Publication Date: 30/11/2022
CARE’s Women Lead in Emergencies (Women Lead) model has been developed to operationalise CARE’s commitment to women’s leadership as one of our four focal areas for Gender in Emergencies.1 Women Lead supports women within communities at the frontline of conflict, natural and climate-related hazards, pandemics and other crises to claim their right to a say over the issues that affect them, and to participate in emergency preparedness, response and recovery.
The Women Lead model looks to address fundamental gaps in humanitarian response that result in the exclusion of women from meaningful participation and leadership in the decisions that affect their lives.
Since 2018, CARE has piloted Women Lead in 15 locations in Colombia, Mali, Niger, the Philippines, Tonga and Uganda. In 2020, Women Lead worked directly with 804 women’s groups. Through piloting this approach in diverse locations and within different types of humanitarian crisis, Women Lead has sought to understand challenges, barriers and enablers regarding this kind of programming in different contexts.
Women’s confidence, knowledge and self-efficacy: The evaluation identifies considerable qualitative evidence of increases in confidence, knowledge and capacities. Participants identified the Women Lead model as being relevant to their needs and accessible to them. We can see evidence of women identifying Women Lead as an important enabler of collective action – supporting women to raise their voice, advocate for their needs and engage more effectively with stakeholders. Quantitative surveys support these findings. In Niger, 88% of Women Lead participants feel confident in their knowledge of their rights compared with 58% of non-participants. In Uganda, 58% of Women Lead participants reported ‘confidence in accessing services’ compared with 40% of non-participant women who said the same.
2. Women’s presence and meaningful participation in decision-making: The evaluation finds that Women Lead increases women’s presence, regularity of attendance, and meaningful and effective participation in decision-making community settings. In Niger, 91% of women who participated in Women Lead had attended formal community meetings and almost 60% said they had attended these meetings regularly compared with only 34% of non-Women Lead participants. This had occurred despite men in the community previously challenging women’s presence at these meetings. The Women Lead model appears to normalise women’s presence in decision-making spaces, and we see some evidence of women forming their own decision-making forums and creating opportunities for themselves to make decisions, take action or hold leaders to account. In Uganda, the South Sudanese Refugee Women’s Association has formally registered to become the first recognised women's community-based organisation in Omugo settlement. We also see the incorporation of Women Lead groups in Colombia, where groups have formally registered and started to offer services to other women.
3. Women’s informal and formal leadership: We see strong evidence of women feeling empowered to take up leadership positions within their community, both formally and informally. In Niger, women are significantly more likely to be leaders in their communities than non-participants (31% of Women Lead participants compared with 9% of non-participants). In Uganda, 22% of Women Lead participants hold leadership positions in their communities compared with 14% of non-participants. In Colombia, for which we have pre- and post-comparison data available for this indicator, before Women Lead 21% of members held leadership positions within their community. This had increased to 40% by the time of this evaluation. However, there is scope to enhance this work further and for there to be more consistent promotion of women’s leadership through work around political representation, leadership style and horizontal/inclusive decision-making processes.
September 2022 – Global Evaluation Report vii
4. Women take collective action: The Women Lead approach both helps empower women and serves to address complex barriers to their meaningful participation. Women Lead action plans are a useful tool to mobilise women for collective action to advocate for women’s needs and wants, organise peer support and solidarity activities, and improve their communities by engaging power-holders. Action has also frequently been taken to tackle the preconditions for participation and, in the action plans available for analysis, 42% of actions related to livelihood and income generation. This highlights the importance of women being free to prioritise according to their needs, to ensure they can tackle the preconditions of participation where necessary. We can also see clear qualitative evidence of women taking collective action to make change within their communities. This includes:
• Influencing humanitarian actors and local authorities to address the needs of women and the community: In Uganda, group members successfully advocated for humanitarian response actors to move the food distribution site closer.
• Advocating to address an injustice: In Niger, women had difficulty accessing maternity services owing to high costs. The Women Lead groups advocated to the district medical officer and the head of the hospital – and achieved a considerable reduction in the cost of accessing hospital services.
• Connecting and complementing community actors: In Uganda, Women Lead groups took a lead in addressing community tensions. For instance, when there were tensions around access to land and firewood, women worked with leaders from different communities to put in place agreements on the use of natural resources.
• Direct delivery and problem-solving: We see examples of women working to respond directly to the needs of their peers. In the