Cultural and Gender Relevancy in Refugee Leadership

Social hierarchies in displaced contexts can be complex and hard to get a handle on. Because of this, continuous program development should include ongoing questioning and reviewing of assumptions about the communities you serve.

One way to ensure your CLE program is crosscutting through the different social hierarchies and dynamics, is by ensuring that refugee leadership include representation of individuals of diverse characteristics. Another important aspect is the inclusion of women in leadership, and to encourage developing programming that meets the specific needs of women. Some tips on gender relevancy in leadership programming:

  • If the functions required of community leaders (advocates or legal advisers) are not flexible (regarding time, commitment) you are unlikely to attract many women to the roles, given that they frequently are charged with childcare duties.
  • Consider compensating these roles: this can foster women’s economic empowerment among female leaders.
  • Advertise in non-traditional spaces for these roles: many women may not see them if only displayed only in mainstream newspapers and at public institutions (e.g. women’s markets, public restrooms, childcare centers, etc.).
  • In a context of widespread discrimination against women, your female community leaders will need to be particularly persistent when engaging with authorities. They may also experience contempt from members of their own communities in some repressive environments. You should support women through such difficulties and empower them with the resources they need to combat intolerance.
  • When constructing community action plans be aware of representational issues and guide participants in conducting their own process in a gender-sensitive fashion. This includes gender-sensitive budgeting (if appropriate), needs analysis, planning and delegation, and follow-up and evaluation.
  • Train all community outreach leaders in recognizing gender-based constraints and responses.