A future generation of women logisticians in humanitarian action
Humanitarian action is increasingly integrating a gender perspective to ensure that the specific needs of women, girls, boys and men are considered, for example in humanitarian needs assessments and the delivery of assistance. This is the case in the Humanitarian Needs Overview 2021 and the Humanitarian Response Plan 2021 for the Central African Republic (CAR), which guide the work of humanitarian organisations in the country. This work is supported by the Gender Working Group in CAR, which brings together humanitarian actors from across the different thematic sectors and works to develop a common approach to gender mainstreaming in the humanitarian programme cycle.
Launching a dialogue on inclusion
To better respond to the needs of all beneficiaries and to better integrate gender equality into their work, humanitarian partners in CAR are also committed to diversifying their workforce. To this end, the Logistics Cluster, a forum of humanitarian actors working in the logistics sector, has launched an initiative on gender in logistics. The initiative provides a platform for all stakeholders from the sector to exchange ideas on a monthly basis, to learn from each other, encourage collaboration between organisations, and join forces and advocacy, with the aim of launching tangible measures to enable greater access for women to jobs in humanitarian logistics in CAR.
Few women, and especially few Central African women, work in logistics – one of the typical male dominated professions. The Logistics Cluster recently launched a survey among humanitarians working in logistics in CAR to better understand the issues at stake surrounding gender inequalities in this sector, including the composition of logistics teams, barriers to accessing the profession and efforts made by humanitarian organisations to diversify their teams in terms of the female to male ratio. The survey shows that only one in ten logisticians in humanitarian organisations in CAR is a woman. The few women work mainly in administrative rather than decision-making roles, such as purchaser, assistants and storekeepers, and are less represented in senior positions, such as team leaders and logistics officers, as well as drivers and technicians.
Working in logistics requires specific skills in which women are often less trained or which discourage them due to persistent gender bias, such as negotiating in a highly competitive environment, public speaking and physical fitness. Girls and young women are seldomly supported or even discouraged from taking up decision-making roles and are rather directed towards the administrative sector. The consequence – the gender segregation of professions – is of course also reflected in the composition of employees in humanitarian organisations in CAR. In addition, the few women working in humanitarian logistics in CAR report that they are often faced with gender discrimination in the workplace, such as lack of consideration or problems of authority because of their gender; a considerable disincentive.
Planning concrete measures
The recent survey conducted by the Logistics Cluster will serve as a basis for developing common tools, trainings and advocacy, and a roadmap to ensure better integration of women in humanitarian logistics. Concrete ideas to increase the rate of female humanitarian logisticians include visits and open days at schools, technical colleges and universities to promote logistics jobs; introductory trainings in humanitarian logistics to give girls and women a taste for and encourage them to take up this career path; and logistics internships in humanitarian organisations specifically for women. Advocacy will focus on the management of humanitarian organisations to orientate recruitment policies with concrete actions to favour the inclusion of women in logistics, as well as to promote the continuous training of women.
Humanitarian organisations can act as role models in CAR by further diversifying their staff and thus promoting gender equality, breaking down gendered constructions of professions.