of psychology, psychiatry, and
women whose roles as carers and partners social sciences have argued that the effects
were destroyed through their inability to of violence, its manifestation, and recovery
protect those they loved from torture and from its psychological impacts, are largely
death. This in turn led these women to determined by factors that are context-
experience feelings of anxiety and specific (Bracken and Petty 1998). It is not
powerlessness (Bunster-Burotto 1994). always appropriate then, to view the
The physical consequences of gender- psychological impacts of conflict in
related violence impact, in addition, on medicalised terms, when, as Kleinman
women's psychological states. Through (1995,185) states,
rape and other forms of gender-related
'[They are] more than and different from a
violence, women are exposed to HIV and
disease condition even though [they have]
other sexually transmitted diseases. They
physiological effects .... The experience itself
are also exposed to unwanted and often
is characteristically cultural, elaborated in
highly traumatic pregnancies and as a
result may attempt dangerous abortions ways that differ from its development in
(Byrne 1996). It is hard to imagine that such other societies.'
women experiencing these forms of Viewing the impacts of gender-related
violence could escape psychological violence as a 'disease' or 'disorder' also acts
traumatisation. Even for those women who to remove the political, social, and
are successful in dissociating themselves economic forces from which trauma has
from their experiences, widespread arisen. Women who experience psycho-
normative understandings of violence logical trauma in conflict situations are the
against women can result in them being victims of a political project intended to

harm them. Hence, while women victims of the needs of women who are suffering the
gender-related violence do often suffer impacts of gender-related violence must
traumatic symptoms as a result of this still be addressed (Paltiel 1987).
systematic harming, it would be
dangerously remiss to say that they are Joining social movements
suffering from a disease condition. As conflict results in the shattering of the
There are, therefore, many issues social fabric of society, interventions that
related to the labelling and subsequent attempt to reconstitute a sense of community,
treatment of victims who are suffering the rather than the treatment of a 'mentally ill'
psychological effects of gender-related individual, would be more helpful in this
violence. Knowledge of these issues should regard (Summerfield 1996, 87; Desjarlais,
not detract, however, from the fact that Eisenberg, Good, and Kleinman et al. 1995,
these effects are a major health concern. 131). Socially-based interventions also
acknowledge the ethos of fear and violence
Given this, the healing of the psychological
that persists in post-conflict societies. This
effects of gender-related violence should be
acknowledgment ensures that the social
a priority for gender and development
harm of political conflict, 'from the
practice, or development practice that
demoralisation of society to the dislocation
promotes a change in inequitable gender
of entire communities,' is not delegitimised
relations (Rathgeber 1990), in those
or neglected (Desjarlais, Eisenberg, Good,
countries that have experienced conflict. and Kleinman et al. 1995,134).
Here, therefore, the formation of social
An approach to healing movements becomes a way of both
The development literature gives us some reconstructing the militarised authoritarian
pointers on how healing can be achieved. State into an institution that is responsive
Summerfield (1996, 87) states, for example, to the needs of civil society, and of
that it is crucial for development workers collectivising the shared experiences of
to reflect on their own assumptions about women to gain the identity needed to
the personal impact of conflict. Western initiate social change actions. Hence,
notions of the universality of trauma, and participation in social movements, even
the need for psychological treatment of this though it has the potential to place women
trauma, may not be appropriate in all at risk of further violence, can also form
settings, as, 'Every culture has its own part of healing.
constructions of traumatic events and Being part of a social movement also
recipes for recovery.' (Ibid.) Conflict enables women to elaborate more readily
obviously causes suffering and distress, but on their traumatic experiences, as, through
only a small minority of victims of conflict participation, they gain a sense of the
develop 'mental illness' requiring importance of links beyond the family
psychological treatment. (Hollander 1996). A woman may
experience healing through participation in
That is not to say, however, that
a social movement:
women's mental health should be
disregarded as a luxury concern for only 'Her loss is no longer individualised,
the wealthiest countries (Paltiel 1993). detachedfromits historical context and from
While a global review of women and the collective process, but is now part of the
mental health has concluded that women political struggle which produced it and can
are excellent copers despite their now potentate its reparation .... It is this
subordination, economic deprivation, and transcendence of isolation and this
lack of control over their life circumstances, commitment to act as historical agents that
Healing the psychological wounds of gender-related violence in Latin America 55

many Argentine mental health professionals in women's health. Such a relationship,

believe is essential to the resolution of the
Stein (1997) concludes, is based on the fact
pathological effects of State-induced trauma.'
that empowerment improves women's
(Hollander 1996, 74)
situations, thus reducing inequity.
In the field of psychology, feminist
Giving testimony therapists and others have long recognised
A related way of approaching healing, the need for an empowerment approach in
particularly in the Latin American context, their dealings with survivors of traumatic
has been in testimonio, the giving of experiences. In her comprehensive analysis
testimony (Agger 1994, 115). Through the on the aftermath of violence (from
process of giving testimony, women have domestic abuse to political terror), Judith
the opportunity to challenge entrenched Herman (1997,133), for example, has stated
power structures and to rebuild the moral that, 'The core experiences of psychological
and social order for themselves and for trauma are disempowerment and dis-
their communities. connection from others.' Recovery is,
The creation of a safe space is crucial for therefore, dependent on the ability of
the giving of testimony, especially for the survivor to experience empowerment
women, who may feel responsible for the and establish meaningful relationships.
violence inflicted upon them. A conspiracy Herman's stages of recovery - a healing
of silence may also occur where women relationship, safety, remembrance and
feel so disempowered that they view their mourning, reconnection, and commonality
experiences as unworthy of public hearing. - all integrate empowerment principles to
Whatever the case, what emerges clearly accomplish the complete recovery of the
from the development literature is the need survivor (Herman 1997).
to approach healing in post-conflict Keeping the above connections between
environments in culturally sensitive ways, empowerment, health, and development
and in ways that build on communities' clearly in mind, we could argue that an
own capacities (Richters 1994). empowerment approach to healing the
trauma of gender-related violence would
Psychological approaches and women's not only benefit those who are
empowerment participating in such a process, but would
Given the disempowerment that has also contribute to the well-being of society.
resulted from the trauma of gender-related In view of this argument, an approach to
violence in Latin America, an approach to healing for women in post-conflict contexts
healing must centre on the notion of could look something like the model
empowerment. While this may seem an presented in Figure 1.
obvious corollary to our discussion thus
far, with the exception of Jane Stein's (1997)
comprehensive study of empowerment and
The Las Dignas model of
women's health in international develop- healing
ment (defined in a holistic sense to include This model places Friedmann's (1992) and
physical, psychological, socioeconomic, and Rowlands's (1997) views of empowerment
cultural factors), very few commentators in in the context of my research with women
the field of health and development seem in El Salvador. The research, conducted in
to have made this connection. 1997-8, employed a feminist research
Stein's work has shown us that there is methodology to determine the effectiveness
an obvious relationship between strategies of the mental health programme employed
that support an empowerment approach by Las Dignas for gender and development
to development, and an improvement practice in post-conflict El Salvador.

Figure 1: The Las Dignas model: a gender-sensitive approach to healing in post-conflict contexts

Physical Environmental Social Psychological

gynaecological problems • infrastructural damage dislocation in society • low self esteem/guilt
AIDS/STDs • impoverishment breakdown of traditional • denial/victimisation
physical symptoms • lack of resources gender roles/identities • anger/hatred
related to trauma: • environmental widowhood/female- • disassociation
gastritis/headaches degradation headed households • sexual anxiety/avoidance
backpain/kisomnia domestic violence



Gender-specific strategies
for healing In women

Conscientisatlon Reconstructing gender roles/Identity

reflection on trauma valorisation of participation in social

sharing of trauma change movements
reconstitution of trauma to reveal situated healing through ritual/group therapy
constructions of masculinity and femininity identifying oppressive gender roles/
legitimation of feelings (what I feel is identities/ reconstructing these, building
important) on power within


Personal Social/Political
(in relation to self) (in relation to family/society)
self-esteem access to resources
courage ability to make decisions in
strength family/community settings
happiness sense of control in relationships with
solidarity/spirituality others
sense of control fulfilling friendships
confidence critical consciousness of subordination in
ability to make plans/decisions family/society
energy participation in grassroots organisations
hope/vision for the future interest in political processes
Healing the psychological wounds of gender-related violence in Latin America 57

In-depth interview and extensive parti- self-esteem and happiness have associated
cipant observation with women participants effects in the realms of the social and
of the mental health programme enabled political. Women who have a sense of
me to conceptualise the impacts of personal potency, are, for example, more
gender-related violence and to summarise likely to participate in development
the empowerment outcomes for women initiatives aimed at promoting structural
participants. The model was developed after change in society, while women who feel in
I had worked with Las Dignas and the control of their own lives are more likely to
women survivors of the El Salvador civil develop a critical consciousness of their
war. subordination within their families and
The model of healing identifies the society at large.
connections between the disempowering The model thus offers a practical tool
impacts of gender-related violence during that can be used in gender and develop-
conflict, and the empowering outcomes of ment practice in post-conflict environments.
gender-specific approaches to healing. Despite its potentially important contri-
These approaches recognise the importance bution to humanitarian aid, however, it is
of healing political trauma through necessary to be honest and realistic in
conscientisation, or reflection, and the regards to expectations when applying the
reconstruction of shattered gendered model in practice. Achievement of the kind
identities. Such gender-specific approaches of fundamental societal transformations
enable women survivors to heal themselves for which the empowerment approach
and their communities in ways that will aims is time-consuming and fraught with
contribute to the breaking down of the very conflict and difficulties. Indeed given the
same patriarchal structures (militarisation, enormous impact of the disempowerment
authoritarianism, machismo) from which of women in Latin America over the last
their disempowerment has arisen. three decades, it may be difficult to find
As empowerment is not a linear process evidence of social and political empower-
whereby a disempowered individual ment for some time following the establish-
necessarily experiences empowerment ment of an empowerment programme for
through gender-specific healing strategies, women. Social and political empowerment
a dashed line has been used in the model to may also be impeded by the absence of
show the relationship between the impacts effective development programmes for
of gender-related violence and empower- men in post-conflict contexts.
ment. This highlights the fact that By placing the empowerment process in
empowering outcomes often contribute to the context of gender-related violence, the
the further perpetuation of gender-related model of healing presented has attempted
violence against women because of the to confront some of the problems
conflict engendered by those empowered associated with gender and development
women who challenge the status quo. practice. Not only does the model clearly
Consonant with the impacts of gender- show the inter-relatedness of personal and
related violence, the levels of empower- social /political empowerment factors, but
ment shown in the model are also fluid and it also acknowledges the need for constant
interrelated. For sake of clarity, empower- reflection on the disempowering outcomes
ment has been divided into personal and of the empowerment process. This is
social / political levels. The reality for many reflected in the model through a reciprocal
women throughout the world, however, relation-ship between empowerment and
is that changes relating to the self are the physical, environmental, social, and
simultaneously social and political. psychological impacts of gender-related
Personal empowerment outcomes such as violence. Hence while the model has not

solved all the problems associated with the change activities on both an individual and
empowerment approach, it has provided a a collective basis. Given this focus and the
framework which could assist development well-established significance of women's
practitioners in developing circumspect participation in development processes, the
views on the empowerment process. model of healing presented in this article
The model has been disseminated to not only provides a novel way of
women's organisations working in peace- imagining mental health provision in
building in the post-conflict nations of the humanitarian aid, but also, a tool to assist
Pacific, and could be of benefit to women's organisations working towards the goal of
organisations working to heal the trauma women's empowerment.
of war in other nations. Future work with
the model could reflect the outcomes of Helen Leslie works as a lecturer in the Faculty
mental health programmes, and importantly, of Nursing and Health, Griffith University,
of research that considers the perspectives Nathan Campus, Queensland, 4111 Australia.
of men and the challenges and trans- E-mail: h.leslie@mailbox.gu.edu.au
formations that conflict brings to gender
relations in varying cultural contexts. References
Agger, I. (1994) Trauma and Testimony
Conclusion Among Refugee Women: A Psycho-Social
This article, through its discussion of the Exploration, London and New Jersey:
scope and impacts of gender-related Zed Books
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Latin America, has established the Healing under State Terrorism, London
importance of mental health programmes and New Jersey: Zed Books
for women in post-conflict contexts. Rather Allodi, F. and S. Stiansny (1990) 'Women as
than placing this trauma and its torture victims', Canadian Journal of
subsequent strategies for healing in the Psychiatry 35(2): 144-8
context of western disease models, this Bracken, P. and C. Petty (eds) (1998)
article has shown that the trauma of Rethinking Trauma of War, London: Free
gender-related violence in Latin America is Association Press
primarily social rather than medical in Bunster-Burotto, X. (1994) 'Surviving
nature. Thus, an approach to healing for beyond fear: women and torture in Latin
women should be rooted in the notion of America', in M. Davies (ed.) Women and
empowerment, enabling women survivors Violence, London: Zed Books
of gender-related violence to pursue Byrne, B. (1996) 'Towards a gendered
individual and collective strategies for understanding of conflict', IDS Bulletin
social change in ways that are appropriate 27(3): 31-40
to the political and cultural nature of the Caruth, C. (1995) 'Trauma and experience',
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A model of healing was presented as a Memory, Baltimore: John Hopkins
way of conceptualising and addressing the University Press
psychological impacts of gender-related Costa e Silva, J. (1998) 'World health
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contexts. The model was formulated after of mental illness and mental health
extensive research with women survivors of promotion in primary care', in R. Jenkins
gender-related violence in El Salvador, and and T. Ustun (eds) Preventing Mental
draws on the empowerment approach to Illness: Mental Health Promotion in
enable women to participate in social Primary Care, New York: John Wiley
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Desjarlais, R., L. Eisenberg, B. Good, Paltiel, F. (1993) 'Women's mental health:

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'Gender-related violence: its scope trends in research and practice',
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22(1): 41-80 Stephens, L. (1995) 'Women's rights are
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Discourse between Anthropology and 807-27
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233-66 Women and Conflict, Oxford: Oxfam GB

Gender and power relations

in a bureaucratic context:
female immigrants from Ethiopia in an
absorption centre in Israel
Esther Hertzog
In this article,1 I discuss the ways in which the bureaucracy of absorption centres in Israel
disempowered Ethiopian women immigrants by promoting a strict gender division of labour within a
'family unit' that reflected wider social structures in Israel. In their interactions with Ethiopian
immigrants, the officials running the absorption centres enhanced the idea of a family unit', and the
gendered power relations within it, by transferring resources to family units through the men, and
trying to restrict women to the home and to the absorption centre. The different ways in which women
and men were treated by officials grew out of bureaucratic needs, as well as reflecting Israeli social
arrangements and bureaucrats' own gender and ethnic stereotypes. My arguments have wider
implications for other forms of temporary settlement of displaced or migrant populations, where
bureaucratic structures mediate between them and the resources that they need.

increased the urge of Ethiopian Jews to

ome 50,000 immigrants from Ethiopia
were brought to Israel between 1982-99, emigrate to Israel.
and were sent to absorption centres2
owned by the Jewish Agency.3 In 1999, the Emphasising "cultural'
Ethiopian community in Israel numbered
74,000 people, including those who were differences
born in Israel (Central Bureau of Statistics Most of the vast research on absorption of
2000). Between one and three thousand immigrants published in Israel since the
immigrants from Ethiopia who continue to 1950s has emphasised 'cultural' differences
arrive in Israel every year are also sent to on the part of immigrants, to explain
absorption centres. Literature analysing the integration processes (e.g. Eisenstadt 1954;
immigration of Jews from Ethiopia to Israel Patai 1970; Shokeid and Deshen 1977).
considers that the principal reason for their These studies, which focus on immigrants
migration was a Zionist motivation, and the from Islamic countries in particular, imply
dream of returning to Jerusalem. However, that, collectively, immigrants are inferior
a few studies (e.g. Kahana 1977) list and 'backward'. This perspective also
additional reasons for their collective suggests that the family structure of the
migration, including discrimination against immigrants and the gender power division
the Jews within Ethiopia, particularly within it are derived from a patriarchal
concerning the right to own land, and the culture brought by immigrants from their
danger of assimilation due to the heavy countries of origin.
pressures put on Ethiopian Jews by Christian Most of the studies of migrants from
missionaries. In addition, economic issues Ethiopia to Israel continue to focus on
including food insecurity have probably such explanations (Messing 1982; Rozen 1985;
Gender and power relations in a bureaucratic context 61

Ben-Ezer 1985). Ben-Ezer describes the Reinforcing a gender

Ethiopian family structure thus: division of labour through
'A big patriarchal, traditional family, with a bureaucratic procedures
clear role division based on gender. In the
Ethiopian family the husband-father is A few scholars have revealed the
responsible for economic, employment, patronising nature of the policy of
educational and religious spheres. He usually 'absorbing' immigrants into Israel, and
represents the nuclear family in relation to the criticised ethnocentric 'cultural' theories
extended family or the community. Much that have lent academic credibility to the
respect is given to the woman-mother, who is absorbing systems (Marx 1976; Bernstein
responsible for taking care after the children, 1981). They have indicated the central role
their education at home and different home played by the intensive bureaucratic
tasks. Clearly, the children's rights and intervention in integration processes of
obligations are determined by their sex.' immigrants in Israel, and described how
(Ben-Ezer 1985, 21) state authorities turn the immigrants into a
needy category that is dependent on state
Schoenberger (1975) states that: officials. I follow this approach, in describing
and analysing the bureaucratic control of
'There is a great gap between the woman's
women immigrants from Ethiopia and the
position in the Ethiopian family and that in
use of cultural explanations by the bureau-
the Israeli... the position of men and women in
4 cratic establishment to justify its control over
the Falasha society is such that men's position
these women.
is superior and women's position is inferior. A
woman is expected to perform only service jobs Once in Israel, Ethiopian immigrants in
and she can not voice her opinion... all she is absorption centres were treated as
expected to do is to fulfil her obligations to her members of a homogeneous group of 'new
father or husband... women are just a immigrants in special need of help',
property, like donkeys.' implying their weakness and 'otherness'.
Resources were directed to 'family units',
Aside from their common stereotypical and and by allocating these through the men,
ethnocentric approach, these two descriptions the officials enhanced the idea of the
appear to contradict each other. Ben Ezer 'family unit' and the gendered power
suggests that 'much respect is given to the division within it. Within this view of the
woman-mother' while Schoenberger claims family unit, women were considered to be
that the women were considered to be 'housewives' and 'mothers', while men
'property, like donkeys'. Moreover, various were 'family heads' or 'providers'. Housing
studies suggest that in Ethiopia women have was delivered to the family through the
participated in work outside the home, men; sustenance allowances were passed to
including agricultural work and trading their 'family heads', most of whom were men;
craft works (Banai 1988). A study conducted health insurance for the family was issued
between 1992-3 also indicates that a dichoto- in the man's name; and vocational training
mised gender division of labour cannot be was granted mainly to men. Women were
inferred from interviews with immigrants largely ignored in relation to employment
about their past. Rather, these studies indicate opportunities, and were excluded from
that in Ethiopia some 26 per cent of women vocational training.
worked outside their homes, and that no
gender differences were found concerning Limiting women's prospects of
agri-cultural work, even though women employment
were more occupied with making hand The workers in the centre used different
crafts than men were (Benita et al. 1993). means to limit the women's prospects in

the labour market and their motivation to gration, and prevent the 'destruction of the
work outside the centre. Only men were family'. When resources are allocated to
sent by them to vocational training, which them for activities and training, this is for
was offered for the purpose of attaining the purpose of empowerment for the sake
better employment opportunities. Men of their children. The centre director went
were considered responsible for providing on to add:
a living for the other members of the
'The immigrants are going through such a
family. When women who were mothers severe crisis, and harsh dissolution of all
went out to work, they were reproached by frameworks and values, that's why we must
the officials for 'neglecting' their children. preserve one fraction linked with reality.
The following quotation from the Someone has to pay the price of the tough
absorption centre director illustrates this: cultural crisis they are going through. The
'On the one hand, we want to advance the women have to be empowered as mothers and
women [and] give them some tools, so that wives. They don't know what is cleanliness,
we can advance them to the level of women cooking and child-care. All they know is
in Israel. We tell them that it is impossible to extended family.'
make a living with only one salary. We have
to help them to a stage where they can begin
An Absorption Ministry supervisor told
to work. On the other hand if they go to
how vocational training for women had
work, the children will be neglected. They do
been attempted and then stopped when it
not have the same responsibility that men
became clear that children were not
and women of the twentieth century have.
receiving care:
They do not know that if they go out to work 'I have stopped women's vocational training.
the house has to be in order and the children We had the experience in Pardes Ghana,
looked after. They do their day's work and where the women had started to work and
they come home and lie on the bed. The then they have ignored any responsibility.
children wander about outside all day. I have They were leaving the children alone all day
experience in this area. It is a disaster to at home or thrown outside. Then I said that
push these women into work. A disaster. My it is impossible to do this and we must think
social worker in my previous work-place, how much damage it will cause the Israeli
said that the children were neglected, ran society in the future. The changes are so
about in the streets and were filth-dirty. drastic anyway because the men did almost
They had no proper food. The immigrants nothing in Ethiopia. There they used to work
began to fight with each other. This three months a year in agriculture doing
destroyed the family. She got them to return nothing afterwards, all the work was on the
home and started to invest in improving women, the water, grinding the coffee, and
their self-image as housewives. It was not the men were near the fire and did not even
only the kids who were destroyed, but also always nurture it. Now we want them to
the wife and the home. It caused fights. The co-operate and help at home, as the woman
woman runs off and he murders her.' goes out to work.'
In such discourses, immigrant women The officials' actions and perceptions
appear to exist only as mothers to their derived from the gendered economic and
children and wives to their husbands. They social reality in Israel, where 'homesphere'
are perceived as primitive and irresponsible activities are most commonly dominated by
people whose primary raison d'etre is to women, and the public sphere is primarily
enable their children's integration into the dominated by men. The labour market is
host country. They are expected to weather characterised by a limited range of poorly
the impact of the 'cultural crisis' of immi- paid 'female occupations', and a large
Gender and power relations in a bureaucratic context 63

range of better paid occupations, occupied hours of the mothers. It should not be
mainly by males. Organising vocational difficult to lengthen the opening hours of
training for male immigrants as family- our kindergarten, if it won't work by the
heads, rather than for women, stems from women's self-organised babysitting in the
Israeli ideas of 'normal' roles for women caravans. But this must be done quickly,
and men. However, discrimination against because otherwise the factory managers
Ethiopian women with regard to vocational will turn to other centres.'
training was rationalised by the Absorption While the absorption centre workers
Ministry in terms of the immigrants' channelled women into taking care of
'traditional' cultural background, rather children and other dependants, ultimately
than with reference to the pre-existing bureaucratic control and policies could not
gender division of labour within Israel. For prevent Ethiopian women from working
example, a bureaucratic working paper outside the home and centre. Economic
stated that: needs, no less than personal aspirations,
'The integration process of the Ethiopian induced women to work outside the home.
women is slow and complicated in comparison Single incomes, especially those of low-
to the men's because they not only have to paid workers, and immigrants' special
overcome the cultural gap, they also have to need for greater resources in order to get
adapt themselves to a sex role that will result settled, made an additional income essential
in readiness to go out to work. In addition, in many cases. Therefore, women who
the women must, like women in the modern managed to find a substitute to look after
world, fill a variety of roles, as woman, wife, their children went out to work. Typically,
working woman, and achieve some balance they would go to work in distant places,
between them. Considering this process as a in seasonal, poorly paid, and physically
slow one, which will not take months or taxing jobs.
years, but rather generations, will help to see The findings of the survey mentioned
the changes in a realistic perspective and earlier in this article (Benita and Noam
with realistic expectations for change.' 1995) lend support to the claim that the
(Eran et al. 1989, 221) absorption policy has had significant
negative effects on women's prospects
However, the officials' antagonistic attitude in the labour market. It appears that
towards women's work outside their discrimination against women in
homes and beyond the centre was capable vocational training leads to discrimination
of change when this was in the interests of against them in the wider labour market
the centre's bureaucracy. When the director later on. While only 26 per cent of
became interested in sending the women to untrained women immigrants were
work outside of the centre, he changed the employed, 60 per cent of those who had
rules. For the sake of organisational some vocational training were employed.
networking, and in order to present himself
as efficient in supplying workers, the Reinforcing women's role within the
director used the immigrant women as a home
resource in his interactions with external In the absorption centres, female welfare
contacts. For example, when the manager aides - somchot (singular: somechet) -
of a factory for medical gloves asked the instructed the immigrant women. Somchot
centre's director to send women to work in are 'grassroots' workers with a relatively
the factory as a matter of urgency, the limited education, supervised by social
director had instructed the staff in these workers. They were introduced into the
words: 'There is the problem with children. welfare services in Israel some 25 years
It is needed to be arranged for the working ago, with the aim of instructing women,

usually in 'families with disabilities in coffee with your friends, commenting that I
social functioning', in housework and child do the same. She said, 'We too have this
care (Etgar 1977). The welfare department problem in our neighbourhood, but I'm not
in the Jewish Agency describes them as like that. With me, the house has to be
'guide[s] for implementing trained skills ... clean before I do anything else.' Then she
a tutor, an educator and an orientator for turned to the woman, saying, 'Enough
the Ethiopian family... for implementing coffee,' and pushed her towards the door.
learned skills needed for integration in the Criticising women over their personal
Israeli society' (Jewish Agency 1984, 9). affairs and behaviour was a key way
There were six somchot in the absorption of exerting social control over them.
centre. Each of them was attached to some Immigrant women were vulnerable to
ten families. The unique role of the somechet humiliation by officials. Pushing the
was to embody a first hand role model woman was a physical expression of the
for women as mothers and housewives, unequal relations that developed between
according to Israeli 'standards', thus trans- the somchot and the immigrants. Somchot
mitting the social structure outside the would enter immigrants' caravans without
centre. The bureaucratic control in the knocking on the door, criticising the
absorption centre enabled organised inter- women whose homes they entered about
ference in the most intimate details of dirt, cooking, child care, and so on, on an
immigrants' lives in general, and women's everyday basis.
lives in particular. Being confined to their
homes in the centre made it easier for the Intrusion into the privacy of immigrants
somchot and other officials to approach the Blaming women for failing to clean their
women. The women-immigrants became homes resulted in the confinement of
captive residents in the hands of the women to the home and care of children, and
officials who needed them to reaffirm the a profound stigmatisation. By criticising the
importance and necessity of their positions. women's cleanliness, the somchot created a
The hierarchical structure of the social distance between themselves and the
absorption centre introduced formalised immigrants, asserting their authoritative
inequality into the relationships between position. An Ethiopian friend of mine in the
the somchot and the immigrant women. centre told me, 'My somechet is not good.
These bureaucraticaUy constructed encounters All the time she says, "Why don't you clean
forced the immigrants to comply with the up?" I tell her that I am pregnant, my back
intensive scrutiny of their lives, and with hurts, and I can't stand, but nothing
constant criticism of their behaviour as changes her attitude.' The somchot seemed
housewives and mothers. While I was chatting to take it for granted that cleaning was
in the office one day with a somechet and an exclusively female task. While my friend
another worker, an immigrant woman complained about the unkind and incon-
came in. The somechet turned to her and siderate attitude of her somechet regarding
told her aggressively, 'Enough with the special circumstances, such as being
coffee. You sit for two hours with one pregnant or having guests, she did not,
woman, then she sits for two hours at your however, reject the interference in her
place.' Then she turned to us and added, private life. Neither did she complain about
'Instead of drinking coffee all day long, she the somechet's treatment of her as responsible
should wash her child's head. What do I for cleanliness while ignoring her husband's
do? Every day I comb my daughter's head share in this responsibility.
and check it. The child herself says, "Ma, One day I was invited by one of the
look and see if I have lice".' I asked the somchot to accompany her in visiting one of
somechet what was wrong with drinking 'her' women. I followed her into the
Gender and power relations in a bureaucratic context 65

woman's caravan, which she entered seemed to be able to do was to ignore the
without knocking on the door. The woman offence by continuing her existing task.
who lived there was washing the floor. The following case reveals how far a
It was flooded with water. The radio was somechet could go in interfering in 'her'
loud. With no hesitation, the somechet went women's lives. A short time after a one-
straight to the bedroom and came back year-old baby died, the mother's somechet
with a baby on her arms. She was excited told me, 'I am going to take out her
and full of pride, saying, 'I am crazy about diaphragm, I have fixed her an appointment
this baby.' I asked her cautiously if the with the doctor for tomorrow.' The somechet
baby was not asleep. She answered, 'This is meant well, believing that taking the
not what I care about.' She came closer to diaphragm out would be for the woman's
me and showed me how sweet the baby own good because it would help her to
was, boasting about how much money she become pregnant and overcome her agony.
could get from allowing the American Needless to say, she did not think it was a
visitors5 to take pictures of this baby. She much too intimate matter for her to
said, 'This is the prettiest baby in the interfere with.
centre.' All that time, the mother continued The issue of women's sexuality played a
to wash the floor. The radio went on playing, significant role in daily power relations
and the somechet seemed very triumphant between somchot and immigrant women.
over every smile of the baby, who was Women were firmly encouraged by the
trying to close his eyes. Then the somechet matron and the somchot to use diaphragms
has turned to the woman, reproaching her to prevent pregnancy. They did not
loudly, 'All you need is that the maintenance recommend the contraceptive pill, because
worker sees you washing the floor like the immigrants were considered as too
that.' When I asked her what was wrong forgetful and irresponsible to stick to the
about the way she was washing the floor, daily routine of taking it. Thus, the
the somechet explained, 'This is a PVC floor, bureaucratic construction of gender identity
and flooding it with water spoils it. It must of Ethiopian women involved both pushing
be washed only with a rag.' Later on, I them to adapt to 'modern' Israeli concepts
asked her if she was instructing the of birth control, and an ethnocentric
woman. She replied, 'What for? She does attitude toward the 'primitive' Ethiopian
not need to be taught any more. She knows women. In extending their power over the
everything. I come only to see how things immigrant women into affairs such as the
are... if everything is OK.' use of devices for birth control, the somchot
Feeling free to enter without knocking presented themselves as experts on 'female'
on the door, to step inside the caravan issues.
when it is being washed, to take the A case involving the question of breast-
baby without his mother's permission, feeding illustrates further the interference
disregarding the fact that he is asleep, of the somchot in women's most intimate
reproaching the woman like a little girl in affairs. A young immigrant woman had
front of me, all reflect the structured control difficulties in breast-feeding her premature
of the somchot over the immigrant women, baby. I witnessed an encounter in which a
in 'women's affairs'. The immigrant woman woman's somechet asked the matron for
seemed to behave in a passive helpless infant formula powder to provide for the
way, as having no choice. It seems that she baby. The matron told her that she must try
did not perceive it as possible to reject the to convince 'her' woman to continue trying
intrusion into her private life or to object to to breastfeed the baby. The somechet said
the somechet's treatment of her baby. All she she had tried persuasion already, and the

mother 'did not want to hear about it'. The This goes some way to explain the
matron said, 'You have to tell her she must obsessive intrusion, and the pretence of the
breastfeed the baby. She is so lazy. She is so work being vitally necessary. In fact, the
apathetic. She must try. You give her actual work performed of instructing the
[formula] only if there is no choice. Tell her women in housework was marginal or
that if she does not breastfeed the baby, even non-existent and the somchot had to
he will die.' convince their superiors constantly of their
Withholding the infant formula was a exclusive and unquestioned 'expertise' in
means of ensuring the mother's continuous women's affairs, in child care, and home
dependency on the somechet and her making. In contrast, the centre's secretary
superiors, and diminishing her choices. offered me an explanation of how she
The matron expressed a total disrespect for chose somchot: 'I didn't know a thing about
the mother, disregarding her difficulties, what a somechet is and what is expected
and treating her as being so stupid that she from her, so I asked each of them if she
could even be told that her baby would die had children.'
if she did not breastfeed it. This belittling of In conclusion, the officials in the centre
the immigrant women as rational human - especially the somchot - needed to promote
beings, as well as reasonable mothers, was the idea of the 'the family', with a strict
inherent in many encounters between gender labour division, in order to justify
immigrant women and the somchot. the need for their work. The main 'expertise'
'Taming' the women immigrants also of the somchot was to provide a role model
included positive gestures, encouragement, of a mother and housewife, exercising
and compliments, when they conformed to extensive social control over the female
Israeli stereotypes of the 'ideal woman'. For immigrants in the centre. Through the
example, one day the centre's director somchot, the bureaucratic social environ-
attended a cooking workshop. The centre's ment influenced the women's compliance
secretary and I accompanied him. In the with gender norms and roles derived from
room where the workshop was taking the wider social and economic context in
place, 20 women were sitting around the Israel. The supervision and control exercised
table. The cultural co-ordinator was there, by the officials - again, especially the
tasting the baked cookies. He complimented somchot - over the Ethiopian women
the women on their work. A somechet was increased the latter's dependence and
standing at the head of the table, kneading vulnerability.
cookies and cutting slices for baking. She
talked very loudly, almost shouting at the Conclusion
women. The director tasted the cookies and
commented that he wished the women I have discussed the bureaucratic treatment
would learn to cook so well that they of women from Ethiopia, in terms of power
relations, focusing on how and why they
would be able to invite him to taste cakes at
their homes. Then he patted the somechet's were patronised and socialised into
back in a fatherly way. 'Israeli female' identity and status by the
officials. The case of Ethiopian female
Motivations of somchot in a slack immigrants in an absorption centre has
female labour market been used to illustrate the role of state
It should be stressed that dependency in agencies - and more widely, the role of
the relations between somchot and immigrant agencies in charge of the welfare of
women was not one-sided. The somchot immigrant populations - in constructing
depended on the women for their jobs, in gender inequality and the notion of the
what was a slack female labour market. 'family unit'.
Gender and power relations in a bureaucratic context 67

I conclude that intensive bureaucratic an indirect defence-mechanism response to

care of women within an environment the intensive interventions in their lives.
such as an absorption centre offers a Officials' stereotypical attitudes and
powerful opportunity to officials to behaviour towards the women were largely
influence the gendered role division and rationalised by them on the grounds of the
power relations within the 'family'. By immigrants' cultural background. I suggest
treating the immigrants from Ethiopia in that while the bureaucratic establishment
the absorption centres as 'family members' had a major role in the emergence of
above all, the officials channelled them into gender gaps and differences, it used
the gendered power structure prevailing in cultural explanations to justify its policy. In
wider Israeli society. The officials treated fact, cultural explanations were often used
the family as a closed and distinct system, to mask gender-based discrimination.
and its members as belonging to different
sub-categories within it. While distributing Esther Hertzog is a social anthropologist
resources on a family basis according to a lecturing in the Hebrew University in
strict notion of a gender division of labour, Jerusalem and in Beit Berl College in Israel,
the officials influenced the immigrants' P.O.B. 1146, Michmoret, Israel 40297.
gender roles and, ultimately, power E-mail: estherhertzog@yahoo.com
relations between women and men.
I emphasised and discussed the role
of the somchot in particular in recognition of
their powerful role in socialising women 1 This article is based on 18 months of
immigrants and channelling them into a fieldwork, conducted by the author
'female niche' in Israeli society. It should be between 1984-5 while living among
noted that the fact that somchot instructed the immigrants in a caravan in an
women immigrants from Ethiopia, but not absorption centre (Hertzog 1999).
immigrant women from other countries, 2 Absorption centres form an Israeli social
reveals patronising attitudes toward the framework, owned by the Jewish
Ethiopian immigrants in particular. Agency. They concentrate Jewish
What alternative courses might policies immigrants into Israel and offer them
towards the immigrants have taken? various services, intended to facilitate
'Direct'6 rather than 'indirect' absorption, their adaptation to their new context.
allowing the immediate integration of the Absorption centres were established in
immigrants in permanent housing, schools, the 1960s to accommodate immigrants
and employment instead of concentrating from Eastern Europe and Anglo-Saxon
them in absorption centres, and trans- countries. In the 1980s and 1990s they
ferring resources directly to the immigrants were used mainly for immigrants from
themselves and not through the mediation Ethiopia and a few immigrants from
of the absorption bureaucracy, would have Russia. The immigrants were taken
accelerated the integration processes, as directly from the airport to the
well as avoiding the humiliating scrutiny absorption centres. Forty-five centres
that immigrants were subjected to. Turning were made available to accommodate
the immigrants, and the women in the Ethiopian immigrants who arrived
particular, into captive citizens in the during Operation Moses towards the
absorption centre while being supervised end of 1984. Another 13 centres were
by officials prolonged their dependence. filled by March 1985, and about 11 hotels
Women reacted by behaving in a deliberately were rented and used as temporary
passive way when interacting with the accommodation for the immigrants. As
officials, to make themselves 'invisible', as this arrangement was very costly, the

immigrants were transferred to Israel, without staying in absorption

absorption centres after about a year. frameworks beforehand. This term has
Only immediate families were sent to been introduced into the 'absorption'
the same place by the Jewish Agency discourse since the beginning of the
officials. Extended families were sent to 1990s, when the mass immigration from
different sites, according to available Russia started. Over the 1990s around a
space. Young immigrants were sent to million people arrived in the country,
special absorption centres. Children and received generous financial aid from
under 17 who arrived without their the State. This absorption is considered
parents were referred to youth boarding as having been very successful. Most of
schools. Soon after arrival at the centre the immigrants were rapidly integrated
the immigrants underwent medical in the labour market, and have been
examinations and treatment. A few days successful in all spheres of life: the
later they started their language studies professional, the cultural, and the
in the 'Ulpan', Hebrew classes for adult political (Siegel 1998).
immigrants. The Ethiopian immigrants
were offered ten months of Ulpan References
studies. Immigrants were meant to stay
Banai, N. (1988) Ethiopian Absorption - The
in the absorption centre for one year, but
the majority of them stayed there for Hidden Challenge, Jerusalem: United
Israel Appeal
two or more years. Today (August 2001)
five centres are active and some six Ben-Ezer, G. (1985) 'Cross-cultural
additional centres are about to be misunderstandings: the case of Ethiopian
opened for immigrants from Ethiopia, immigrant Jews in Israeli society', Israel
Social Science Research 3(1-2)
who continue to be sent straight from
the airport to the absorption centres. Benita, E., G. Noam, and R. Levy (1993) 'The
Absorption of Ethiopian Immigrants:
3 The Jewish Agency is a world-wide Findings from a Survey in Kiryat Gat',
Jewish organisation, founded in 1929, discussion paper, Jerusalem: JDC
that encourages and assists Jews to settle Brookdale Institute (in Hebrew)
in Israel. The absorption centres founded Benita, E. and G. Noam (1995) 'Selected
by the Agency are one of its main means findings from local surveys', Israel Social
of assisting immigrants during their first Science Research 10(2)
years in the country. Bernstein, D. (1981) 'Immigrant transit
4 Falasha is the name given to a Jew in camps - the formation of dependence
Ethiopia by the Christian Amhara. relations in Israeli society', ERS Ethnic
It means stranger, or foreigner, someone and Social Studies 4(1)
who does not have the right to own land Central Bureau of Statistics (2000) Statistical
in Ethiopia. Abstract of Israel, Jerusalem: Central
5 Busloads of visitors, mainly from the US, Bureau of Statistics (in Hebrew)
were often sent to the centres by the Eisenstadt, S.N. (1954) The Absorption of
directors of the Jewish Agency as a Immigrants, London: Routledge
technique for raising money. The visitors Eran, Y. (1989) Vocational Absorption of
would be presented with the 'needy Ethiopian Immigrants 1984-1987,
Jewish immigrants' who are treated by Jerusalem: Amishav, The Center for Aid
the organisation's staff 'with great and The Employment Service (in Hebrew)
devotion'. Etgar, T. (1977) Chonchim Ve Somchot,
6 'Direct', as opposed to 'indirect', Services for Assisting and Advancing
absorption refers to the immediate Families, Jerusalem: Ministry for Welfare
integration of Jewish newcomers to and Labour (in Hebrew)
Gender and power relations in a bureaucratic context 69

Hertzog, E. (1999) Immigrants and Rozen, C. (1985) 'Core symbols of

Bureaucrats, Ethiopians in an Israeli Ethiopian identity and their role in
Absorption Center, New York and Oxford: understanding the Beta Israel today',
Berghahn Israel Social Science Research 3(1-2)
Jewish Agency (1984) 'A model for the Schoenberger, M. (1975) 'The Falashas of
Absorption of Ethiopian Immigrants in Ethiopia, an Ethnographic Study',
Transition Frameworks. A Working doctoral thesis, University of Cambridge,
Paper for the Planning Team, Directors UK.
of Absorption Centres for Ethiopians', Shokeid, M. and S. Deshen (1977) The
Jerusalem: Jewish Agency (in Hebrew) Generation of Transition, Continuity and
Kahana, Y. (1977) Among Long-Lost Brothers, Change Among North African Immigrants
A Young Israeli Woman Discovers the in Israel, Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi
Falashas, Tel-Aviv: Am Oved (in Hebrew) (in Hebrew)
Marx, E. (1976) The Social Context of Violent Siegel, D. (1998) The Great Immigration:
Behaviour, A Social Anthropological Study Russian Jews in Israel, New York:
in an Israeli Immigrant Town, London: Berghahn
Messing, S.D. (1982) The Story of the
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Patai, R. (1970) Israel Between East and West,
A Study in Human Relations, Westport
CT: Greenwood Publishing

Gendering ethnicity in
forgotten elements in promoting peace
and democracy
L.M. Handrahan
Women's potential positive role in preventing and arresting ethnic conflict, and their obvious absence
in conflict resolution initiatives, has been largely ignored and negated from community level to the
level of international donors. Traditionally, ethnicity has been treated as a gender-neutral identity,
when, in fact, academics and development professionals have tended to examine ethnic issues from a
male perspective. The following article shows how ethnicity is a gendered concept by drawing on
research conducted in Kyrgyzstan in 1999. This research demonstrates that women, more often
than men, reject an ethnic identity in favour of a gender identity. This favouring of a gender identity
over an ethnic identity allows women to be more open than men to working with ethnically 'different'
women across contested ethnic lines. This gendered aspect of ethnicity provides a powerful device for
preventing ethnic violence that has, to date, been overlooked by those involved in promoting peace and
democracy through development assistance.

Ethnicity and its relevance During times of political transition,

to the promotion of concepts of identity, including ethnicity, are
in flux. Democratic 'transitions', thus, often
occur alongside heightened feelings of

thnicity is defined as the means by nationalism and ethnic conflict. What is
which community leaders maintain strikingly constant in conflict situations is
boundaries between social groups, the 'link between citizenship and the
through markers of ethnic or group identity division between women and men that
such as religion, language, lifestyle, kinship, war, and the preparations for war, enforces'
homeland, visible characteristics, and (Benton 1998, 27). It is only through
gender roles and relations. These markers separation from the household, i.e., women
do not have a permanent order of priority, and children, that the creation of a male
and ethnic groups do not always assume all community, a fraternity, becomes possible
these boundary markers. Rather, ethnic (Charles and Hintjens 1998, 17). Thus, if
boundaries allow a community, largely fraternity can only be maintained
regulated by its male leaders, to establish, outside the home, the 'selfless, communal
understand, and define their internal and experience of brotherhood, which is the
external identity. Features chosen during model of civic virtue' is unsustainable
the process of identity marking are not without war (Benton 1998, 43). Therein,
necessarily objective elements of reality but male conflict becomes a necessary component
have meaning for that community, of citizenship, civil virtue, ethnic identity,
representing expressions of group ideas, and communal belonging and value. 'It is
values, and history (Mach 1993). this fraternity that makes it possible, over
Gendering ethnicity in Kyrgyzstan 71

the past two centuries, for so many millions Agency for International Development
of people, not so much to kill, as willingly to (USAID), have failed to include substantial
die for such limited imaginings.' (Anderson consideration of ethnicity within their
1991, 7) The relatively unexamined gendered programmes.
constructs of identity are important in these This article attempts to address these
situations because gender divisions assist in analytical gaps through considering both
understanding the 'fraternal' and violent gender and ethnicity as variables in
aspects of ethnic conflict (Allen 1998, 59).1 research into United States (US) democracy
assistance, administered by USAID, to
Kyrgyzstan, a formerly Soviet country in
Civil society, gender, and Central Asia. The former Soviet Union
democracy promotion (FSU) is an excellent location to examine
The promotion of democracy within the gender and ethnicity within the framework
practice of development assistance has been of democracy, because these countries,
popular, in western development circles, emerging from communist rule, have been
throughout the 1990s. Within democracy the context for pilot programmes testing
development, support for civil society has western democratic theory and assistance.
been, and remains, a favourite programme Kyrgyzstan was selected by USAID as a
'tool', as it is widely accepted that an 'laboratory' for democracy assistance
active civil society will necessarily programming, and consequently received
encourage, if not secure, democracy in so- the largest per capita amount of USAID
called 'transition' countries. democracy assistance allocated to Central
Promoting civil society is a goal so Asia during the 1990s (USAID 2000).
popular that it rarely provokes critical
thought. Those few who have begun to
think critically about the issue, such as
Kyrgyzstan, the context
Carothers and Ottaway (2000), often fail to On August 31, 1991, the Soviet Kyrgyz
consider it from a gender perspective - Republic became the independent secular
although the gender distinctions between state of Kyrgyzstan. This was not the result
civil societies, largely comprised of women, of an independence movement. Instead, the
and global political and foreign assistance Soviet Union removed itself from Central
structures, largely comprised of men, seem Asia, resulting in 'an abrupt and unexpected
apparent.2 Thus, uncritical promotion of end to membership in what most residents
civil society is compounded by ignoring a regarded as a legitimate political community'
key variable, gender. (Huskey 1999, 3).
In addition to an absence of rigorous Original western euphoria over
gender analysis, the influence of ethnicity Kyrgyzstan's commitment to democracy
within democratic transitions is often and economic reform, embodied in President
overlooked. Since democracy aid is meant Akaev, has significantly diminished since
to assist countries in overcoming barriers 1991 due to increasing government
that might block democratic consolidation, repression and corruption. The first serious
and ethnic conflict represents a potentially retardation of democratic development
formidable deterrent, programming around began in 1994, when President Akaev
issues of ethnicity should be a priority launched a number of authoritarian
within democracy assistance design. Yet, offensives. 1996 brought Akaev's February
despite the relevance of ethnicity to the referendum, which violated both the
success of democracy assistance, many Constitution and the Law on Referendums,
donor agencies, including the United States and greatly extended presidential powers

(US Department of State 1995; 2000). Akaev tensions and patronage. Important govern-
has also taken serious measures (mainly via mental institutions, such as the akims
the courts) to silence and subjugate the (regional governors), internal police, the
media (Pannier 1997, 94). These controls White House, and law enforcement organs
were evident in the February/March 2000 such as the courts and the police, blatantly
parliamentary elections, when Akaev function as ethnic Kyrgyz preserves. The
attempted to control both the process and system of rewards, favours, bribes, perks,
the outcome of the elections through the and punishment in Kyrgyzstan today is
courts and the media. clearly ethnically Kyrgyz and male
(Anderson 1999, 23-62). This ethnically
based corruption interferes with the
The relevance of ethnicity government's ability to provide citizens
Ethnicity in Kyrgyzstan lies at the centre of with the most basic social and economic
a complex web of economic, social, and rights, creating increased public frustration.
political relations with origins in the 1920s The disgruntled population includes the
Soviet forced population movement of new ethnic minorities, the Russians,
minorities and the arbitrary redesignation Muslim insurgents in southern Kyrgyzstan,
of districts containing Central Asia's ethnic and alienated Kyrgyz male youth who
groups. When creating the republics of represent a serious threat to public order
Soviet Central Asia the Soviets hoped to and provide a potentially strong support
'modernise' Central Asia and prevent any for extremist politics.
unified anti-Soviet force. This was
accomplished through a divide-and-rule
tactic of creating five distinct national The relevance of gender
entities, each with sufficient ethnic An overview of Kyrgyz history since
diversity that no one 'minority' held a independence (1991-2000) demonstrates the
majority. constant pressure on women to conform to
There were also two major immigrant various aspects of new identities that are
streams during Soviet rule that further in competition for dominant socio-political
complicated ethnic relations. First, power. Within the framework of Kyrgyzstan's
there was a massive influx of Russians, 'democratic' transition, Muslim ideas of
Ukrainians, Jews, Tatars, Armenians, and female identity vie for attention alongside
other Europeans between 1926-59.3 Second, 'western' or democratic concepts of a
Stalin's deportation policies brought 'woman', and both notions are attempting
Koreans, Crimeans, Germans, and Turks to to replace the established norm of the
Central Asia as punishment for collective Soviet model. These conflicting male
disloyalty during World War II. Under the definitions of ethnicities and their gendered
USSR, ethnic Russians accounted for 22-59 identities are resulting in extremely high
per cent of the population and were levels of violence against women.4 The
concentrated in the capital cities of Central increased reports of female slavery (sharoo),
Asia. Ethnic Central Asians were largely prostitution, trafficking in women, rapes,
excluded from the best education and gang rapes, murders, bride kidnapping,
employment opportunities, as well as sexual and domestic violence, and extreme
health services that were primarily created poverty are indicative of a society in
and set aside for Russians and concentrated turmoil with conflicts of gender (as defined
in the capital cities. by each competing socio-political identity)
Currently, the entire political culture in and, hence, women, situated at the centre of
Kyrgyzstan exists under a shadow of ethnic the crisis.
Gendering ethnicity in Kyrgyzstan 73

Yet events and trends in Kyrgyzstan are officials, and non-governmental organisation
often paradoxical, and gender roles are no (NGO) leaders. Interviewees were asked to
exception. While violence against women is define their understanding of the concepts
reaching emergency levels, women's of ethnicity, democracy, gender, and
participation as leaders of civil society is citizenship, and to describe their own
also extremely high. Bride kidnapping may 'primary identity'. The second survey set
be on the increase yet so are the numbers of targeted foreigners who worked for USAID
women graduating from post-secondary as 'partner' organisations delivering aid for
education. As the Asian Development Bank democracy to Kyrgyzstan. This group was
reports, 'While women are among those asked to give their views on local concepts
groups most seriously affected by the of democracy, ethnicity, citizenship, civil
overall decline in social indicators, they society, and gender. The findings of both
have also become a major driving force in survey sets were compared for similarities
the political and economic reform.' and differences in international and local
(Kuehnast et al. 1997, 2) understanding. Unfortunately, only two
people agreed to interviews for the second
survey set. This high no-response rate is
The research not surprising when compared to USAID's
As a human rights specialist, I was working own staggering no-response rate for a
on a United Nations democracy project in 'stocktaking' survey USAID conducted of
Kyrgyzstan from 1996-7. Frustrated by the its own staff and partner NGOs in the late
way democracy assistance was, or rather 1990s.
was not, functioning, I set out to examine
more fully the weakness of democracy
promotion in Kyrgyzstan - in particular in Research results
relation to gender and ethnicity - in the The results of my research demonstrate
context of academic study. This article is that understanding gendered aspects of
based on my doctoral research at the ethnicity may prove vital to the develop-
Gender Institute of the London School of ment of civil society within the framework
Economics and Political Science (LSE). The of democracy assistance. Analysing
field research was conducted in Kyrgyzstan democracy assistance in Kyrgyzstan by
during August to November 1999 and was gender and ethnicity demonstrates, first,
funded by a US Department of State grant. that women are more fully involved in civil
It focused on a random sample of clusters society than men; and, secondly, that
of the adult population, chosen by entering women's sense of identity is bound up
local markets in the capital cities of each more with their gender than with their
region, known in Kyrgyzstan as oblasts. ethnicity, and that when they do identify
Research methods included self-report with their ethnicity, they understand this
techniques mixed with interviews consisting differently from men; and finally, that there
of closed-end quantitative questions and is a greater male identification with
informal, open-ended qualitative questions. ethnicity and with official identities such as
Finally, an informal observational component citizenship and political representation.
proved critical in overcoming tainted
survey results, building trust in the Gender and 'primary identity'
target population, and contributing to the The responses to questions relating to
qualitative research. primary identity provided overwhelming
Two survey sets were used. The first evidence that for women, gender is more of
survey set targeted Kyrgyz citizens a primary identity than ethnicity, and that
including adults, children, government men view ethnicity more as a primary

identity than gender. A typical view was, bridging ethnic communities is not
'Anyone can be a man but I am a Kyrgyz surprising. Correspondingly, if men,
man!' This close identification by men with particularly young men, hold a higher
their ethnicity was particularly true for affinity for ethnic identity, then it is not
younger men in the south of Kyrgyzstan. surprising that a man who feels his ethnic
When questioned about how the identity is threatened may resort to
opposite sex perceived their own self- defensive tactics, including violence.
identity, vis-a-vis gender or ethnicity as the
primary identity, both men and women Who passes on ideas about ethnic
responded that gender was more important identity?
for women, and ethnicity was more important The majority of respondents stated that
for men. The women interviewed also notions of ethnic identity were transmitted
appeared to understand their ethnicity in a by men. Most respondents said their
less antagonistic way than men, with children's identity was defined by the
women less likely to define their ethnicity father's family. Kyrgyzstan is a highly
with adjectives and events that presumed a patriarchal society, and the survey results
conflict with 'the other'. Women associated indicate that women have little control over
ethnicity with cultural artefacts such as the content and means of passing on
jewellery, food, and clothing while men information regarding ethnic identity to
made more active, and sometimes violent, their children. This differed in the southern
associations between ethnic identity and region where more women than in any
practices including sheep polo, national other region responded that it was mothers
games, and female subjugation such as who determined ethnic identity and
bride kidnapping. These results provided educated children about these issues. This
evidence of the association of male violence response came predominantly from
with ethnic identity. younger, non-Kyrgyz women.
In response to questions about what Most adults claimed that they had
human qualities people associated with learned about ethnicity in school, yet only a
their ethnicity, more than half of the men small percentage indicated that their
responded with negative adjectives, children learned about ethnicity at school.
denoting dissatisfaction and negative self- Despite these differences, schools still
images, while more than half of the women emerged as the main source of education
responded with positive adjectives. More on ethnic identity. This is important for
women and men in the southern region future donors seeking to promote
gave negative answers, and younger education about tolerance of ethnic
people were more likely to give negative difference.
answers than older people. The negative
impressions of self on the part of male Gendered views of citizenship and
youth from the southern region is a concern political participation
that should be factored into development The second important finding of the
programmes dealing with southern poverty research was that, while NGO work was
and identity issues. perceived as appropriate for women,
Overall, these results provided greater citizenship and political participation were
insight into the apparent willingness of considered to be male concerns. The NGOs,
women to cross ethnic boundaries and akims, and USAID partners interviewed
work together in situations of ethnic all thought that gender was highly
conflict. If, indeed, gender is more important significant in concepts of citizenship, with
than ethnicity for women, the fact that citizens perceived and expected to be men.
women are willing to co-operate in One USAID partner stated, 'Women are
Gendering ethnicity in Kyrgyzstan 75

submissive and it is the culture for them to women were not free to participate actively
be in the background. The majority accepts in formal political structures due to
this role. The few that don't are, quite patriarchal behaviour and systematic
literally, outcasts.' institutional and societal restrictions. A
Paradoxically, all those interviewed female NGO worker commented that, 'Men
shared the perception that women were don't want women in parliament, they
overwhelmingly prominent in the associ- [men] do everything to push them behind.'
ations of civil society. However, unlike While akims encouraged women to
western understandings of the close link manage the NGOs, when asked if women
between civil society and democracy, the should be involved in politics all akims
Kyrgyz recognition of women's role in civil responded that women's place was not in
society was not taken as evidence of their politics but 'in the home'. Men, akims
centrality to processes of democratisation. claimed, belonged in politics because men
On the contrary, the strong association are more responsible than women. A
between women and civil society was typical view was expressed by one akim,
understood as a marker of the lesser who said, 'Kyrgyz [women] should stay at
importance of NGOs in comparison with home and look after children/ as opposed
elected and appointed political positions. to entering politics. Another said, 'Men
Men welcomed women's involvement in better understand the concepts of citizen-
the 'less important' sphere of civil society, ship because they feel a responsibility for
seeing it as work appropriate for women, their family and the republic.' However,
while politics was viewed as 'men's work'. the akims demonstrated a distinct lack of
All akims thought that all or most NGOs understanding that government officials
were led by women, should be led by were representatives of the population
women, and are part of democracy. and/or public servants, by responding that
NGO leaders claimed that women were 'government' was understood to mean
dominant in NGO work because it is the President Akaev.
'dirty, unwanted' work of society with A different analysis of women's
which the (male) government does not presence in NGOs came from within the
want to be bothered. Women dominate organisations themselves. Predictably, an
civil society, according to NGO leaders, overwhelming majority of the NGOs
'because women always get the most surveyed thought that NGOs were beneficial
difficult tasks to deal with,' and, 'because for society. Among NGOs surveyed on
it's available and it's not paid'. Therefore, issues relating to democracy and
the NGOs reported, women are allowed, governance issues, progressive democratic
even encouraged, to manage the NGO elements of society were seen to originate
sector. Akims confirmed this notion with from civil society, citizens, and the
one akim stating, 'We need them [NGOs] population. Conversely, regression in
for our society... they do the difficult work.' democratic advancement was blamed on
NGO leaders also suggested that government action.
women participate in civil society because There was some indication that USAID
this is a more accessible route to public partner NGOs were aware of the complex
service than participation in government. gendered nature of participation in
One NGO leader described NGOs as, 'the government and civil society, with USAID
only way for women to manifest them- partners claiming that women were treated
selves'. While government positions were 'as second-class citizens'. USAID partners,
deemed both important and desirable to like NGOs and government officials,
women, NGO leaders, male government thought NGOs were beneficial for society
officials, and USAID partners all stated that and that they exist within the domain of

women. USAID partner responses also research in Kyrgyzstan, 93 per cent of

mirrored the local NGO responses in that US democracy assistance senior-level
they perceived women as being more managers, both of USAID staff and partner
responsible and therefore 'better' at NGO organisations in Washington DC and
work. However, my research suggested Kyrgyzstan, were men.
that USAID partners lacked the ability to USAID's development assistance has
inform USAID programming about these neither examined nor understood the
dynamics due to weak, if not non-existent, complex social realities within which
USAID feedback mechanisms between women operate. In addition, it has failed
USAID staff and the USAID partner to recognise the powerful potential role
organisations that implement USAID's that women can play in consolidating real
programs in the field. democratic gains. Women must be allowed
and encouraged to translate their local
social action into the political decision-
Conclusions making arena. The non-recognition of the
This research confirms the body of academic female ability to reject an ethnic identity
literature that argues that concepts of in favour of a gender identity and then
democracy, citizenship, and civil society work across ethnic lines within their
are highly gendered, to the disadvantage of universal role as caretakers and leaders of
women. As Reid and Burlet (1998) note, civil society, indicates that a powerful
'Critics argue that, in practice, women's tool for the prevention of ethnic violence
attempts to (re)articulate and forge social has also been overlooked (Reid and Burlet
change within communities have often 1998). Moreover, the promotion by USAID
been interpreted as a threat to the status and other international donors of male
quo by both community members and the leaders has largely reasserted the public-
wider system of power.' (Reid and Burlet private dichotomy and helped to foster
1998, 274) Thus, while women may be the establishment of dominant male
'agents of positive change' because of the ideologies, particularly within 'new
way in which they understand ethnicity democracies'.
and their active participation in civil The rhetoric about the importance of
society, their power to catalyse change, civil society will remain such unless
promote democratic values, and prevent theorists and practitioners of democracy
ethnic conflict appears to be, at the very incorporate gendered aspects of both
least, circumscribed by their own national civil society and political power into
male governments as well as by male- understandings of how civil society,
dominated foreign donors, such as USAID, democracy, and ethnicity operate. Thus far,
which fail to conceptualise both the the type of critical gender analysis
paradoxes and power of gender. that would reveal these dilemmas has not
There is an evident frustration, expressed occurred within USAID assistance. Instead,
by women NGO leaders, that they are not there appears to be a naive and ill-
included in decision-making positions that informed celebration of civil society,
hold real political power. Democracy lacking in any comprehensive under-
practitioners affiliated with USAID rarely standing of gendered dimensions and the
questioned the gender mismatch between implications these have in preventing
who represents civil society through authentic political power and repre-
involvement in NGO work, who makes up sentation for women as well as the
national government, and who dominates untapped potential of promoting
foreign assistance decision-making democratic institutions and preventing
structures. For instance, during my ethnic conflict.
Gendering ethnicity in Kyrgyzstan 77

L.M.Handrahan is an adjunct professor at violence against women become that the

American University and an independent UN issued a report warning the
human rights and gender consultant government to address the issue.
(www.finvola.com). Her book, Gendering 'In the face of widespread violence against
Ethnicity, will be published by Routledge this Kyrgyz women - including domestic violence,
winter. gang rape, and systematic assault and battery
- expert members of the Committee on the
Notes Elimination of Discrimination against
Women... urged Kyrgyzstan to re-evaluate
1 'Women are used in defining boundaries its programs and policies.... Astonished at
and asserting the dominance of some the rise in the number of vicious crimes
men over other men through the against women, they pressed the Government
protection of "their" women... to protect to identify the root causes of those grave
"their" women they engage in violent phenomena and devise ways to suppress it.'
conflict and rape the women of "their" (United Nations 1999)
enemies.'(Allen 1998, 59) Also described
in the Reid and Burlet (1998) study.
2 This finding reflects a wider global References
norm, whereby 13.7 per cent of members Allen, S. (1998) 'Identity, feminist
of national parliaments globally are perspectives on "race", ethnicity, and
women and seven per cent of the world's nationality', in N. Charles and H. Hintjens
total cabinet ministers are women (eds) Gender, Ethnicity and Political
(http://www.learningpartnership.org/ Ideologies, London: Routledge
stats.html, accessed 29 May 2001, Anderson, B. (1991) Imagined Communities,
and Inter-Parliamentary Union, Reflections of the Origins and Spread of
http:/ /www.ipu.org/wmn-e/ Nationalism, London: Verso
world.htm, accessed 29 May 2001). Anderson, J. (1999) Kyrgyzstan: Central
3 All white Eurasians are thought of as Asia's Island of Democracy?, Amsterdam:
European in Central Asia. As Fydor Harwood
Dostoyevsky said of Russians and Benton, S. (1998) 'Founding fathers and
Russia's interest in Central Asia, 'In earth mothers, women's place at the
Europe we are hangers-on and slaves, "birth" of nations', in N. Charles and
whereas we shall go to Asia as masters.... H. Hintjens (eds) Gender, Ethnicity and
In Europe we were Asiatics, whereas Political Ideologies, London: Routledge
in Asia we, too, are Europeans.' Carley, P. (1995) 'The legacy of the Soviet
(Dostoyevsky in Meyer 1999,169) political system and the present prospects
4 Carley calls these the murky aspects that for developing civil society in Central Asia',
are crucial and hard to pin down, some in V. Tismaneau (ed.) Political Culture and
of which plague the entire FSU, like the Civil Society in Russia and the New States of
absence of reformed legal institutions, Eurasia, Armonk NY: M.E. Sharpe
and some of which are particular to Carothers, T. a n d M. Ottaway (2000)
Central Asia, such as the identity crisis. Funding Virtue, Civil Society Aid and
In sum, Central Asia exhibits many Democracy Promotion, Washington DC:
ambiguous determinants with few Carnegie Endowment
absolutes (Carley 1995, 293). 'During the Charles, N. and H. Hintjens (1998) 'Gender,
transition, female enrolment in higher ethnicity and cultural identity, women's
education has risen from 55 per cent to "places'", in N. Charles and H. Hintjens
66 per cent of all students.' (Kuehnast Gender, Ethnicity and Political Ideologies,
et al. 1997, 39) So extreme has the London: Routledge

Huskey, E. (1999) 'An Economy of United Nations (1999) 'In Face of

Authoritarianism? Askar Akaev and Widespread Violence against Kyrgyz
Presidential Leadership in Kyrgyzstan', Women, Kyrgyzstan Urged to Re-
unpublished paper. Evaluate its Programs and Policies',
Kuehnast, A. et al. (1997) Women and Gender Geneva: United Nations
Relations, the Kyrgyz Republic in Transition, USAID (2000) 'A Record of Accomplishment7,
Manila: The Asian Development Bank Washington DC: USAID, h t t p : / /
Mach, Z. (1993) Symbols, Conflict, and www.usaid.gov (last checked by the
Identity, Essays in Political Anthropology, author September 2000)
Albany: State University of New York US Department of State (1995) 'US
Meyer, K. and S. Blair Brysac (1999) Department of State, Kyrgys Republic
Tournament of Shadows, Washington DC: Human Rights Practices, 1994',
Counterpoint Washington DC: US Department of State
Pannier, B. (1997) 'President acquires more US Department of State (2000) 'US
power in Kyrgyzstan', Transitions 94-5 Department of State, Kyrgys Republic
Reid, H. and S. Burlet (1998) 'A gendered Human Rights Practices, 2001',
uprising, political representation and Washington DC: US Department of State
minority ethnic communities', Ethnic and
Racial Studies 21(2), 217-85

Reconstructing roles and

women's participation in reconstruction
in post-Mitch Nicaragua
Sarah Bradshaw
Hurricane Mitch, which took place in October 1998, affected millions of people in Central America, in
Honduras and Nicaragua in particular. In Nicaragua, following the hurricane, many civil society
organisations mobilised to participate in reconstruction, and to present alternatives to the
government's reconstruction plans. The newly-formed Civil Co-ordinator for Emergency and
Reconstruction (CCER), a coalition of NGOs, undertook a large-scale social audit of the
reconstruction process. This article presents the results of the audit alongside more in-depth research
to provide a gendered analysis of the reconstruction. It focuses on the roles of women in
reconstruction, their participation and leadership in reconstruction projects and in individual
household responses, and questions whether reconstruction projects have had any impact on
transforming gender relations in post-hurricane communities.

coalition of 350 national NGO and other

n October 1998, Central America
suffered one of the worst disasters in civil society organisations. The CCER from
over 200 years. Hurricane Mitch affected the outset sought to combine practical,
almost 3.5 million people in the region, research, and advocacy roles, to use
leaving 18,000 dead or disappeared - the information gathered on the emergency
majority in Honduras and Nicaragua. and reconstruction process to lobby
In Nicaragua, the hurricane brought national and international policy makers,
inequalities and vulnerabilities into sharp and thus to improve response to the needs
focus. However, there were hopes that the of the people.
destruction would create links between In order to understand the situation
civil society, national and local govern- better, a social audit was conducted by the
ments, and the international community, in CCER. Two phases of this large-scale social
order to construct strategies for sustainable survey are now complete and the third is
human development that would focus on close to completion. The first stage, carried
people, and poor and marginalised people out in February 1999, surveyed some 10,500
in particular. households in 61 of the worst-affected
Mitch did act as a catalyst for the municipalities on their opinions about the
organisation of civil society and the develop- relief operations and the damages they
ment of plans for the transformation of the suffered. The second stage, in September of
region through processes of reconstruction. the same year, focused on reconstruction
One outcome in Nicaragua was the efforts and involved 6,000 households in
formation of the Civil Co-ordinator for 48 of the municipalities affected.1
Emergency and Reconstruction (CCER), a

Working for Puntos de Encuentro, a Household response to

Nicaraguan feminist NGO, I have been crisis
involved with the CCER since its inception,
and have been a member of the commission In general, the level of damage suffered
responsible for the design and analysis of by those affected by the hurricane
did not
the social audits completed to date. The vary significantly by sex. One area where
results of the social audit, and of a more a gender difference in the impact of
in-depth, complementary study in four Hurricane Mitch can be perceived, however,
communities affected by the hurricane is in terms of its emotional effects on those
which I co-ordinated for Puntos de Encuentro, who were affected by it. In the February
following the hurricane more than one in
will form the basis of this article.2
five people interviewed for the social audit
The results of the social audit highlight reported that someone in their household
how reconstruction in Nicaragua, to the was very emotionally affected. Three
extent that it has taken place, has occurred quarters of the people reported as affected
largely via national and international were women or girls. More female heads
NGOs. Government initiatives have been reported a person in the household being
few, and largely centred on large-scale affected emotionally by the hurricane, as
transport infrastructure projects. Indeed to compared with male-headed households.
the question, 'What is the most important However, this result may be better
thing the government has done in the explained by the fact that the data also
reconstruction process?', 60 per cent of suggests that men, and younger people,
those interviewed in the September social are less likely to report emotional impacts -
audit replied, 'Nothing.' This figure rose to rather than being the result of any
over 90 per cent in some regions. inherent characteristics of female-headed
In the face of this lack of action by households.
the government, civil society began to
criticise government plans and to present The passing of Hurricane Mitch
alternatives. The CCER proposal for During the crisis, and in the immediate
reconstruction, which was presented at aftermath, when communities were isolated
international consultative group meetings due to damaged infrastructure, men and
women worked together to evacuate
in Washington and Stockholm, calls for
people, move belongings, and later to clear
reconstruction guided by a shared vision
the roads and make safe passages.
of sustainable human development. The
From in-depth interviews with men and
proposal places as central the need to women in affected communities,4 a small
reduce social and environmental vulner- proportion of the men suggested that
ability, and stresses that this will only be during this time the women were inactive.
achieved if unequal relations of power This was sometimes cited as general
based on age, ethnic origin, class, and inactivity, 'They only went about with
gender are challenged and overcome. their arms folded, the poor things, crying
An analysis of the extent to which this has for their things that were flooding,'
been attempted and successful 'on the or specifically the result of their child care
ground' will be the focus of this paper. responsibilities, '[They did] nothing, the
It will consider the roles of women in poor things, sought ways to take care of the
reconstruction, and their participation and children who were becoming ill.' Thus,
leadership in reconstruction projects and while women were performing 'traditional'
in individual household responses. female activities such as child care,
preparation of what little food was available,
Women's participation in reconstruction in post-Mitch Nicaragua 81

and caring for the sick, they were seen by Reconstruction responses and their
men as 'doing nothing'. consequences
The majority of men recognised the In the longer term, Mitch has had a number
work of women, however, when this work of consequences for the roles that men and.
was outside the traditional: women typically perform. However, these
'As the river started to rise more quickly we changes are not necessarily in line with
started to organise and we helped those that those suggested by the literature on the
had more things to lose, to rescue youngsters, theme around coping responses. For
belongings, to evacuate them, the women example rather than women entering into
helping, rescuing other women...all the productive work or diversifying their
people struggled....' productive activities, as predicted by the
While recognising women's contribution literature, the proportion of women in
on one level, women's activities were often productive activities has in fact declined
presented as 'helping' men in their post-Mitch, both in absolute numbers and
activities. There was a noticeable division relative to men's employment in income-
between men and women, who performed generating activities.5 What this means is
different activities, and who organised into that a larger proportion of households now
separate all female or all male work groups. rely on a single, male income earner. This
One man noted of his wife's activities: typically decreases women's access to and
'She went with the women looking how to control over household resources.
repair the road.... The men in front and
they [the women] coming behind with However, differences are apparent
rocks....' between women in different types of
After the initial passing of the households. More women in male-headed
hurricane, even for those men who households than female heads of household
recognised women's 'help' with more ceased to perform productive activities
traditionally male activities, sharper post-Mitch. Thus, while female heads who
divisions between men's and women's could not continue with their pre-Mitch
activities became clear, 'The women on activities sought alternative income-
their own account have not done anything generating work, women in male-headed
more than to organise to do a census,' and households appear not to have done so to
women's important activities once again the same extent. Women in male-headed
became undervalued. households who lost their income-generating
Women mentioned activities such as activity appear to have returned to the
mending roads, walking many miles in home rather than seeking alternative
search of food and other types of help, and activities. This suggests one impact of
making makeshift shelters during the
Mitch to be a reinforcing of 'traditional'
immediate crisis. In their opinion at least,
women's roles rather than a transformation
their work during this time was of equal
value to that of the men. Many women and diversification of gender roles. Other
noted, however, that men had a different trends suggest that the situation is not
opinion about either the value of their quite so clear cut. During the social audit,
contribution, 'The men say that women women were asked about their ideas
work less - "You don't work equally to me, of who made (pre-Mitch) and makes
women can't work, they don't know how (post-Mitch) the most important contribution
to",' or about whether they contributed at to the household.
all. 'Men recognised our contribution at the
time. Some have now forgotten.'

Women's perceptions of their showed changes in perceptions. In male-

contribution, pre- and post-Mitch headed households, more female partners
Before proceeding to discuss the changes in stated that it was they who made the most
women's opinions around contribution to important contribution to the household
the household, it is important to note that after Mitch. However, more female heads
they are opinions only. The perception that of household stated that, post-Mitch,
a woman, or her male partner, has of who someone else in the household, usually an
contributes most to the household does not adult son, was making the most important
necessarily reflect who actually earns the contribution.
most, or who works hardest. Post-Mitch then, the research suggests
Perceptions of contribution are complex a decline in female heads' perceptions of
to analyse. They are based on more than their own contribution at a time when it
just monetary valuations, being dependent would appear that such women are actually
also on social norms and individual contributing more: not only continuing
characteristics, such as levels of self-esteem, with their productive work but also partici-
for example. Nonetheless, income- pating in higher numbers than married
generation, and the amount of money women in the reconstruction process.
brought to the house-hold, strongly On the other hand, the proportions of
influence perceptions of contribution. women in male-headed households who
Perceptions of contribution are also mention themselves as contributing to the
relative. A woman in a male-headed household have increased, in spite of the
decreasing proportion involved in income-
household may well devalue her own
generating activities. This appears strange
contribution in comparison with that of her
given there is a positive relation between
male partner, especially if hers is non-
productive work and perceptions of
monetary. This is compounded by the fact
contribution. It would appear that some
that men's perceptions may influence those
other factor is influencing perceptions of
of women. Women heads of household contribution post-Mitch. While recons-
may be assumed to be free from such truction projects may be assumed to be
influence and thus have a greater recognition important in this context, as the following
of their own contribution to the household. discussion shows, they do not fully explain
However, the presence of an adult son in a the processes at work.
female-headed household can complicate Before considering the reconstruction
matters, with women often naming him as process further, it is important to note that
the head of household, for example, thus not all women in male-headed households
granting him power in the household, be it share the same experience. Young female
real or imagined. partners/wives (under 25 years of age)
The research shows that in the pre- appeared to have had a different experience
hurricane context, the majority of women of reconstruction than both female heads
with no male partner named themselves as and older women. While the proportion of
the person who made the most important women partners in productive work has
contribution to the household. Only a small fallen generally, this is greatest among
proportion of women living with a male young female partners (already least likely
partner named themselves as the person to be in productive work pre-Mitch).
who contributed the most. Although more Moreover, while the evidence suggests that
did respond that the two of them contributed women partners perceive an increase in
to the household, the perception of the man their own contribution to the household
as the main contributor was strong. post-Mitch, the pattern with young female
Responses about the post-Mitch situation partners is the reverse - more young
Women's participation in reconstruction in post-Mitch Nicaragua 83

women named their husband as making In contrast, international aid delivered

the most important contribution post- via a partner national NGO in a third
compared with pre-Mitch. community demonstrated the continued
Since perceptions of contribution, along use of women as service providers. A
with productive work, influence the position representative stated that: 'We have
of women within households in terms of positively discriminated towards women.
their access and control over resources, the Some of the resources to rehabilitate
situation of young female partners - livelihoods we have given to the women
already of concern before the hurricane - after hurricane Mitch,' adding that, 'The
may be deemed, from a feminist perspective, men accepted that the women are in the
to have worsened. project because they have seen that it has
supported them in their household
economy... the women have their cows and
Gender perspectives in the the men are drinking the milk.'
interventions for A fourth scenario also existed: a
reconstruction reconstruction approach that attempted to
Case study evidence from the four include more 'strategic' as well as practical
communities in the more in-depth study gender needs via consciousness-raising
shows the range of types of reconstruction activities. The entrance into the project may
initiatives post-Mitch. After the hurricane, be 'practical' but this is only the gateway:
a number of international NGOs and 'We work with training women that come to
agencies arrived in Nicaragua for the first get credit from us, we invite them to
time and initiated reconstruction projects, participate in workshops on gender awareness,
sometimes intervening directly in affected their situation of subordination, the need to
communities, and sometimes working organise, improving self esteem... to take
through national NGO counter-parts. decisions in their lives.'
National NGOs in general became involved A range of organisations and means of
in the reconstruction process. Although a operating were employed post-Mitch,
number of them did not radically alter their and their gender perspectives also varied,
activities, others modified their up to and including one project that
programmes to include reconstruction of performed consciousness-raising activities
damaged housing. with men. These different approaches to
The gender perspective employed in reconstruction may be assumed to have
these projects for reconstruction varied, and different impacts on women. Before
the communities in the Puntos de Encuentro exploring the outcomes a little further it is
study illustrate a range of gender perspectives. important to note that the evidence from
In one community, for example, the the social audit suggests that the people
continued lack of recognition of women's who most obviously feel the benefits of
practical contribution was apparent in the reconstruction are not men compared with
following quote from the representative of women, or women compared with men,
the national NGO working there: 'Men but younger compared with older people.
participate more ...in that more men than This appears to be related more to young
women work in agriculture....' 6 One people's ability to gain access to the
international organi-sation working available resources for reconstruction,
directly in another community was very rather than a targeting policy by NGOs.
honest in admitting that, 'We have initiated While young people were not targeted
some actions, but we don't have anything in reconstruction, female heads of
defined as gender as such....' household were targeted. While this may

be taken as a positive intervention, given one women's organisation notes, 'We have
female heads' 'vulnerable' position in found that training [conscious-raising
society (itself a contested idea), its impacts activities] is not the women's priority now,
need to be considered closely. For example, their priority is survival... looking for a
while similar proportions of female heads penny in order to live.'
as male heads received help in order to sow Yet even on this level, the data suggests
crops after Mitch, fewer actually did so. a lack of 'success' if the aim is to provide
Similarly, while higher proportions of material benefit for women. While over
female than male headed households half the women interviewed thought that
received help for housing, fewer felt that women were participating most in
their opinion had been taken into account reconstruction (compared with men) only a
in the construction process. quarter stated that women were benefiting
Providing material resources to women the most from reconstruction. The majority
then is not itself sufficient to ensure that they saw benefits as being for the family. If the
benefit. Giving seeds to a woman who no aim of the programmes is to target women
longer has land on which to sow them, or simply as better deliverers of services and
has no money to pay labourers to prepare resources, then the indirect outcome may
the land, will be ineffective. Access to be to reinforce traditional gender roles and
resources is necessary, but is not sufficient, if relations rather than to transform them.
the capacity to use those resources is lacking. In terms of more strategic or trans-
We must also ask how and to what extent forming roles of reconstruction, the
female heads are really benefiting from this research shows no real evidence of success,
targeting in terms of their longer-term more at least at this time. Taking a concrete
'strategic' needs. example, no positive relation between
To explore the impact of reconstruction participation and increased perceptions of
on strategic needs demands a closer analysis contribution exists. Women who are
of how women are being incorporated into participating in reconstruction projects do
reconstruction. It demands a shift from an not show improved perceptions of the
analysis of material gains to an analysis of importance of their contribution to the
the other benefits that 'participation' is household, nor is it the case that more
assumed to bring. women who are participating recognise
their own contribution compared to those
Women's participation in reconstruction women who are not participating.
projects Moreover, even if 'positive' changes
Participation rates of women in community- occur, such as the noted increased recognition
based projects and programmes have of women's own contribution in male-
increased post-Mitch, rising from under a headed households, their impact may be
quarter to over half the women limited since power relations in households
interviewed in the four communities are based on more than productive/
studied. However, simply ensuring reproductive divisions, or who brings in
women's inclusion in the reconstruction the resources, as the following illustrates:
process does not necessarily bring benefits Interviewer: 'If only you were working in
for women. It is important to note that the the household, your husband was here
majority of women participating in without work, who would be the head?'
reconstruction are doing so, perhaps not
surprisingly, for practical ends. Women's Respondent: 'It would be me because there
perceptions of projects as fulfilling practical would be no one else besides me. But really it
needs may be contrary to the ideas of those would be him... because if a woman is
instigating them. As a representative from working it is because he gave his consent.'
Women's participation in reconstruction in post-Mitch Nicaragua 85

Moreover, while women's perceptions of problems with the reconstruction process.

their own contribution to the household The evidence appears to suggest that
may change, these may not be shared by getting reconstruction wrong may impact
male partners. In the two communities in not just on people's material well-being,
the study where women's male partners but may also affect their health, safety, and
were also interviewed, high levels of emotional well-being.
disagreement were found on many issues. Interestingly, the research shows no
Only about half of the couples interviewed direct relation between perceptions of
shared the same opinion around issues conflict between couples, and perceptions
such as who made the most important of increased violence. The mechanisms by
contribution to the household, or who was which violence is transmitted in situations
the key decision-maker in the household. of crisis and reconstruction still need
Post-disaster changes in perceptions of further research. Overall, the figures from
ideas around contribution may actually both the Puntos de Encuentro research and
increase conflict between couples, as men's the social audit results are inconclusive in
and women's opinions diverge. terms of levels of household violence
The research suggests one clear outcome post-Mitch, with half of the respondents
of reconstruction to be increased conflict, stating that violence had increased or
both between and within communities stayed the same, and half that it had
and households. A third of all the women decreased. In this context three concepts
interviewed felt that there had been are important: conflict (arguments/
problems with the organisations working discussion), violence (conceptualised by the
in reconstruction in terms of establishment women as physical violence alone), and
of the needs and priorities of the fear (typically a fear of abandonment, not
communities. Moreover, half felt that the of physical violence). To a large extent, fear
distribution of aid had been unfair.7 Most of abandonment appears to stem from the
worrying in gender terms is that problems perceived problems of female headship, in
with reconstruction projects appear to have social not economic terms. The fear of
had an impact on relations between men social stigma through abandonment keeps
and women in households. women in male-headed households, and
can increase their tolerance of men who
Indirect impacts of reconstruction drink, or are violent or unfaithful.
projects In one community, an integrated recon-
A relationship exists between perceptions struction project had been implemented
of problems with reconstruction projects that included an element of 'masculinity'
and perceptions of conflict and increased training with men, and was reported by the
violence in the household. While less than a women as having a positive effect on
fifth of those who did not think there had violence. The women in the community
been problems of some sort with the had been organised for many years, and
reconstruction projects thought that there had been involved in consciousness-raising
had been conflict between couples over activities pre-Mitch, and these factors may
reconstruction, this rose to over half of have provided the necessary conditions for
those who perceived problems with this 'success'. However, the outcome of this
reconstruction projects. Similarly, around a project is not clear, since in this same
quarter of those who did not perceive community we find the highest proportion
problems with reconstruction projects of women who name the man alone as the
suggested that violence against women had decision-maker in the household. It is
risen post-Mitch, compared with almost important to remember that changes in the
half of those who felt there had been levels of violence against women can come

about without fundamental changes in participation post-Mitch are not responsible

gender relations. for this improvement, it sheds little light on
which factors have influenced this positive
change. What this highlights is the need to
Reconstruction: take care when initiating reconstruction
transformation or projects focused on women, given that we
reinforcement? still have much to learn about the processes
at work in terms of gender roles and
The extent to which change in gender
relations following a disaster of this sort.
relations in situations of crisis and
reconstruction has occurred in Nicaragua is What the present study does show,
questionable. While female heads have however, is that women's participation in
reconstruction generated conflict with
largely managed to maintain their income-
male partners. This tendency highlights
generating activities, and at the same time
the need to pay attention to the possible
participated in reconstruction projects, it
negative indirect impacts of projects
appears that the final outcome may be
designed to 'empower' women. While
material gain at the expense of their
work with men may be seen as being
physical and mental well-being. The
important in this context, the real impact of
decrease in their recognition of the 'masculinity' projects on gender relations
importance of their contribution to the remains to be seen.
household stands in contrast to their
increased workload post-Mitch. Moreover,
Sarah Bradshaw lectures in development at
the research suggests that participation has
Middlesex University, and specialises in gender,
not necessarily meant that women have
development, and disasters. School of Social Science,
had more of a voice in the reconstruction Middlesex University, Enfield, EN3 4SF, UK.
projects or in the community. Those E-mail: s.bradshaw@mdx.ac.uk
involved in designing reconstruction
projects should pay careful attention to the
effects on women heads' self-esteem, and Notes
not assume that since these women are 1 The aim of the social audit has been to
heads of household this is greater than collect data on material and psycho-
amongst women with male partners. logical damage suffered and aid
For women in male-headed households, received in both the emergency and
while the experience may be different, reconstruction periods. The audit sought
the outcome appears to be much the same. not only to collect information on the
Decreases in women's income-generating extent to which aid had been received,
activities may be seen to reinforce trad- and from whom, but attempted to give a
itional gender roles and increase women's voice to those included and excluded in
dependence on men. Women's participation the reconstruction process on the nature
in reconstruction projects may not of that aid. Key elements were the equity
compensate for this, having similarly and transparency of its distribution, the
reinforcing tendencies given their often utility of the resources received, and the
practical focus on women as service involvement of the people in the
deliverers for the family. decisions around the reconstruction of
While men's perceptions have not their communities. The social audit also
changed, women's perceptions of their collected information on psychological
own contribution to the household have effects, and on violence against women.
improved. While the study suggests 2 The full results of the social audit and
that changes in income-generation and the research undertaken by Puntos de
Women's participation in reconstruction in post-Mitch Nicaragua 87

Encuentro (in Spanish) are available on 7 Moreover, it is interesting to note that

the CCER web page: while the assumption may be that the
http:/ / www.ccer-nic.org/ problem arises because agencies set
An english version of the research will priorities with little or no dialogue with
be available shortly: the community, this does not appear to
http: / / www.puntos.org.ni / be the case. Indeed the problem may
3 While some suggest that more men than actually lie with agencies attempting to
women died as a result of Mitch in employ 'best practice' criteria. In
Nicaragua due to men's more 'risky' Nicaragua, some areas have been much
behaviour patterns, this data is far from more likely than others to receive
reliable. assistance from international relief
4 The research undertaken by Puntos de agencies. This has created a situation
Encuentro focused on four communities where several agencies are working in
affected by Mitch. It utilised three the same community. Agencies' entry
research methods: a questionnaire routes have been via discussion with
census of the women in the community; local leaders who help to identify those
semi-structured interviews with a sub- households with most need. That a
sample of the women; and focus group number of projects have talked to the
discussion with a small number of the same local leaders and thus targeted the
women interviewed. In two of the four same 'needy' households has resulted in
communities, questionnaires and semi- more exaggerated feelings of inclusion/
structured interviews were also under- exclusion in these communities, and
taken with the male partners of the highlights the continued lack of
women. Here, men were included as co-ordination between high-profile
partners rather than as 'people' in their funding organisations.
own right.
5 Before the hurricane, half of the women
interviewed in the Puntos de Encuentro
study were involved in an income-
generating activity. Afterwards, this fell
to below a third.
6 Although women themselves may
underreport their agricultural work - for
example, over half of those women who
stated they were not working also
reported that they 'helped' in agriculture
- such statements by organisations
working with agricultural communities
are worrying.

Compiled by Nittaya Thiraphouth

Publications hands-on delivery. The editors conclude

that, 'Disaster specialists rarely speak in the
Gender, Emergencies and Humanitarian language of empowerment, but social justice
Assistance (1995), Bridget Byrne and Sally is in fact the linchpin of effective disaster
Baden, BRIDGE, Institute of Development mitigation; women's services, organisations
Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 and grassroots advocacy can and must
9RE, UK. Available on-line at: make the voices of women heard - in risk
http: / / www.ids.ac.uk/bridge / reports assessment and hazard planning, in crisis,
This report was commissioned by the and in reconstructing human settlements.'
European Commission to stimulate internal
discussion of gender issues in emergency Focus: Women in Emergencies (1997), UN
and humanitarian assistance. It examines Department of Humanitarian Affairs, Palais
approaches to emergencies that are focused des Nations, CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland.
on needs, coping strategies, power and Available on-line at:
decision-making, and changing gender http: / / www.reliefweb.int / ocha_ol / pub /
relations and identities. It also reviews a dhanews / issue22 / index.html#toc
range of responses to emergencies including In this special edition of DHA News, produced
food aid, health, human rights issues, and following the celebration of International
rehabilitation from a gender perspective, Women's Day, internationally prominent
and explores the policy and institutional figures, journalists, academics, and specialists
environment for integrating gender issues involved in emergency management contri-
into emergency responses and humanitarian bute a on variety of related subjects reflecting
assistance. a wide spectrum of perspectives,
experiences, and practices. Concise articles
The Gendered Terrain of Disaster: Through discuss policies and strategies for
Women's Eyes (1998), E. Enarson and integrating gender into humanitarian
H. Morrow (eds), Greenwood Publishing response, and analyse the effects of natural
Group, 88 Post Road West, Westport, CT disasters and conflict on women.
06881, USA.
The articles in this collection challenge Women and Emergencies (1994), Bridget
stereotypical views of women as hapless Walker (ed.), Oxfam GB, 274 Banbury
victims of disasters. Several authors observe Road, Oxford OX2 7DZ, UK.
that disaster relief is managed largely by The papers in this short book explore some
men, even if women are instrumental in of the dilemmas for those engaged in the
Resources 89

planning and implementation of emergency and ethnic cleansing. All cases are subjected
relief programmes, and record the experience to in-depth feminist analysis and the result
of women in situations of crisis. Demons- is a book which integrates women's
trating how action in emergencies holds the differing experiences of war and violence
potential both to deepen existing inequalities into a wider framework which seeks to
or to act as a positive force for change, it uncover the consequences of identifying
argues that relief and development need to women as simultaneously sexual objects,
be seen as parts of the same whole. It is transmitters of culture, and symbols of the
aimed at development policy makers and nation.
practitioners and is written in accessible
language. Weaving Gender in Disaster and Refugee
Assistance (1998), InterAction, 1717
Gender and Natural Disasters (2000), Elaine Massachusetts Ave. NW, Suite 701,
Enarson, InFocus Programme Crisis Washington, DC 20036, USA. Available
Response and Reconstruction Working on-line at:
Paper 1. Available on-line at: http: / / www.interaction.org / caw/ gender /
http:/ /www.ilo.org/public/english/ This comprehensive report comprises
employment / recon / crisis / publ / wp 1 .htm 'lessons learned' from two 1998 InterAction
This report augments the gender perspective Forum seminars, co-sponsored by Inter-
of the ILO's InFocus Programme on Crisis Action's Commission on the Advancement
Response and Reconstruction by focusing of Women, the Committee on Migration
on natural disasters. Based on agency reports and Refugee Affairs, and Disaster Response
and field worker accounts, it identifies the and Resources. It includes an array of
complex ways in which gender relations perspectives from the InterAction community,
shape human experiences before, during, NGOs, donors, and refugees, and presents
and after natural disasters. Written for a specific strategies for enabling both women
general audience, the report has four main and men to be full participants and
themes: the social construction of vulner- beneficiaries in humanitarian and refugee
ability to 'natural' disasters, particularly on assistance. A booklet that accompanies the
the basis of gender relations; the specific report is a useful tool for field staff and
impacts of disasters on women's paid and others who are attempting to integrate
unpaid work; six core action issues arising gender into disaster relief and refugee
from these patterns; and policy and programs.
research implications for using knowledge
about gender, work, and employment in Responding to Emergencies and Fostering
natural disasters. Development, the Dilemmas of Humanitarian
Aid (1999), Claire Pirotte, Bernard Husson,
Gender and Catastrophe (1997), Ronit Lentin and Francois Grunewald, Zed Books.
(ed.), Zed Books, 7 Cynthia Street, London This multi-authored book is the result of a
Nl 9JF, UK. dialogue between practitioners from
Brings together a wide variety of feminists, leading emergency relief and development
academics, and activists to explore Nthe agencies about how to respond to the
gendered effects of violence against women difficulties thrown up by different humani-
in war and other disasters. The contributors tarian crises. The collection has a global
explore the ways in which women are reach and includes a good chapter on social
targeted as ethnic subjects in extreme differentiation between men and women in
situations such as major wars, genocides, humanitarian interventions in the third
famines, slavery, the holocaust, mass rape, section.

Improving Social and Gender Planning in The Sphere Project, Humanitarian Charter and
Emergency Programmes (1995), Eftihia Minimum Standards in Disaster Response
Voutira, Refugees Studies Programme, (2000), The Sphere Project, PO Box 372,
Queen Elizabeth House, University of 17 Chemin des Crets, CH-1211, Geneva 19,
Oxford, Oxford, UK. Switzerland. Also distributed by Oxfam.
Commissioned by the World Food Available on-line at:
Programme, this report reviews models of http://www.sphereproject.org/
food distribution in their current policies The Sphere Project charter and minimum
and practices and seeks to improve standards set out what people affected by
equity in food distribution. It focuses on disasters have a right to expect from
reconsidering the role of women in food humanitarian agencies. The cornerstone of
distribution practices; ensuring their access this book is the humanitarian charter,
to food; increasing their participation in which is based on the principles and
decision-making generally, and in particular, provisions of international humanitarian,
concerning participation in food distri- human rights, and refugee law asserting
bution in emergency operations. Examining the rights of populations to protection and
the impact of humanitarian work on assistance. The charter is followed by
communities it argues that the integration minimum standards in five core sectors:
of gender into planning and implementation water supply and sanitation, nutrition,
of emergency programmes requires food aid, shelter and site planning, and
community participation. health services. It makes a start with
identifying minimum standards for gender
Gender Aware Approaches to Relief and equity in humanitarian response and with
Rehabilitation (1996), E. Kasmann and the aim of helping agencies focus on gender
M. Korner, Deutsche Gesellschaft fur concerns from the start of an emergency.
Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH,
Dag-Hammarskjold-Weg 1-5, 65760 The Oxfam Handbook of Development and
Eschborn, Germany. Relief (1995), Deborah Eade and Suzanne
Aimed primarily at GTZ staff and local Williams, with contributions from Oxfam
partners, this book puts forward guidelines staff and others, Oxfam GB.
for the treatment of gender concerns within This major reference book is the product of
the context of African relief and rehabili- the experience of Oxfam GB in its work in
tation programmes. It first reviews the over 70 countries around the world. The
conditions of average women at household handbook analyses thinking, policy, and
level in post-crisis situations, in terms of practice in fields as diverse as health,
major variables such as nutrition, health, human rights, emergency relief, capacity
sexual violence, shelter, and education. It building, and agricultural production, and
further assesses their societal roles, with is the only book of its kind to incorporate a
brief case studies of Mozambique, Eritrea, gender analysis throughout. Chapter two,
and Somalia. An exploration of practical focusing on people, includes a section
approaches to the integration of these explicitly on gender concerns complete with
considerations into project organisation and a general checklist of questions on gender-
procedures follows. Further chapters sensitive programme development. Chapter
examine the prospects for greater incor- six deals with emergencies and development
poration of gender-aware perspectives by and includes brief sections on consulting
aid agencies, and provide recommendations women during emergency assessments, and
and references towards this end. the needs of specific social groups, as well
as gender consideration in food distribution.
Resources 91

A Framework for People-Oriented Planning in and the role of women's organi-sations in

Refugee Situations Taking Account of Women, conflict resolution and peace building.
Men and Children (1992), Mary B. Anderson, Written to inform analysis of violent
Ann M. Howarth (Brazeau) and Catherine conflict it also contains operation-ally
Overholt, UNHCR, C.P. 2500,1211 Geneva 2, relevant issues for those designing policy or
Switzerland. programme level interventions.
Presents the analytical framework for People
Oriented Planning (POP), a tool developed Gender, Conflict and Development (1995),
by UNHCR to assist refugee workers in Bridget Byrne, BRIDGE. Available on-line
improving the participation of refugee at http:/ /www.ids.ac.uk/bridge/reports
women. POP provides a framework for Volume I of this report provides an overview
analysing the socio-cultural and economic of issues of gender, conflict, and develop-
factors in a refugee society, which can ment, drawing selectively on case study
influence the success of activities. material. Its focus is on the ways in which
gender relations are affected in an armed
Gender and Armed Conflicts: Challenges for conflict, and the strategies that can be
Decent Work, Gender Equity and Peace Buildingpursued to enhance women's bargaining
Agendas, (2001) Eugenia Date-Bah, Martha power in decision-making processes in
Walsh et al., InFocus Programme Crisis conflict and peace negotiations. Full case
Response and Reconstruction Working studies of conflict situations and relief
Paper 2. responses in Kosovo, Algeria, Somalia,
This document attempts to provide an Guatemala, Eritrea, Cambodia, and
analytical synthesis of research and insights Rwanda are provided in Volume II.
based upon country studies, undertaken by
the ILO between 1996 and 2000. It has been Conflict and Development (1996), In Brief
prepared to guide policy formulation, Issue 3, Bridge. Available on-line at:
effective pursuit of gender-sensitive http://www.ids.ac.uk/bridge/dgb3.html
programming, and other activities, to This Conflict and Development issue of the
stimulate and advance current debate on quarterly bulletin produced by Bridge looks
women and gender issues in the wake of at how militarisation affects men and
conflict. women and how new opportunities which
arise in conflict situations can be used
Victims, Perpetrators or Actors: Gender, Armed both to empower women and to promote
Conflict and Political Violence (2001), Caroline conflict resolution. Included are case
O. N. Moser and Fiona Clark (eds), Zed studies of Guatemala and Rwanda.
The objective of this book is to provide a Integrating Gender into Emergency Responses
holistic analysis of the gendered nature of (1996), In Brief Issue 4, Bridge. Available
armed conflict and political violence, and a on-line at:
broader understanding of the complex http:/ / www.ids.ac.uk/bridge/dgb4.html
changing roles and power relations between This issue of the Bridge bulletin asks how
women and men during such circum- constraints to integrating gender in relief
stances. Through empirical case studies can be overcome, highlights the potential
from different regions of the world the book for tackling biases in the distribution of
addresses key issues such as the complex food aid and support for coping strategies,
and interrelated stages of conflict and and debates whether rehabilitation offers an
peace; gendered expressions of violence; opportunity to redress inequalities between
gendered experiences of conflict and peace; men and women.

The Space Between Us: Negotiating GenderThe final chapters outline the supportive
and National Identities in Conflict (1998), framework offered by international law
Cynthia Cockburn, Zed Books. and how agencies can make use of these
This book is the outcome of participatory developments.
action research examining the processes
sustaining conflict in countries where there Common Grounds, Violence against Women in
is war. Through close involvement with War and Armed Conflict Situations (1998),
three women's projects, the Women Support Indai Lourdes Sajor (ed.), Asian Centre for
Network, Belfast, the Medica project in Human Rights, ASCENT, Suite MJB
Zenica, Bosnia and the Israeli-Palestinian Building, 220 Tomas Morato Avenue,
Bat Shalom project in Northern Israel, the Quezon City, Philippines.
author seeks to understand how they work
This book contains a collection of papers
across ethnic divides in situations of
conflict and how they create democracy out presented in the International Conference
of difference. Written in accessible on Violence against Women in War and
language. Armed Conflict Situations in Tokyo, 1997.
Written by academics, scientists, and
States of Conflict: Gender Violence and Resistance activists, the papers aim to: identify various
(2000), Susie Jacobs, Ruth Jacobson, forms of violence against women in war
Jennifer Marchbank (eds), Zed Books. and conflict situations; present statistics to
This book examines gendered violence at establish a pattern of violations; concretise
various social and political levels and the role and the capacity of women human
explores the complex links from a feminist rights groups in advocating issues in
perspective. Can national and international armed conflict situations; and explore legal
regimes actually offer women security? strategies in national and international
What is the meaning of women's recruit- courts in defence of women victims.
ment to the military and the importance of
social cleavages other than gender in Arms to Fight, Arms to Protect: Women Speak
women's and men's experience of violent out about Conflict (1995), Olivia Bennett,
conflict? Aimed at students and academics Jo Bexley, Kitty Warnock (eds), Panos,
of women's studies, international relations, 9 White Lion Street, London Nl 9PD, UK.
and political theory.
A collection of testimonies from women
from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Ethiopia,
War's Offensive on Women: The Humanitarian
Challenge in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan
Uganda, Somaliland, Liberia, Bosnia, and
(2000), Julie A. Mertus, Kumarian Press Croatia revealing their views and experiences
Inc., 1294 Blue Hills Avenue, Bloomsfield, as fighters, participants, refugees, victims
CT 06002 USA. caught between warring factions, organisers
of peace and rehabilitation, carers, mothers,
Argues that attempts by humanitarian relatives, and partners of the dead and the
groups to provide assistance and protection
disappeared. They talk about their efforts
will fall short unless women are enlisted as
to rebuild their lives and those of their
major actors in such efforts. Chapter 1
provides analytical tools for approaching families and communities, of taking on
gender and suggests the ways in which new roles and extra responsibilities, and of
women experience war differently from finding a way to break the cycle of war and
men. Chapter 2 reviews recent experiences revenge. Chapters are organised by country.
of tackling gender issues in humanitarian
organisations and in situations for conflict.
Resources 93

Women and Conflict (1993), Helen O'Connell change is highlighted, and the UN's
(ed.), Oxfam GB. response described. The concluding section
This short book for policy makers and examines how the issue may be advanced
practitioners concentrates on gender issues in the next century. Useful for policy makers.
in situations of military and civil strife.
Themes explored are gender-related What Women do in Wartime: Gender and Conflict
violence, the effects of armed conflict on in Africa (1998) Meredith Turshen and
women's lives, including the psychological Clotilde Twagiramariya (eds), Zed Books.
and social impacts, and the situations in Describes and analyses the experience of
which many women refugee women and women in African civil wars. A mixture of
displaced find themselves. Articles show reportage, testimony, and scholarship, it
that women are not passive victims but are includes contributions from women in
at the forefront of work for change, peace, Chad, Liberia, Mozambique, Namibia,
security, and equitable relations. Rwanda, South Africa, and Sudan. The
book profiles women's responses to war,
Women and War (1993), Jeanne Vickers, as combatants as well as victims, and
Zed Books. describes the groups women organise in
This book is an investigation of the impact the aftermath.
on women of war in general and in recent
conflicts, such as the Gulf War, and a survey Development in Conflict: The Gender Dimension
of the various ways in which women have (1993), Judy El Bushra and Eugenia Piza-
worked and can contribute towards peaceful Lopez, Oxfam Discussion Paper 3, Oxfam.
settlement of confrontations between This report arose out of a workshop held
nations and communities. Aimed at by Oxfam's Action for Gender Relations in
students, activists, and policy makers. South East Asia. The report analyses the
impact of conflict on women and gender
Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict: United relations, and the implications for the work
Nations Response (1998), UNDAW, Two of NGOs, assesses the appropriate research
United Nations Plaza, DC2-1226, 100017 and planning tools, gender-sensitive imple-
New York, USA. Available on-line at: mentation of programmes and training
http: / / www .un.org/ womenwatch / da w / p needs of staff and partners. Also includes
ublic/cover.htm case studies from Cambodia, Somalia,
This report considers the failure of the Uganda, Sri Lanka, Burma, Philippines,
international community to address the and Lebanon.
issue of sexual violence during wartime in
the early years of the UN. Developments The Gender Dimensions of Internal
are traced to the early 1990s when the Displacement: Concept Paper and Annotated
international community finally recognised Bibliography (1998), Judy A. Benjamin
that human rights violations committed and Khadiji Fancy, Office of Emergency
against women during armed conflict, Programmes Working Paper Series, UNICEF,
including sexual violence, violate funda- New York, USA. Available on-line at:
mental principles of international human http:/ / www.unicef.org/emerg/IDPgen.pdf
rights and humanitarian law. In the second Identifying the main issues concerning the
part of this issue, the manner in which rights of displaced women and girls, this
sexual violence during armed conflict concept paper aims to raise awareness of
emerged as an item of serious concern the gender dimensions of internal displace-
within the UN is examined. The role of ment. It reviews and critiques the current
women's NGOs in exerting pressure for role of the UN and other agencies and

suggests ways to promote an action plan the many different ways in which women
for international agencies to respond more make a contribution to the rebuilding of
effectively to the rights of internally countries emerging from armed conflicts.
displaced women and girls by using a Special attention is given to women's
gender perspective. priority concerns, to their resources and
capacities, and to structural and situational
Women at the Peace Table, 2000: Making afactors that may reduce their participation
Difference (2000), Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, in reconstruction processes. A second aim is
UNIFEM, 304 East 45th Street, 15th Floor, to shed light on how post-war reconstruction
New York, NY 10017, USA. Available processes influence the reconfiguration of
on-line at: gender roles and positions in the wake of
http://www.reliefweb.int/library/documents war, and how women's actions shape the
/ peacebk.pdf construction of post-war social structures.
Argues for the full inclusion of women in Should be of interest to both practitioners
peace processes and asserts that the absence and scholars.
of women from peace negotiations results
in setbacks to the development of society at Refugee Women (1995), Susan Forbes Martin,
large and undermines democracy. Drawing Zed Books.
on interviews with prominent women Examines the discrimination and violence
peace leaders in different parts of the faced by refugee women and the steps
world, it highlights the strategies that needed to protect them. Stressing the
women have employed to make a positive importance of refugee women's
impact on peace negotiations. Published participation, it surveys the current
by UNIFEM to promote cross-regional international commitment to refugees and
learning in its leadership and peace- offers practical recommendations for their
building programme for women, empowerment. Written for researchers and
academics as well as relief organisations.
Aftermath: Gender Issues in Post-conflict
Societies (2001), CD-DIS, Development Refugee Survey Quarterly: Special Issue on
Experience Clearinghouse, USAID, 1611 N Refugee Women, Vol. 14 (1995) Centre for
Kent St., Suite 200, Arlington, VA 22209- Documentation on Refugees, UNHCR/CDR,
2111, USA. C.P. 2500,1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland.
A series of concise reports evaluating Brings together reports, documents, and
gender issues in post-conflict societies. bibliographic references that relate specifically
Country studies include Cambodia, Bosnia, to the challenges confronting refugee and
and Herzegovina, Rwanda, Georgia, and displaced women. The special focus of this
Guatemala. issue is the Select Biography on Refugee
Women. It contains a section of country
Women and Post-Conflict Reconstruction: reports addressing the situation of refugee
Issues and Sources (1998), B. Sorensen, women in China, Pakistan, and Russia, and
UNRISD, Palais des Nations, 1211 Geneva a section of documents that trace policy
10, Switzerland. Available on-line at steps taken on refugee women and sexual
http:/ /www.unrisd.org/wsp/op3/toc.htm violence against women during the session
Reviews literature dealing with political, of the Executive Committee of the High
economic, and social reconstruction from a Commissioner's Programme.
gender perspective. One of its objectives
is to go beyond conventional images of
women as victims of war, and to document
Resources 95

The Blue Room: Trauma and Testimony Among escape poverty and destitution. Some are
Refugee Women. A Psychosocial Exploration forced to adapt to roles which they would
(1994), Inger Agger, Zed Books. have rejected at home, while others achieve
This book provides an interdisciplinary an economic and social mobility they
model for the therapeutic understanding would have otherwise been denied.
and treatment of traumatised women for
psychologists and those working with
survivors of trauma. It focuses on the sexual
abuse of women and examines how this is The International Committee of the Red Cross
related to surrounding gender and political (ICRC), International Committee of the Red
power structures. Drawing on interviews Cross, Public Information Centre, 19 Avenue
with refugee women from the Middle East de la Paix, CH 1202 Geneva, Switzerland.
and Latin America, the innovative Tel: + 41 22 734 6001; fax: + 41 22 733 2057
narrative is structured around a metaphor ICRC general; + 41 22 730 2082 Public
of rooms and borders that represent Information Centre
women's life experiences. http: / / www.icrc.org /
The International Committee of the Red
South Asian Women: Facing Disasters, Cross (ICRC) is an impartial, neutral, and
Securing Life (1997), Priyanthi and Vijitha independent organisation whose exclusively
Fernando, Duryog Nivaran Publications humanitarian mission is to protect the lives
(ed.), 5 Lionel Edirisinghe Mawatha, and dignity of victims of war and internal
Colombo 5, Sri Lanka. violence and to provide them with
This collection of articles and case studies assistance. It directs and co-ordinates the
explores the interaction of gender and international relief activities conducted in
politics in the management of disasters in situations of conflict. It also endeavours to
South Asian societies from an 'alternative' prevent suffering by promoting and
perspective of disaster and development. strengthening humanitarian law and
It emphasises that for effective long-term universal humanitarian principles.
disaster mitigation, the relations and Established in 1863, the ICRC is at the
institutional structures that make people - origin of the International Red Cross and
and especially women - vulnerable to Red Crescent Movement.
disasters must be changed. Aimed at
development and relief agencies and policy The International Federation of Red Cross and
makers. Red Crescent Societies, PO Box 372,
CH-1211, Geneva 19, Switzerland.
Migrant Women, Crossing Boundaries and Tel: +41 22 730 4222; fax: +41 22 733 0395
Changing Identities (1993), Gina Buijs (ed.), http: / / www.ifrc.org /
Berg Publishers, 150 Cowley Road, Oxford The International Federation of Red Cross
OX41JJ, UK. and Red Crescent Societies is the world's
The papers in this book are concerned with largest humanitarian organisation. The
the dynamic of change in gender relations Federation carries out relief operations to
brought about by migrancy. Several assist victims of disasters, and combines
chapters have been written by women this with development work to strengthen
social scientists who are themselves the capacities of its member National
migrants. The different chapters examine Societies. The Federation's work focuses on
the varied and complex responses of four core areas: promoting humanitarian
women to migration; whether forced by values, disaster response, disaster prepared-
political circumstances or by the need to ness, and health and community care. The

network of National Societies - which UNOCHA, Office for the Coordination of

cover almost every country in the world - Humanitarian Affairs, United Nations, S 3600
is the Federation's principal strength. Co- New York, NY 10017, USA.
operation between National Societies gives Tel: +1 212 963 1234; fax: +1 212 963 1312
the Federation greater potential to develop http: / / www.reliefweb.int/ ocha_ol /
capacities and assist those most in need. The United Nations Office for the Co-
At a local level, the network enables the ordination of Humanitarian Assistance is
Federation to reach individual communities. part of the UN Secretariat and has the
mandate to co-ordinate UN assistance in
World Food Programme, Via C.G. Viola 68, humanitarian crises that go beyond the
Parco dei Medici, 00148 Rome, Italy. capacity and mandate on any single
Tel: +39 06 65131; fax: +39 06 6513 2840 humanitarian agency. OCHA works with
http: / / www.wfp.org / governments, NGOs, UN agencies, and
Created in 1963, WFP is the front-line individuals to ensure that there is a
United Nations agency in the fight against coherent framework within which each
global hunger. In 2000, WFP fed 83 million actor can contribute effectively to
people in 83 countries, including most of humanitarian response efforts. It provides
the world's refugees and internally support to the humanitarian community
displaced people. with support in policy development and
advocates on humanitarian issues to ensure
UNHCR, C.P. 2500, 1211 Geneva 2, that the views and concerns of the wider
Switzerland. humanitarian community are reflected in
Tel: +41 22 739 8111 overall recovery and peace-building efforts.
http:/ / www.unhcr.ch/
The United Nations High Commissioner for Medecins sans Frontieres, International
Refugees was established by the UN General Office, Rue de la Tourelle, 39 Brussels,
Assembly in 1950 to provide protection Belgium.
and assistance to refugees. It promotes Tel: +32 2 280 1881; fax: +32 2 280 0173
inter-national refugee agreements and http:/ / www.msf.org/
monitors government compliance with Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) is an
international refugee law. Its staff work in international humanitarian aid organi-
a variety of locations ranging from capital sation that provides emergency medical
cities to remote camps and border areas, assistance to populations in danger in more
attempting to provide the above mentioned than 80 countries. In countries where
protection and to minimise the threat of health structures are insufficient or even
violence, including sexual assault, which non-existent, MSF collaborates with
many refugees are subject to, even in authorities such as the Ministry of Health
countries of asylum. The organisation seeks to provide assistance. MSF works in
long-term or 'durable' solutions by helping rehabilitation of hospitals and dispensaries,
refugees repatriate to their homeland if vaccination programmes, and water and
conditions warrant, and by helping them to sanitation projects. MSF also works in
integrate in their countries of asylum or to remote health care centres and slum areas,
resettle in third countries. and provides training of local personnel.
All this is done with the objective of
rebuilding health infrastructure to
acceptable levels. In carrying out
humanitarian assistance, MSF also seeks to
raise awareness of crisis situations.
Resources 97

Action Against Hunger, 1 Catton Street, Gender and Disaster Net

London WC1R 4AB, UK. http:/ / www.anglia.ac.uk/geography/gdn/
Tel: +44 171 831 5858; fax: +44 171 831 4259 The Gender and Disaster Network is an
http: / / www.acf-fr.org / aahuk/ main.htm educational project initiated by women and
Founded in 1979, Action Against Hunger is men interested in gender relations in
a non-governmental, apolitical, non- disaster contexts. An international forum
denominational organisation. Although it for discussion, networking, and inform-
is an independent organisation, it is part of ation exchange, it offers access to topical
a larger French 'sans frontieres' movement. bibliographies and reports on applied
projects or research in progress, book
The Women's Commission for Refugee Women reviews, current information about relevant
and Children, 122 East 42nd Street, 12th Floor, conferences and other events, a bulletin
New York, NY 10168-1289, USA. board for employment, scholarship, or
Tel: +1 212 551 3088, +1 212 551 3111; funding opportunities, and contact inform-
fax: +1 212 551 3180 ation for other network members.
Operating under the auspices of the Inter- International Committee of the Red Cross
national Rescue Committee, the Women's http://www.icrc.org/eng
Commission for Refugee Women and Has a special section on women and war
Children is an expert resource and advocacy which offers topical papers, stories from
organisation that monitors the care and the field, video clips, and a photo gallery,
protection of refugee women and children. as well as updates on the initiatives of ICRC.
It speaks out on issues of concern to
refugee and displaced women, children, UNHCR
and adolescents, who have a critical http: / / www.unhcr.ch
perspective in bringing about change but Contains links to articles relevant to gender
often do not have access to governments issues in Refugees magazine and other
and policy makers. It also provides UNHCR publications.
opportunities for refugee women and
youth to speak for themselves through ReliefWeb
briefings, testimony, participation in field http://www.reliefweb.int / w / rwb.nsf
assessments, and international conferences.
ReliefWeb is a project of the United
Nations Office for the Co-ordination of
Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). It serves
Gender and Humanitarian Assistance the information needs of relief workers and
Resource Kit agencies . It contains updates on the latest
http: / / www.reliefweb.int / library / GHAR emergencies, reports and papers on
kit/ humanitarian concerns, and useful links
and contacts.
This resource kit is intended to help IASC
members and others to implement the
policy on mainstreaming in humanitarian