Women give life, love and care to children, help to build and take care of the home, and feed and clothe their loved ones. In most of the developing world, women are additionally responsible for the agricultural production and local trade that help sustain their local economies. Women also weave the social fabric of their communities – working together to support schools, organize community events and help to look after neighbours in need.
Even in times of peace, it is usually women who look after children, the sick, the injured and the elderly. When emergencies strike, this burden of care can multiply. Following a crisis, women become primary caretakers for other survivors – including children, the injured or sick, and the elderly. The vulnerability and responsibilities of women are further increased by the loss of husbands and livelihoods and the need to procure essentials for family survival. In many cases, women become the sole providers and caretakers for their households, and sometimes for the families of others.
The strengths and resilience of women are in high demand following emergencies. But if women are to look after the needs of others, their own safety, dignity, health and nutritional concerns must be met as well. UNFPA and its humanitarian partners seek to bolster the strength of women by identifying and meeting gender-specific needs. The aim is to ensure that such considerations are well understood and are factored into aid planning and camp design, in details from food distribution to security systems.
The burden of care they assume for children and others can make it difficult for women to take proper care of themselves. They may neglect their own needs as they devote themselves to caring for their families and others who need their help.