Transformational resilience - using women's protection as an entry point

By Becky Murphy, global technical Resilience Programme Coordinator, ActionAid International


There’s a well-known gap in technical guidance on how to effectively build resilience in contexts of ongoing crises, violence and/or fragile states. How to build transferable capacity for ongoing displacement?

Here at ActionAid International, one of the reasons we’re pushing for the localisation agenda is because we know it is our local woman leaders who have the answers.

Over the past year I have travelled out to Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon to gather experiences, recommendations and advice from women living and working in these ongoing, protracted crises.

The recurrent message in all three of these very different contexts has been that women’s protection, empowerment and leadership are at the crux of the solution.

The women leaders I have spoken to explained that by starting with women’s protection interventions, programming can create the trust, local leadership, empowerment, social cohesion and understanding needed to build community resilience in these complex and challenging environments.

But doing this in contexts of protracted crises is not so simple.

The women we are working with in Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon offered these recommendations for resilience building programmes in protracted crises contexts:

  1. Use women’s protection as an entry point for resilience building. Set up women’s safe spaces and women’s circles. Include both legal and psychosocial support;
  2. Put local women leaders in place whilst harnessing the capacity of young people;
  3. Build flexibility into the programme and activities. Set up regular reflection points to check in on changing risk and contexts;
  4. Build on existing local capacity (strengthen and do not undermine) and skills that are transferable (in the event of future displacement);
  5. Strengthen access to and understanding of information;
  6. Be guided by the do no harm principles and through this ensure there are strong communication and accountability mechanisms in place;
  7. Address the root causes of vulnerability through taking a Human Rights Based Approach;
  8. Work on strengthening social cohesion, particularly between refugee and host communities (where appropriate).

The recommendations made by our women leaders will be the starting point for guiding transformational resilience building in these particularly tricky contexts going forward – watch this space to find out more.

“I know I am a success story. My personality and confidence changed, I got stronger. I became aware of my rights. The experience working with ActionAid and the women’s circle brought out my strengths. I am zealous now, I found my independence, I will prepare and face down any challenges I may have. I want to help other women overcome challenges too.”

Asma, women leader & Syrian refugee living in Jordan

We have developed a learning community of practice with our teams in Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Kenya and the DRC to support each other and share solutions.

The most common challenges across these countries include:

  • The high level of trauma in contexts of ongoing violence or fragility;
  • High level of protection issues;
  • Lack of coordination between organisations and heightened competition between aid agencies in protracted crises contexts;
  • Weakness in information coming from the government including lack of legal status for refugees;
  • Restrictions on advocacy work in fragile contexts;
  • The continued risk of future displacement and uncertain futures;
  • How to build transferable awareness and skills to prepare for future displacement;
  • Lack of trust throughout communities.

If the programmes you are working on are facing and overcoming any of these issues the ActionAid team would love to hear and learn from you – you can contact me on [email protected]