Cynthia, Gender/Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) Adviser with OCHA, working from home in Jordan. Photo supplied.

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Gender Equality

Program Summary

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Deployment Months
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Host Organisations

In FY21 the program reached its highest number of targets from the Australia Assists Gender Action Plan (GAP) to date (25/28 or 89 per cent). Australia Assists doubled the target of four gender specialists deployed per year, deploying eight targeted specialists, plus five more technical experts deployed to gender-mandated host organisations (IPPF, UN Women and UNFPA).

GAP priorities

1. Enhance women’s voices in decision-making, leadership and peace building.

2. End violence against women and girls.

3. Build organisational capacity including developing improved policies and systems to support quality gender programming.

The program advanced GAP priorities through targeted deployments to multiple host organisations throughout Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, including:

  • Gender and Protection Support Advisor, UN Women Vanuatu
  • Protection and AAP Advisor, WFP Myanmar
  • Gender Advisor, WFP Jordan
  • Gender/PSEA Advisor, OCHA Jordan
  • SRH (Sexual and Reproductive Health) and GBV (Gender Based Violence) in Emergencies Programme Specialist, UNFPA Fiji
  • PSEA (Preventing Sexual Exploitation and Assault) Coordinator, UNFPA Fiji
  • Protection Advisor, UN Women Fiji.

In addition, Australia Assists deployed other specialists to gender-mandated host organisations including:

  • Two MEAL specialists and a supply chain and logistics specialist to IPPF Fiji
  • MEAL Specialist, UN Women Jordan
  • Women, Peace and Security Advisor, UN Women Jordan.
Three people sit around a table, smiling at the camera. Some notebooks, papers and a laptop are on the table in front of them. Palm trees and a body of water are visible outside through a window.
Abby, Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) Technical Advisor supports COVID-19 preparedness with the Papua New Guinea Department of Health.

Driving the protection agenda

Preventing gender-based violence (GBV) and sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment (PSEAH) remained a program priority, at both an operational and organisational level. The deployment of protection specialists to the Pacific directly contributed to increased local and national capacity to prevent, manage and respond to GBV during emergencies such as COVID-19 and recent tropical cyclones. Deployees worked to integrate the principles of GBV prevention into plans, strategies and procedures of emergency programming. They also took pragmatic action to reduce GBV risks through public information campaigns, including distributing helpline posters in evacuation centres and advocating for female representation in community decision-making roles.

Women, peace and security

Deployed to UN Women Myanmar six months before the February 2021 coup, Women, Peace and Security Specialist (WPS) Jess supported local women to have a greater voice in peace and stability, as violence escalated around the country. She helped contextualise a Training of Trainers handbook, which incorporates international law and WPS information geared to increase women’s participation in peace processes. Her work identified barriers and partnership opportunities to enable local ownership of the WPS agenda.

"Nimarta has assisted us to strengthen our response and recovery to multiple disasters, mainstreaming gender and protection into other sectors. Her technical assistance and support has directly contributed to increased budget and programming for the Justice and Community Services sector.”
— Director General, Vanuatu Ministry of Justice and Community Services, on deployee, Nimarta.

Impact at a glance

Sixty-eight per cent of completed deployments in FY21 reported on their contribution toward gender equality – 18 per cent higher than the GAP target, and a 10 per cent increase on FY21. This was in part attributable to a stronger emphasis on gender equality in pre-deployment briefings and online training opportunities offered to deployees.

  • A UN Women Protection Advisor supported the Pacific regional protection cluster to identify and address protection bottlenecks experienced during disaster response phases and build on lessons learned in preparation for the next cyclone season.
  • Two PSEAH specialists to OCHA Jordan and UNFPA Fiji improved organisational accountability on awareness and prevention and strengthened information sharing within their respective regional networks.
  • A Gender Advisor developed a Gender Strategy and Action Plan for WFP Jordan and assisted working groups to address the gendered impacts of COVID-19, such as heightened risks of GBV during lockdown.
  • A Disaster Risk Management Specialist with FAO Timor-Leste led the integration of gender considerations into COVID-19 food security impact assessments. During field trips, she interviewed women and men separately to ensure open, equitable discussions.  
  • A UNHCR Turkey Shelter Officer incorporated strategies to reduce the risk of gender-based violence in refugee settlement designs, for example, separating male and female bathrooms by distance, and considering the layout of women-friendly and child-friendly spaces in line with humanitarian Sphere standards.
"She demonstrated respect for diversity and inclusion, and collaborative work ethic, in her manner of engaging with multiple diverse stakeholders and actors.”  
— Gender and Humanitarian Specialist, UN Women Jordan, on deployee, Kylie.

GAP highlights

  • The number of gender specialists on the RedR roster has increased by 59 per cent since the October 2017 baseline, from 56 to 89 specialists.

  • As a direct result of an Australia Assists Rohingya Review finding, RedR commissioned a follow-up project that specifically focused on preventing sexual exploitation, assault and harassment (PSEAH) (see the PSEAH Project box and Partnerships section). The project sought to capture the experiences of people working in the humanitarian sector in relation to PSEAH, and to provide pathways for improving both practice and policies. The research involved close engagement with sector partners and an internal learning session, held in May 2021.

  • RedR initiated an independent desk-based gender review of a sample of 18 deployments, including a mix of gender specialists and others, which provided examples of gender mainstreaming. The analysis of the GAP’s Priority One (Enhancing women’s voices in decision-making) and Two (Ending violence against women and girls) found that Australia Assists deployments:

    • help keep the needs of women and girls on the agendas of host organisations and other humanitarian actors and decision-makers.
    • contribute to institutional strengthening of partner agencies and the broader humanitarian sector, through collaboration with local partners and other organisations.
    • contribute to the coordination of gender and protection activities during disaster response.
    • play a key role in mentoring and advancing the knowledge and skills of humanitarian staff, leaders and decision-makers in government and non-government sectors.
    • strengthen gender and social inclusion in humanitarian response through Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning deployments.
    • strengthen GBV Clusters and coordination on gender-based violence.
    • improve the quality of needs assessment processes and tools.
    • contribute to improving GBV standards, policies and guidelines.
  • In September 2020, RedR engaged a Gender Specialist from the roster to deliver two professional development online training sessions on GBV awareness, which reached 23 staff, associate trainers and other roster members.

The PSEAH Project

The PSEAH Project examined individual experiences of, and progress within, the Australian humanitarian sector since PSEAH and Whistleblower policies were developed in 2018. Data collected from May to June 2021 drew on more than 109 confidential survey respondents, half of whom had more than 10 years individual professional sectoral experience, totalling more than 600 years of collective expertise. The final report is scheduled for the 2021-22 financial year but a key message has emerged:

"Sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment is enabled by cultural and societal norms that perpetuate power imbalance and inequality. Tackling sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment for organisations and as a sector should be recognised as a golden opportunity – wherein individuals, teams and leaders are encouraged to reflect on and unlearn traditional ways of working in order to build resilient, inclusive, safe and creative workplaces. The downstream effects of this are not only related to internal efficiency, effectiveness and innovation but ultimately will be felt by affected populations and local partners."
PSEAH Project Final Report (RedR Australia and the Australian Red Cross)

What emerged as a challenge?

  • The three annual GAP objectives that RedR did not meet in FY21 relate to the inclusion of gender-specific outputs in deployment Terms of Reference (TOR), the delivery of staff training on the Gender Strategy, and the review of RedR’s GBV Policy. Including gender-specific outputs in deployment Terms of Reference has been challenging in relation to UN deployments, but RedR is addressing this outside the TOR document. Staff training on the Gender Strategy and the review of the GBV Policy are scheduled for FY22, upon completion of the Preventing Sexual Exploitation Assault and Harassment (PSEAH) Project.
  • The independent desk-based gender review recommended ‘including sub-questions on community level and host organisation-level impacts of targeted gender deployments in final (deployment) reports’. RedR has addressed this by updating all deployment reporting templates and placing questions regarding gender, disability and protection at the front-end to optimise capture.

Program Snapshots

Download FY21 Deployment Data