Championing Diversity and Inclusion

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RedR's Programme Manager Kate Denman on the case for inclusion in humanitarian response - and how RedR is helping to further this agenda.

The humanitarian sector seems to be moving towards addressing issues of diversity and inclusion more directly. Is this a new development, or are these issues simply receiving more attention than they used to? 

Kate: There has been a realisation that the most at-risk groups, such as older people, people with disabilities, and people of diverse gender profiles (including but not limited to women and girls), have consistently been most in need of humanitarian assistance - yet also least likely to access that assistance. 

In the past five to ten years, the sector has got better at addressing the needs of women and girls - not just in terms of protection, but across all sectors and programmes, ensuring they are part of the plan, response, and implementation. However, there is much more to inclusion: if you are a woman and have a disability, for example, you are at even greater risk. 

A few years ago, institutional donors such as ECHO requested that each programme have a gender and age marker (score). I think we will soon see a gender, age and disability marker being requested by many of the big donors in an attempt to push organisations to change their policies and practices and become more inclusive.

A resident of Katike village in Sindhupalchok District, Nepal, surveys the damage after the 2015 earthquake
A resident of Katike village in Sindhupalchok District, Nepal, surveys the damage after the 2015 earthquake

What do you think has sparked increased awareness of the importance of inclusion?

I think increased awareness of the importance of inclusion is the result of a lot of hard work and advocacy by organisations like Help Age, Handicap International, CBM, Plan and IRC. There is now a large bank of evidence to demonstrate the current gaps. This has helped people understand how we can improve as a sector, and as individuals.

Advocating the inclusion of all genders, ages and people with disabilities is the responsibility of everyone. It requires openness, along with a willingness to learn and to adapt policies, practices and attitudes. External technical support is often required, and age- and disability-specific organisations are able to provide such support.

What do we mean by 'mainstreaming gender' in our programmes?

'Gender mainstreaming' is a globally accepted strategy for promoting gender equality throughout all aspects of an organisation or programme. This means that attention is paid to gender perspectives and the needs of different genders at every stage, regardless of the project goal or sector.

For example, if you're running a WASH project, your needs assessment should include the different needs of women, men, girls and boys. The programme should be designed to meet these different needs, and closely monitored throughout the implementation phase to check whether they are being met. What we refer to as a 'targeted approach' would be a programme which has a specific end goal of advancing gender equality: for example, RedR’s 'Gender, Age and Disability' course is a targeted approach to inclusion. In contrast to this, RedR’s 'Personal Security for Humanitarians' has inclusion mainstreamed throughout the course. A 'twin-track approach' - which is a mixture of these two approaches - is also applied in many programmes.

Inclusive action must take into consideration everyone’s needs, at every stage of intervention and regardless of the project goal or sector - especially the needs of those most at risk.

Kate Denman

Programme Manager, RedR UK

How is RedR contributing to this agenda?

RedR UK is part of the ADCAP (Age and Disability Capacity-Building Programme) consortium, which has developed Minimum Standards for Age and Disability Inclusion in Humanitarian Action.

In 2016, we designed a new course called ‘Gender, Age and Disability’, which we’ve run twice in Nepal and once in Myanmar. We hope to be able to deliver it more widely in 2017. We delivered a training on Sphere and the ADCAP Minimum Standards in collaboration with ABS - this was a part of a 'training of trainers’ course, to help cascade the learning. In addition, RedR is looking at our own programmes and internally assessing how we can improve with regards to access and inclusion.

How can an individual aid worker or NGO staff member advocate for change within his / her organisation?

I would suggest that we all start by reflecting on our own actions. Are you working inclusively? Where are the barriers for people, and are you unintentionally contributing to them? How can they be removed? Part of this may be through just talking to people, learning about others' experiences and understanding how you can change your own actions, behaviours and attitudes to be more inclusive. You may also want to look at taking a course: there are some good, free online courses in this area. Other efforts could include seeking advice on proposals to ensure you have gender, age and disability inclusion mainstreamed in every programme.


To help you advocate for inclusion within your organisation