The impact and experience of emergency situations is profoundly different for girls, women, boys and men. They face different threats and risks, and have different response and coping mechanisms for dealing with the effects of crisis and displacement.

Students are seen in the morning queue in the Gaza Strip. 2017 (c) Wissam Nassar
Image credit: Gaza Strip, 2017. Wissam Nassar.

Emergencies can result in loss of livelihoods and changed social roles. Power dynamics within families, communities and societies are often in flux, and can change women’s and men’s status. In such contexts, educational needs change and different barriers for boys and girls often emerge, with girls usually experiencing greater disadvantage. Four of the five countries with the largest gender gaps in education are conflict affected, and girls in crisis contexts are two and a half times more likely to be out of primary school and 90% more likely to be out of secondary school than their counterparts in more stable settings.

Girls face multiple threats to accessing safe and quality education, including targeted attacks on girls’ schools, school-related gender-based violence, increased risk of early marriage and early pregnancy, reduced availability of sexual and reproductive health services, increased burden of unpaid carework and domestic labor. As costs rise to send children to school in fragile situations, adolescent girls are particularly disadvantaged, where relative to boys - education is often not considered to be an investment. Many of these challenges have been compounded by emerging and protracted crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis. Globally, over 11 million girls may never go back to school after the pandemic; an additional 10 million girls are at risk of child marriage over the next decade; and two million additional cases of female genital mutilation may occur

Men and boys are also exposed to various threats which undermine education opportunities. Conflict can have a greater impact on boys’ education in certain contexts where they are more likely to be recruited into armed forces or pressured to take up paid employment

Shifts in gender roles and relations observed following crises present the opportunity to harness such dynamics and set new precedents for gender equality. Indeed, global research demonstrates that conflict is less likely in contexts where there is gender parity in terms of mean years of schooling. Furthermore, emerging promising practices show that when education is available equitably, is of good quality, relevant, conflict and gender–sensitive it can break cycles of conflict and violence, redefine gender norms and promote tolerance and reconciliation. 

Global commitments reflect increasing prioritization of gender equality as well as education in conflict and crisis settings through the SDGs, Education 2030 Framework for Action, the World Humanitarian Summit, the 2018 Charlevoix Declaration on Quality Education, and the 2021 Declaration on Girls’ Education. However further investment in, at a minimum, gender-responsive education in emergencies (EiE) programming is critical, with gender transformation an aspirational aim. Stakeholders in the EiE community are working to understand the conditions needed and how to measure gender transformation in EiE, and enable all children and youth to contribute to promoting peaceful, gender-equal, prosperous societies. 

spectrum of gender in EiE programming, from gender unequal to gender transformative
Adapted from: UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women. (2020). Technical Note on Gender-Transformative Approaches: A summary for practitioners.

Key Messages

  • Greater investment in girls’ education in conflict-affected contexts is urgently required as a critical component of achieving the SDGs.
  • EiE policy and programming that does not take into account the specific gendered needs of girls, boys, and gender non conforming children risks exacerbating pre-existing inequalities in education.
  • When education is available equitably, is of good quality, relevant, inclusive, and conflict- and gender–sensitive it can be transformative and promote peace and stability. Quality education can equip girls with knowledge to support a country’s recovery, economic growth, peace and stability.
  • Children in conflict-affected countries are at increased risk of school-related gender based violence
  • Conflict is less likely in contexts where there is gender parity in terms of mean years of schooling. Nine of the world’s ten lowest levels of gender equality in educational attainment are in fragile states. Four of the five countries with the largest gender gaps in education are conflict affected. 
  • During school closures, girls experience serious challenges in accessing technology and resources for distance learning, which further exacerbates learning gaps. During the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated 222 million girls globally could not be reached with digital and broadcast distance learning.
  • Urgent action is needed to minimize learning loss during and after climate-related disasters. An estimated four million girls in low- and lower-middle-income countries will be unable to complete their schooling due to the impacts of climate change

To expand gender equity in EiE, stakeholders are working to integrate gender equality services and strategies into EiE policy and programming. Refer to emerging promising practices here and operational guidance here.

For more information on INEE’s gender initiatives and network spaces, please visit our gender thematic page.


This collection was developed by Emilie Rees Smith, Global Programme Manager, Skills4Girls, UNICEF and updated with the support of Lauren Gerken, INEE Gender Coordinator, and the INEE Gender Task Team.

9 July 2019 Manual/Handbook/Guide Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI)

INEE Guidance Note on Gender

The INEE Guidance Note on Gender provides strategies to ensure that girls, boys, women, and men in contexts of conflict and crisis equally enjoy the protection and learning outcomes that quality education can provide.

11 October 2021 Training Material Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)

INEE Gender Training Manual

The INEE Gender Training Manual orients education practitioners to the INEE Guidance Note on Gender: Gender Equality in and through Education (2019). The training manual outlines 4-8 hours of training activities and materials related to gender-responsive education in emergencies.

14 September 2022 Manual/Handbook/Guide Education Cannot Wait (ECW), Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI)


The EiE-GenKit is a core resource package for gender in education in emergencies. The EiE-GenKit is the first resource of its kind, providing education practitioners with practical tools to promote gender-responsive programming  from crisis to peace and sustainable development.

10 June 2021 Report Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)

Mind the Gap: The State of Girls’ Education in Crisis and Conflict

This report summarizes progress, gaps, challenges and opportunities in improving education and training for girls and women affected by conflict and crisis. The report aims to support the Charlevoix Declaration on Quality Education’s commitment to enhance the evidence base and monitor progress toward gender-equitable education in crises.

26 May 2022 Report Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)

Mind the Gap 2: Seeking Safe and Sustainable Solutions for Girls’ Education in Crises

This report summarizes progress, gaps, challenges and opportunities in improving education and training for girls and women affected by conflict and crisis. This report monitors progress since the first Mind the Gap report and highlights the following thematic areas: distance education and the digital divide, school-related gender-based violence, and girls’ education during climate crisis. 

31 May 2022 Advocacy Brief Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)

Bridging the Gap: Strengthening the Evidence Base for Gender-Responsive Education in Emergencies

This brief highlights key gaps in the evidence base on gender and EiE and provides strategic guidance and thematic content for new research initiatives focused on gender and EiE. 

21 March 2018 Manual/Handbook/Guide Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC)

IASC Gender Handbook for Humanitarian Action

Updating the original 2006 handbook, the new version reflects current humanitarian coordination mechanisms and the recent commitment gains towards gender in humanitarian action developed at international fora such as the World Humanitarian Summit, the Grand Bargain and the Sendai Framework Agreement.

12 July 2018 Manual/Handbook/Guide Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC)

IASC Gender Equality Measures Tip Sheet

This Tip Sheet offers interventions, guiding questions and an example of how 4 Key Gender Equality Measures (GEMs) support gender equality in Education projects and programs. 

10 February 2017 Manual/Handbook/Guide
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
UN Women

Gender Guidance for the Humanitarian Program Cycle 2018-2020

Delivering humanitarian response that meets the needs of women, girls, boys and men remains a priority for all UN Agencies and their partners. This guidance provides a checklist of essential actions for ensuring equitable participation and fair distribution of humanitarian action at each stage of the Humanitarian Program Cycle (HPC).

31 December 2011 Training Material Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)

EIE Harmonized Training Module 16: Gender Responsive Education

​​​​​​At the end of this session participants will be able to explain what is meant by gender-responsive education; reflect on needs and challenges and identify best practices of gender-responsive education; practice the ADAPT and ACT Collectively Framework to mainstream gender into education in emergencies; develop gender-responsive strategies that support the INEE Minimum Standards.

28 August 2015 Manual/Handbook/Guide Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC)

Guidelines for Integrating Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Action

The Guidelines for Integrating Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Action were developed to assist humanitarian actors and communities affected by humanitarian emergencies to coordinate, implement, monitor and evaluate essential action for the prevention and mitigation of gender based violence across all sectors of humanitarian action.

1 October 2017 Report Overseas Development Institute (ODI), United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI)

Mitigating Threats to Girls' Education in Conflict-Affected Contexts: Current Practice

The report presents a rigorous review that complements existing literature on education in conflict-affected contexts by investigating various barriers and threats girls encounter in accessing education, and by shining a spotlight on practices that have supported girls’ access to education in these contexts. 

1 March 2021 Report Malala Fund

A greener, fairer future: Why leaders need to invest in climate and girls' education

A greener, fairer future outlines the origins of the climate emergency and explains how confronting issues like the legacy of colonialism, racial discrimination and gender inequality through education is key to finding a sustainable solution to the crisis. The paper introduces the Gender-Equal Green Learning Agenda, a new framework to help leaders address the climate crisis through education.

1 October 2021 Report United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organziation (UNESCO)

When schools shut: Gendered impacts of COVID-19 school closures

This publication exposes these impacts and calls for effective strategies to ensure education continuity, promote gender equality and improve lives and futures through a review of published research, a global survey of actions taken by organizations in favour of gender equality in education, and in-depth data collection in five countries.