At WHS side event, participants call on global leaders to prioritize local women’s groups in humanitarian response


Yannick Glemarec, UN Women WHS side event. Photo: Sharon Grobeisen
Photo: UN Women/Sharon Grobeisen

On 23 May, the first day of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), UN Women Deputy Executive Director Yannick Glemarec co-hosted a side event on how to realize the commitments being made to gender equality and women’s empowerment, alongside ActionAid, the Australian Government, CARE International, UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Action (OCHA) and Oxfam.

The event was a conversation between women front-line first-responders and policymakers, the UN humanitarian system and international NGOs. Panelists included: Brenda Moore, Executive Director, Kids Education Engagement Project, Liberia; Hivin Kako, Bihar Relief Organisation, Syria; Maryam Bibi, Khwendo Kor, Pakistan; Kyung-wha Kang, OCHA Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator; Natasha Stott-Despoja, Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls; and Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, YWCA/Action Aid.

Panellists at the World Humanitarian Summit side event on realizing commitments to gender equality and women's empowerment. Photo: UN Women/Sharon Grobeisen
Photo: UN Women/Sharon Grobeisen

The session focused on highlighting the barriers and opportunities to adequately harness the contribution of women and girls and build resilience to crisis.

Keynote speakers included Mary Jack from Vanuatu, who is the manager of a women first-responders collective called Women I Tok Tok Toketa (Women Talk Talk Together Forum), created in the wake of Cyclone Pam’s destruction to provide local women with the space and voice to engage in the planning and implementation of the humanitarian and recovery efforts. Karina Gould, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Canadian Minister of International Development and Jelte van Wieren, Director for Stability and Humanitarian Affairs of the Netherlands, also delivered remarks.

Participants at the World Humanitarian side event on realizing commitments to gender equality and women's empowerment. Photo: UN Women/Sharon Grobeisen
Photo: UN Women/Sharon Grobeisen

Participants stressed that women are not victims, but resourceful, resilient and creative agents of change that should be at the table from the beginning of a crisis to participate in the needs assessment, coordination and implementation of humanitarian action. They emphasized the need to go beyond the numbers to real participation. They called for global leaders at the Summit to prioritize local women’s groups and women’s autonomous organizing and appealed to the entire donor system for greater accountability, including on topics related to sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender-based violence.

Read more about gender equality and women’s empowerment commitments at the World Humanitarian Summit. For stories, statistics, videos, photo essays and more, see our In Focus package on Women in Humanitarian Action.