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.
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.
- 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.