During the last Global Shelter Cluster, which took place during mid-June, a group of over 200 women who are working in the Shelter and Settlements field have joined a WhatsApp group under the name ‘Women in Shelter’. The group has grown out of a desire to support each other thrive in a male-dominated industry and to increase women’s representation at all levels. This transformation can positively impact programming and create a welcoming working environment for women. From MICSEA we are actively taking part in the group thanks to the engagement of our director Carmen Mendoza Arroyo, our professor specialized in gender studies Apen Ruiz, and many of our women Alumni. 

It is time for a change! We are committed to the betterment of female labour conditions moving towards gender equality in our field. During the final thesis presentation of our Master’s program, some of our students presented  thesis in which gender was its main topic. Marta Guilera I Serra, through her thesis ‘Assessing reconstruction development projects through a gender perspective: the cases of Burundi and Nepal’ questioned the implementation process of reconstruction projects and how incoroporating a gender perspective in the projects has lead to more inclusive proposals. In the case of the thesis of  Ecem Sezer ‘A Gender perspective on the uses and negotiations of urban space in İstanbul’, where she analyzed the impact of design of Istambul’s public spaces in women behaviours and security. As well as Marta, Mireia Guilera‘s thesis ‘Exploring sexual and gender-based violence in the humanitarian AID sector: The ethical and moral contradictions in the humanitarian system’ tackles the specific issue of gender violence within humanitarian institutions, she analyses several examples to undertake this problem. They all are examples of the focus on gender topics at MICSEA. Marta and Mireia’s thesis incorporated surveys and inputs of the women in Shelter group as part of their thesis analyisis. 

The Women in Shelter group gathers women from different organisations and a wide range of countries. The group aims at representing women in the shelter field beyond their original backgrounds. It is an informal group to share insight and find solidarity. It brings a shared space to reflect on how it is to be a woman across the shelter sector and propose solutions towards absolute gender equality. 

Session 4 – Summary of the survey

During session 4 ‘Empowering Women in the Shelter and Settlements Sector’, held as part of the Global Shelter Cluster, they shared a video where many of the members participated with reflections and shared the results of a small survey where they posed relevant questions on the topic such as: ‘How can we walk towards a positive change, and who needs to play a role for improving current conditions?’. The session went on to be divided into four working groups to deepen into the main topics and take action with questions such as: ‘what examples can you give that have addressed gender inequality?’ The group proposed measures and actions regarding recruitment processes, equality in women’s work opportunities, and visibility of women in public events. 

Answering to the question of ‘what additional steps/actions do you think are required?’ The subgroup suggested reinforcing gender perspective in education and communication strategies,  engagement of women in decision making spheres and processes, and flexibility of hours and maternity leave for parents working in humanitarian organizations.

Finally, if we ask ‘who has a role to play in accomplishing these actions?’ It is clear that everybody has a role to play in this systemic change: HR, senior managers, community leaders. We all need to contribute and put our efforts to break the chain of this obsolete structure. We are working in the direction of a more inclusive and diverse future of the Shelter Sector.

Our director Carmen Mendoza Arroyo commented that ‘As a master program which is preparing professionals from the built environment to work in the humanitarian sector, we are happy to be part of this group and contribute to disseminating the need of a gender perspective in all phases of design and implementation of humanitarian projects. Likewise, we are committed to advocating for a gender perspective in the organizations that are working in the sector ’.  

The future is here! Support and share the work of Women in Shelter! 

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