The gendered experiences of local volunteers in conflicts and emergencies
Technical paper

The gendered experiences of local volunteers in conflicts and emergencies

Jessica Cadesky, Matt Baillie Smitt and Nisha Thomas
Gender and Volunteering

Fast read

  • This article explores the gendered experiences of local volunteers operating in conflicts and emergencies.
  • It draws on original empirical findings from the Volunteering in Conflict and Emergencies (ViCE) study conducted in Afghanistan, Honduras, Myanmar, South Sudan, Sudan and Ukraine from September 2015 to March 2016.



The article suggests that despite decades of progress integrating gender issues into development and humanitarian research, policy and practice, the gendered dynamics of volunteering are still poorly understood. The research found that volunteering in humanitarian settings can entrench and reproduce gender norms. It can also provide opportunities to rework and challenge those norms. The research also found that women can become volunteers and assume new roles and responsibilities, challenging assumptions about skills and capacities, reshaping identities and mobilizing new forms of agency.

The paper provides policymakers with new evidence and recommendations, arguing that with the right support volunteering can destabilize gender roles and be transformative, not only at the individual level but also at the community and social levels. The paper also highlights that conflicts and emergencies may paradoxically provide the space for male and female volunteers to socialize and even seek training and employment. However, the authors recommend more research to better understand these opportunities.