Equality in Humanitarianism – Vulnerable Women’s Experiences with the Humanitarian Response after the 2015 Earthquakes in Nepal

Sonia McFarlan

Studenteropgave: Speciale


Since the devastating earthquakes in Nepal in April and May 2015, humanitarian organisations have adapted a gender approach in their overall response strategy, the ‘Flash Appeal’. This should have promoted gender equality and reached out to the most vulnerable groups, but since the implementation of the strategy, several incidents of discrimination and unequal distribution of aid have been reported. Throughout this thesis I investigate: ‘Why are vulnerable women experiencing discrimination and inequality in the humanitarian response after the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal despite the promotion of gender-sensitive approaches?’ My investigation is based on qualitative interviews with lower class Dalit women who are used as an example of a group of vulnerable women. To interpret the interviews, I have drawn on theories of intersectionality, protecting vulnerable groups in disaster, the functioning of humanitarian organisations, and corruption. Because access to aid is determined by one’s resources, vulnerable women who possess limited resources have not been able to acquire aid on equal terms. The humanitarian organisations have appointed ‘local development brokers’ and local humanitarian workers to distribute aid in the districts and to express the needs of the residents including vulnerable women. But these workers and brokers, who have been appointed because of their political resources, and who mostly belong to the higher castes and classes, have used this appointment to strengthen their own position. This has been done through corruption, which is a cultural practice in Nepal. Some of the aid, intended for vulnerable women, has been allocated to local humanitarian workers and local development brokers and their familie, friends and political relations. This has been possible because the international ‘development experts’, who have been deployed since the earthquakes, have limited knowledge of the local context and because the cluster approach that the humanitarian response is based on, only allows for a certain amount of adaptability. The experts have not considered how corruption is embedded as a cultural practice in Nepal, the diversity among vulnerable women, or the social hierarchies that exist in the country – neither in their formulation of the Flash Appeal, or in the implementation of the strategy. These are identified as the reasons why vulnerable women have experienced discrimination and inequality in the humanitarian response after the earthquakes in Nepal.

UddannelserInternationale Udviklingsstudier, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato1 apr. 2016
VejledereEric Komlavi Hahonou


  • Women
  • Dalit
  • Discrimination
  • Humanitarian Response
  • Earthquake
  • UN
  • Vulnerability
  • Gender
  • Intersectionality
  • Caste
  • Nepal
  • Inequality