Gender in humanitarian policy and practice

Recent decades have seen an increased focus on gender-related issues in humanitarian aid, with ideas such as gender mainstreaming and gender equality firmly embedded in the policies and practice of many international humanitarian organisations (Olivius 2016). Building on a growing body of research by academics such as Fiddian-Qasmiyeh (2014), Kandiyoti (2004, 2007) and Olivius (2015, 2016), I seek to understand some of the impacts, intended and unintended, that such policies and practice have on the experiences of communities receiving humanitarian aid.

My research will take the form of a split ethnographic study, focussing both on Syrian refugees in Lebanon and the humanitarian organisations targeting them with assistance. I aim to identify how assumptions about gender and gender equality shape the ways in which these two communities interact. First, I will seek to understand how gender issues are incorporated into humanitarian programmes and how this affects the delivery of assistance. For example, what role does gender play in the way humanitarian organisations select ‘beneficiaries’ for their assistance, the types of assistance provided and their distribution methods? Secondly, I will focus on the impact that these programmes have on their recipients. How do refugee communities understand the role that gender plays in the assistance they receive? How do they respond to this and how does it impact their day-to-day experience of displacement?

Faith Cowling
Research Student