Women and girls are particularly vulnerable in emergencies to illness, abuse and violence so the role of female humanitarians is especially important
By Aggrey Nyondwa Kikobera
From Florence Nightingale to Mother Teresa, from Clara Barton to Harriet Tubman, the humanitarian world has always been dependent on strong women of valor, with hearts full of kindness. It is in women nature to love and care for others. It is a motherhood instinct which makes women the best humanitarians anyone can ask for.
We have all heard of the amazing stories of such courageous women, who in the face of war, conflict and strife offered to help and care for those urgently in need. Most of the humanitarian principles and guidelines that we have today are derived from the bravery and compassion of such women. For example Florence Nightingale's heroic deeds during the Crimean war 1853-1856 where she nursed and cared for wounded soldiers even in the night. This is why she was mostly known as "the lady with a lamp." Then the incredible stories of Mother Teresa in the 20th Century who gave almost everything she had to the poor and all those in need.
This year's World Humanitarian Day (Monday 19th August) specifically seeks to highlight and honor women who have acted as first responders to the darkest hours of crisis. Women who have sacrificed the time they would spent with their families to be in the world's most dangerous places. They are always the first to arrive and the last to leave and this is basically because of their natural attachment to humanity.
Unlike the men, women are quite vulnerable especially in such fragile contexts. It is a shame that to this day women humanitarians are still disrespected, harassed and discriminated. This is so unfair considering the amount of risks they are taking by being in these places. If there is an ambush, they suffer most. They have also had to put up with rape and all sorts of sexual abuse. They have been exploited in many ways, taken advantage of, and bullied. We need more of them in the world of humanitarian work because of their uniqueness to easily and quickly connect with the most vulnerable.
Women and girls are particularly vulnerable in emergencies to illness, abuse and violence so the role of female humanitarians is especially important. Children make the biggest percentages of those affected in emergencies; they are hungry, separated and scared and the best people they would want to interact with in such situations are the women, the mothers. And by running to their rescue, women humanitarians are making hope a reality, every day for these children
Any aid agency should therefore be proud to work with women because they penetrate society's hearts and understand vulnerability like no other. They (Agencies) should put policies in place to motivate their women humanitarians to feel safe especially when they are out there saving lives. Over 200 members (41%) of World Vision Uganda Refugee Response's staff are women and all these are proud humanitarians who appreciate the measures and frameworks that have been put in place to ensure their safety and motivation.
"'Every day I look forward to meeting refugee children and helping them overcome their fears and worries. Majority of the children I interact with have lost their parents while others have been separated from their families, my role is to make sure that these children are protected, cared for and that they enjoy the love of God" said Mariam Aseru, a World Vision staff working in Bidibidi refugee settlement.
World Humanitarian day marks the anniversary of the bombing of the UN HQ in Baghdad in 2003 where 22 humanitarians were killed, it's however a shame that just last week three aid workers died in Syria and hundreds more die every year. There is urgent need to understand and respect the international humanitarian law and the resolutions of the Geneva Convection which specifically call for the protection of aid workers and civilians in conflict.
Failure to protect, respect and appreciate those who are risking everything to help some of the most vulnerable people in the world means that all the great works of the world renown humanitarians, men and women will have been for nothing.
The writer is a humanitarian communicator