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ActionAid’s Arise Fund - Turning crisis response on its head

Twenty-five years ago, governments met in Beijing to adopt an action plan for gender equality. This year, in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, and with climate change emerging as one of the biggest threats to women’s rights, they are in the process of reviewing global progress. 

In Australia as bushfires raged over summer and then families went into lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, domestic violence services reported increasing demand. In Southern Africa, where temperatures are rising at twice the global average and 45 million people face starvation, girls are being forced into early marriage so they are no longer a family dependent.

As scientists have warned, extreme weather and climate-related disasters are growing in frequency, scale and impact.  These emergencies are not gender neutral. Globally, women and their children are 14 times more likely to die in a disaster. Poverty and gender inequality deepen and along with it, the risk of violence against women increases. Coronavirus is also taking a disproportionate toll on women’s paid and unpaid work.

Yet traditional humanitarian responses are systematically failing women. Women are frequently excluded from decision-making, resulting in gender-blind responses that fail to account for the needs of women or recognise the critical roles they play during emergencies, including caring for the injured, the young and the elderly, and ensuring the food security of families.

While intensifying global crises are cause for despair, they can also be a catalyst for change. During crises, opportunities open up for rapid transformation, including progress towards gender equality. 

ActionAid’s Arise Fund is turning crisis response on its head by putting women most affected at the centre of response efforts. Aiming to empower one million women around the world to lead crisis response, Arise’s initiatives are already underway in Nepal, Vanuatu, Philippines, Indonesia, Haiti and Somaliland.

ActionAid pioneered women-led emergency response over a decade ago and through it, we know this work transforms gender relations over the long term. When women are prepared and resourced in times of crisis, communities see the difference their leadership makes in driving more inclusive and effective responses.

Women like Lilibeth Padaya from the Philippines are testament to this: “Before, I just stayed at home, just like the usual expectations for women. But after Typhoon Yolanda, women were activated. We were recognised that we can also lead and be part of the planning process… It was like I got a new life. I thought change must start from me.”

Every dollar invested in preparing for a crisis, saves seven dollars in future losses. By putting dollars in the hands of women, Arise is supporting them to prepare, to respond and to protect their rights, while gaining leadership skills that will last a lifetime.

Find out more about how you can resource women leading crisis response and transform societies for the better at

This organisation is supported by trusts managed by Equity Trustees.