Rural Women's Network Nepal (RUWON)
Two months after the devastating earthquakes hit Nepal, Women Thrive is still working on ensuring that women and girls are protected in the after math. According to Women Thrive’s Gender-Based Violence (GBV) expert, Chrissy Hart, “Even when women and girls survive a disaster, they face gender-specific vulnerabilities, from sexual violence and forced marriage to food insecurity to a greater likelihood of dropping out of school. Health concerns are very real too. Pregnant women, for example, may not have access to hospitals or clinics for delivery. UNFPA estimates that the Nepal earthquake has impacted at least 126,000 pregnant women.”
This is the time when women and girls are most vulnerable to acts of violence and subjugation. It is also the most appropriate time for the U.S. to effectively implement its Safe from the Start initiative. This initiative, passed in 2013, aims to “reduce the incidence of gender-based violence and ensure quality services for survivors from the very onset of emergencies through timely and effective humanitarian action” through action on three overarching goals:
- Increase dedicated gender-based violence interventions in emergencies
- Integrate gender-based violence risk mitigation across all humanitarian assistance sectors; and
- Strengthen accountability within the international humanitarian architecture for prioritizing gender-based violence prevention and response.
In the Nepal case, it is critical that the U.S. government’s response during this effort builds upon the progress that has been made in beginning to institutionalize Safe from the Start’s goals, as well as lessons learned from experiences in the Philippines, Central African Republic, and other emergency responses. Recovery from the earthquake will take many years, but ensuring that Nepali women and girls are protected and empowered from the start means that they can play a central role in the country’s long-term recovery.
With your support, Women Thrive was able to act immediately to ensure that GBV prevention was a part of the front-line emergency response. We contributed gender-specific language that was incorporated into a resolution that Congress drafted specifically for the Nepali crisis. Our input guaranteed that women and girls’ needs were prioritized in the action plan. This resolution was introduced in the House and gained the support of 113 co-sponsors. This resolution and the Safe From the Start initiative are two critical pieces that will bolster women’s safety during rebuilding phases in a number of unexpected situations, such as a political uprising, humanitarian crisis, or natural disaster like the earthquakes in Nepal.
We plan to continue looking at gender integration in disaster response, particularly in Nepal. We will work with our partners on the ground to gather evidence on where relief is and isn’t working. We intend to use their anecdotes and feedback to better inform policymakers that are mapping out action plans.
Our work is made possible by your support. We deeply appreciate your commitment to women and girls globally having a voice in the policies and programs that affect their livelihoods.