The IRC Women’s Protection & Empowerment Unit equips multidisciplinary first responders with the skills, tools and confidence to ensure that survivors of gender-based violence have access to life-saving services in emergencies, are protected from further harm, and are supported so they can recover and thrive. Responders trained by the IRC use these resources while developing contingency plans, carrying out assessments, efficiently accessing emergency GBV funding, and designing emergency response interventions. Humanitarians who have taken part in IRC trainings have gone on to lead GBV emergency response and coordination in emerging crises including those in the Horn of Africa, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The IRC established the GBV Responders’ Network to support trained responders over time, provide critical resources, facilitate dialogue and capture shared learning.
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For more information about the network, please contact gbvresponders@rescue.org.

The IRC Women’s Protection & Empowerment Unit

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has implemented specific programs to promote and protect the rights of women and girls affected by gender-based violence (GBV) in contexts affected by acute and protracted emergencies since 1996. The IRC Women’s Protection & Empowerment (WPE) Unit promotes the human rights of women and girls to live with dignity, freedom from violence and discrimination, and equal access to knowledge and resources. We support the establishment and strengthening of holistic, survivor-centered services; the empowerment of families, communities and institutions to promote and protect the rights of women and girls; and the creation of opportunities for advocacy to promote and protect the rights of women and girls. All WPE programs are grounded in three major tenets that reflect the shared goal that all women and girls are respected and valued members of their communities:
  • Violence against women and girls is an unacceptable and often an unacknowledged violation of basic human rights.
  • Women and girls have the resilience, resourcefulness and capacity to recover.
  • Women and girls have a right to play a leading role in decision-making that impacts their lives.
IRC addresses both the immediate and long-term needs of women and girls by responding to basic needs for shelter, food, water, medical and psychosocial assistance, and by laying the foundation for long-term efforts to promote economic, social and political equality. IRC’s efforts to end violence against women and girls are sustained in post-conflict and transitional settings to ensure that women and girls can fully participate in building a safer, more equitable world.

The IRC currently has WPE programming in 17 countries: Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of South Sudan, Northern Caucuses, Burundi, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

GBV Emergency Response & Preparedness 

From the Ivory Coast to Iraq, from Haiti to Somalia, women and girls have long been the target of increased violence during and after both human-made crises and natural disasters. Time and again, the humanitarian community has seen evidence of how conflict and natural disaster weaken social structures and services, and increase the risk and severity of violence against women and girls. The frequency and intensity of emergencies around the globe are changing how the humanitarian community prepares for and responds to disaster. As a community, we seek to reduce risks to civilian populations, to prioritize preparedness, and to invest in long-term prevention efforts in areas prone to crisis. And yet, experience shows that we also still fail to prioritize the needs of women and girls. Too often, emergency responders leave violence against women and girls largely unaddressed for weeks, months or years after emergency onset. Responding quickly and effectively to emergencies is a critical first step toward facilitating the healing of GBV survivors, and building environments in which women and girls are safe and able to contribute to reconstruction and lasting peace. The IRC Women’s Protection & Empowerment Unit is committed to emergency response and preparedness, with the goal of building the emergency response and preparedness capacity of IRC and other practitioners and policymakers in positions to prioritize and address the needs of women and girls in emergencies.

Thematic Working Group

The Violence against Women (VAW) in Emergencies Thematic Working Group (TWG) is hosted by the GBV Prevention Network, a platform to share resources and spark dialogue among GBV actors in Eastern and Southern Africa. The TWG was established in 2011 to promote improved approaches to emergency response and preparedness among GBV practitioners through shared resources, expertise and learning. The group objectives are:
  • To provide members with innovative approaches and tools for GBV response in emergencies;
  • To develop strategies for strengthening GBV emergency response and prevention capacity at the local level;
  • To advance learning based on field-level application of GBV response tools in emergencies; and
  • To advocate for increased interest and investment in protecting women and girls from GBV in emergencies, and creating the space for their contribution to reconstruction and peace.
The IRC is the current chair of the VAW in Emergencies TWG. For more information about the group, please contact gbvresponders@rescue.org.