Statement by UN Women on World Humanitarian Day, 19 August 2015


On this day, the world pays tribute to those who have dedicated their lives to end the suffering of others, and who bring hope where it is most needed. Their humanitarian spirit and actions inspire us every day.

The 21st century has already seen multiple catastrophic crises, with more than 100 million women, men and children needing life-saving humanitarian assistance.  Existing gender inequalities are a root cause of women’s vulnerabilities in crises. By virtue of their lower economic, social, cultural and political status, the endemic discrimination that women face – in education, health care, employment, and control of property – almost inevitably increases their vulnerability in crises and post-disaster situations.

Yet gender shapes capacity as well as vulnerability, and on this day, it is important to remember that women and girls are the first to mobilize to build back their lives and take responsibility for the wellbeing of their families and communities. We must sustain and support their resilience at the right time and with the right mechanisms. UN Women works to ensure equality between women and men as both partners and beneficiaries of humanitarian action.

In situations of humanitarian crisis, urgency of response can be used to explain the way in which women’s needs and rights are commonly overlooked. We seek to change this. Failure to address the gendered impacts of crises, including access to sexual and reproductive health, protection services, women’s participation and leadership are recurrent gaps and remain a strong opportunity for improvement in response. More lives will be saved, and resilience efforts will be strengthened, if we put the agency of women and girls at the heart of humanitarian action.

The global community has made clear its commitment to gender equality and the empowerment of women. The post-2015 development agenda has a clear stand-alone goal on gender equality and the empowerment of women as well as gender-specific targets across the other sustainable development goals. These clearly demonstrate a global resolve to ensure that all policies and programmes contribute to the elimination of discrimination and the promotion of gender equality.

The Sendai Framework offers a welcome paradigm shift in disaster risk reduction efforts. Its focus on the underlying causes of risks and vulnerabilities as an entry point for recognizing the root causes and structural constraints of gender inequality, pervasive gender stereotypes, and unequal power relations allows these to be targets for transformative and sustainable change.

The World Humanitarian Summit, which will be held in May 2016, represents an unmissable opportunity to adopt a package of commitments on gender equality and the empowerment of women that will contribute to enhancing women’s rights, participation and leadership in crises prevention and response at all levels and to ensure that new humanitarian solutions benefit women and men equally.

UN Women has joined the #ShareHumanity campaign to share examples across all our social media platforms of women’s humanitarianism in action, drawing on the extraordinary efforts made by our own staff and their many partners on the ground, including in the response to the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in West Africa, the Nepal earthquake, and in conflict hotspots in Iraq, Syria and South Sudan.

To find out more about UN Women's work on humanitarian assistance visit: 

For more information on this UN observance, visit