By Ly Nguyen, IFRC

When a disaster strikes, women, children and the elderly often struggle with more than just losing their homes and belongings. They face other dangers and threats to their security, usually in the form of sexual and gender-based violence.

In Nepal, for example, early and forced marriage increases in the face of heightened poverty and desperation after the 2015 Nepal Earthquake.

Other times, women and adolescent girls in cyclone shelters are concerned about the lack of lighting and locks in toilets. Pregnant women avoid coming to shelters due to difficulties in climbing stairs and absence of clean birthing facilities.

Understanding the importance of addressing these challenges, a Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) in Emergencies training took place in Manila, Philippines in August. It was followed by the Southeast Asia Gender and Diversity Network meeting. Co-organised by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Philippine Red Cross, the trainings saw the participation of 10 National Societies in Asia, Red Cross Red Crescent Movement partners, Inter-Agency Standing Committee REGA, USAID, International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), and the Family Planning Organisation of the Philippines.

“I believe the training is essential to all those who are involved in spreading information about sexual and gender-based violence,” said Saiful Nordin, the International Humanitarian Law, Legal and International Relations Manager for Malaysian Red Crescent. “It encompasses the essential element of sexual and gender-based violence response, and shows us the best manner to act for the best interest of the survivor.”

The training covered key concepts and definitions SGBV, the prevalence of this issue in disasters and how Red Cross and Red Crescent staff can offer support to survivors of SGBV. Participants also learned from IPPF about the Minimum Initial Services Package (MISP) which provides critical healthcare in emergencies. The Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development and a local Manila-based women’s support service centre also shared their experience in SGBV. At the end of the training, participants developed an action plan on integrating SGBV in the work of their National Societies existing disaster response, health and social services work at community level in Asia.

“I am learning so much about the commitment of Movement partners at the leadership level in addressing sexual and gender-based violence,” said Kai Spratt, senior regional gender advisor, USAID, Regional Development Mission for Asia. “I’m going to encourage all of our missions to reach out to their National Society to see how we can coordinate and share lessons learned.”

The training comes at a timely moment as the Government of Canada is adopting a feminist international assistance policy, which aims to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as the most effective way to reduce poverty and build a more inclusive and peaceful world.

“The Canadian Red Cross just signed a five-year agreement with the Philippine Red Cross on disaster management and community health,” said Paul Drossou, country representative, Canadian Red Cross Philippines. “We will integrate sexual and gender-based violence along with disability inclusion through working with our community health volunteers into the project.”

For more information and reference materials on the SGBV training, visit the Gender and Diversity page on our Online Resilience Library.

The training was organised as part of the Regional Resilience Initiative supported by the Canadian Red Cross and Canadian Government.