Shifting Sands

Changing gender roles among refugees in Lebanon

Publication date: 2 September 2013
Author: Claire Harvey, Communications Manager, Oxfam GB; Rosa Garwood, Regional Gender Coordinator, Oxfam GB; Roula El-Masri, Gender Equality Program Coordinator, ABAAD-Resource Center for Gender Equality

The conflict in Syria has created a humanitarian crisis, with more than two million people having fled to neighboring countries in the hope of escaping the violence. Thousands of Syrian refugees continue to enter Lebanon each week, putting pressure on host communities and exhausting their capacity to provide support. The situation has created intense levels of stress for refugees, as they are forced to take on new responsibilities at odds with their traditional gendered social roles.

In order to understand these changing roles, Oxfam and the ABAAD-Resource Center for Gender Equality conducted a gender situation and vulnerability assessment among Syrian refugees and Palestinian refugees from Syria now living in Lebanon. The findings and analysis are presented in this report, which aims to contribute to the knowledge and understanding of the gendered impact of the Syrian conflict on refugees now in Lebanon.

The report concludes with detailed recommendations for development and humanitarian practitioners and donor agencies, to help them design and implement gender-sensitive programming that addresses these shifting gender roles and helps to minimize stress and tensions among refugee populations (at individual, household and community levels) and between refugee and host communities.

Key recommendations

The research findings indicate that humanitarian organizations need a clear organizational commitment to promoting gender equality, which must be embedded into all aspects of programming:

  • Gender and social analysis must be conducted as part of all emergency responses.
  • Sex and age-disaggregated data should be collected, analyzed and used in planning and implementation of aid projects.
  • Refugee women and men’s anxieties and fears about their changing gender roles need to be acknowledged and addressed.
  • Program design should utilize refugees’ existing skills and capacities, as well as meeting their needs. Access to income-generating programs and other benefits and assistance should be equally available to women and men.
  • Donors need to hold implementing agencies accountable for delivery of programs that are gender sensitive. Mechanisms should be in place so that feedback from women and men, and boys and girls, is channelled in the right direction and responded to promptly.

Related links

Blog: One million child refugees?! Four reasons we need Syria Peace Talks now

Crisis in Syria: What Oxfam is doing