The heavy burden for women and girls in times of crisis

Existing inequalities increase the risks for women and girls when crisis hits, and traditional systems to protect the most vulnerable break down.

Be a champion for women and girls

Right now, some of the most at risk women and girls in the world are those living in places affected by conflict and crisis.

According to figures gathered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, today there are more refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people than ever before in recorded history. In 2015, ongoing conflict and persecution forced 65.3 million people to flee their homes– almost double the 37.5 million people displaced a decade before.

That’s more than two and a half times the Australian population. In fact, globally one person in every 113 is now a refugee, internally displaced person or asylum seeker. Estimates suggest that up to 80 percent of those displaced people worldwide are women and children. 

The UN Security Council has stated that women and girls suffer disproportionately during and after war, due to existing inequalities being magnified and the breakdown of social networks, heightening their vulnerability to sexual violence and exploitation. That statement remains true today.

As a World Vision child protection and conflict specialist, Erin Joyce has a firsthand view of our vital work supporting women and girls in Syria and the surrounding region.

“We know that people who have had to flee their homes are some of the most vulnerable in the world, with the highest humanitarian needs. Women and girls in middle or low income countries already face additional layers of risk. When disaster strikes and they are removed from the protection of their home environment, that risk only becomes worse,” Erin says.

The impact on women and girls' lives can take many forms. Stress, inadequate access to health and protection services and lack of income can have an adverse effect on women’s mental health and physical wellbeing, particularly as they put the needs of their family above their own. Women may end up having to financially support their families, resorting to work that puts them at risk of abuse and exploitation. Girls are more likely to be forced to drop out of school, affecting their future potential. For some families, resorting to child labour and early marriage seems like the only way to ensure the survival and protection of their children. Male heads of households are often a key protective element for the women and children in their families, so without them women can become increasingly isolated and face barriers accessing essential services.

According to Erin, tackling these problems requires a dual approach. “We need to be designing specific projects to address risks for women and girls, as well as ensuring that all our work takes the needs of women and girls into account to ensure they have safe, dignified and meaningful access.”


Six ways your support is championing change for women and girls affected by crisis and conflict

Handwashing emergencies

Dignity kits

It can be tough for women and girls affected by crisis and conflict to meet their basic hygiene needs. In Lebanon, World Vision is distributing dignity kits packed with essential items including underwear, sanitary napkins and disposal bags, soap, safety pins, a face towel and a hair brush. The kits integrate with our emergency water, sanitation and hygiene programming and are an essential investment in women and girls' health and self-esteem.

Psychosocial support emergencies

Psychosocial support

Psychosocial support focuses on helping people affected by crisis and conflict to process their experiences, learn positive coping mechanisms, and referring cases for specialist care if needed. In Syria, World Vision’s psychosocial support and protection teams are reaching around 4,000 children and care-givers through home visits and activities in local schools and health clinics.


Women emergencies breastfeeding

Women and Child Friendly Spaces

Women and Child Friendly Spaces are at the core of World Vision’s emergency responses around the world. These safe, welcoming meeting places can provide a range of opportunities, from somewhere for children to play and learn, to a place for mothers to access health services and support. Like a port in a storm, these spaces provide a calm, helpful community environment in what can be very difficult and confusing times.

Iraq vocational

Vocational training

Vocational training in useful, culturally appropriate skills can help displaced women earn an income to support their family without resorting to work that puts them at risk of harassment or exploitation. In northern Syria World Vision has created a space for women to learn new languages and take courses in skills like hairdressing. The project has gained the support of local religious leaders, who are now encouraging more women to participate.

Emergencies maternal health

Maternal health services

In the aftermath of the Nepal Earthquake, World Vision mobilised female Community Health Volunteers to provide around 13,000 mothers with essential information about maintaining good hygiene, breastfeeding, immunisation and nutrition practices. In Syria and Iraq, World Vision has partnered with other organisations to ensure displaced families have access to well-equipped healthcare services, and to raise mothers’ awareness of key prenatal, postnatal and maternal best practices.

Emergencies information

Information and child protection

Conflict and crisis often result in the breakdown of traditional roles and community protection systems, meaning that women and children must take on new responsibilities in an environment where they don’t know where to turn for support. World Vision seeks to connect people with information and services, and strengthens systems to protect them. In Jordan and Serbia, World Vision has trained teachers, social workers and other community members to recognise and work to prevent cases of trafficking and child marriage.

We're champions for women and girls. Whether it’s an emergency response or part of our long-term community development programs, World Vision is helping women and girls to make lasting and continuous change in their lives.

You can be a part of it. Be a champion for women and girls today.

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