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Gender Handbook in Humanitarian Action
Women, Girls, Boys and Men - Different Needs, Equal Opportunities

Why a gender handbook for humanitarian action?

In the rush to provide humanitarian response when a disaster hits or a conflict erupts, the appeal to “pay attention to gender issues” often falls on deaf ears and may seem irrelevant. It is not. “Paying attention to gender issues” or putting on a ”gender lens” quite simply means recognizing the different needs, capacities and contributions of women, girls, boys and men. Ignoring or being blind to these different needs can have serious implications for the protection and survival of people caught up in humanitarian crises. 

This Handbook sets forth standards for the integration of gender issues from the outset of a new complex emergency or disaster, so that humanitarian services provided neither exacerbate nor inadvertently put people at risk; reach their target audience; and have maximum positive impact.

Who is the target audience of this handbook?

The target audience for this Handbook is field practitioners responding to humanitarian emergencies that result from conflict or natural hazards. In particular, the Handbook targets sector/cluster actors. Humanitarian Coordinators and others in leadership positions will also benefit from this tool as it provides guidance on how to analyse the situation from a gender perspective, implement gender-aware activities and measure effectiveness. The Handbook will also assist donors to hold humanitarian actors accountable for integrating gender perspectives and promoting equality in all aspects of their work.

How is the handbook structured?

The Handbook is divided into two sections: A: Fundamental Principles and B: Areas of Work. Section A should be studied by all readers and used in combination with the specific sector chapters in Section B.

Section A

Section B

Provides sector- and cluster-specific guidance. The IASC Clusters at Headquarters have prepared these chapters as a practical tool for ensuring that gender equality programming is undertaken and monitored in each sector at field level.

Each chapter is divided into:

  • A brief overview of gender issues related to the sector; 
  • A series of questions on what to look for or ask so that programmes are designed and implemented with sensitivity to the different needs of women, girls, boys and men; 
  • Specific actions to ensure gender equality programming; and 
  • A checklist for monitoring gender equality programming. 

Handbook is also available in:

For any comments or suggestions for the improvement of this handbook, please e-mail genderhandbook@un.org