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By Sophie Makoloma, Christian Aid Nigeria

Christian Aid Nigeria joins the international community on World Humanitarian Day to celebrate the unsung heroes who are often subjected to harsh and dangerous situations, putting their lives at risk to help others who are affected by crisis.

This year, we are celebrating the undying contributions, perseverance and incredible fortitude women humanitarians bring to the sector and how their achievements are making the world a better place for all.

Emergencies and disasters cause immense suffering for millions of the world’s poorest, most marginalised and vulnerable. Women play a vital role in humanitarian response, particularly in community mobilisation, decision making, and behaviour change.

In North East Nigeria, despite cultural and religious barriers, Christian Aid’s female humanitarians have blazed the trail and broken the limits. Crucially, they work on many areas that are culturally  gender sensitive and only women can discuss.

 

Unsung heroes
Evelyn Kaderi, protection officer
Evelyn Kaderi, protection officer
Stella Yani, operations coordinator, and Hadiza Musa Sheriff, who builds volunteers' capacity
Stella Yani, operations coordinator, and Hadiza Musa Sheriff, who builds volunteers' capacity
Sophie Makoloma, humanitarian response manager
Sophie Makoloma, humanitarian response manager
How female humanitarians are saving lives

Nutrition: breaking the cycle of malnutrition

Female humanitarians play a key role in challenging underlying assumptions, beliefs and norms in society to eradicate gender discrimination and break the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition among women and children.

In Nigeria, female staff and volunteers play a significant role as community-based focal points, leaders and influencers within their respective communities. They help ensure the health and wellbeing of the community, through:

  • monthly nutrition screenings of women and children (aged 6-59 months),
  • referrals of acutely malnourished children,
  • follow-up home visits,
  • and facilitating educational sessions on infant and young child feeding.

Menstrual hygiene management: periods shouldn’t be shameful

Menstrual hygiene management (MHM) is an essential aspect of hygiene for women and adolescent girls that are largely neglected in post-disaster responses. Christian Aid’s holistic response to MHM highlights and tackles various related issues, including:

  • providing female-friendly sanitation facilities
  • providing menstrual hygiene products
  • and educating women and girls to encourage behaviour change, debunk regressive myths and empower them to live with fewer restraints.

Menstrual health is often closely connected with reproductive health and sense of well-being of girls and women. Concerted efforts to promote menstrual health has a positive overall impact on public health in society.

A mother and child, treated by a community health volunteer in Nigeria
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Protection: violence, exploitation and abuse

Protecting people from violence, exploitation, and abuse is at the heart of humanitarian action. We aim to ensure justice, promote impartiality, encourage active participation, tackle inequality, and build the resilience of those we are helping, irrespective of age, race, culture, religious background, mental state, physical disability, or other factors.

Protection is the responsibility of all humanitarian aid workers and the bedrock of our existence.  

Accountability: listening and responding

Understanding what people need and listening to their opinions are essential in shaping our humanitarian response work. In North East Nigeria, deliberate steps are taken to promote accountability using the ‘constant sensitisation’ approach - to inform people about their rights and entitlements.

Complaints and feedback matter, and various mechanisms such as hotlines, suggestion boxes, focus group discussions, and help desks, operated by women, are central to this. These feedback mechanisms give women and girls, who often find it difficult to be heard in their communities, the confidence to speak up and demand their rights.

Join the global movement in the celebration of women humanitarians on Twitter - #WomenHumanitarians

Find out more
Christian Aid Ireland has been responding to humanitarian emergencies and disasters since 1945, providing urgently needed immediate relief and long-term support.
Boy in street in Sierra Leone washing his hands at wash station set up to control Ebola.
Unequal distribution of power is at the heart of poverty. And one of the most pervasive inequalities in the world is that between women and men.
A rape survivor and her children in DRC.
Christian Aid has been working in Nigeria since 2003 for a just, equitable and peaceful Nigerian society, where poverty has been eradicated.
Christian Aid has been working in Nigeria since 2003 for a just, equitable and peaceful Nigerian society, where poverty has been eradicated.
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