Many experts point out that the impact of aid interventions on gender, especially in post-conflict settings, is rarely measured. Most of the literature on aid programmes that is available often takes a more critical perspective, with a view to suggesting what could have been done better. As a result, there is relatively more information on the strategies which are considered successful.
Most commentators agree that the post-conflict period offers a unique opportunity to reconstruct a nation, including its social and political norms. This brings with it the chance of transforming conceptions about gender roles, gender-sensitising key sectors such as education and health, and laying the foundation for gender equality in the future. Post-conflict activities must address the effects of women’s exposure to increased physical, social and medical vulnerability during the conflict – including sexualised violence both within and outside the domestic sphere; family disruptions; and displacement. On the other hand, the experiences women often gain from taking on new roles during conflict, as heads of household and income-earners, for example, also bring an added dimension to the post-conflict reconstruction phase.
The main challenges for humanitarian aid actors therefore are to:
- harness the post-conflict momentum for change to focus attention on gender equality and promote the participation of women
- rebuild civil society
- gender-sensitise the post-conflict legal framework
- create equal employment and livelihoods opportunities
- rehabilitate social services
- empower and mobilise communities to address gender issues.