UNRWA and SDG 5: Gender Equality and Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment


Every child has the right to education, but girls face multiple obstacles that limit their access. Girls are still more likely than boys to never attend school due to negative gender stereotypes and gendered expectations related to responsibilities around the home. Recognizing that education has a multiplier effect on access to other important human rights, UNRWA is proud to have achieved and maintained gender parity in its schools since the 1960s. Several initiatives are carried out to specifically target gendered issues that are linked to school drop-out of girls, such as child marriage, as well as boys, such as child labour, through awareness-raising campaigns in schools for both pupils and families, as well as by engaging community leaders and civil society organizations.


Building Safety: Mainstreaming GBV Interventions into Emergency Preparedness, Prevention and Response

Over the last decade, the Agency has taken significant steps to mainstream gender and protection considerations into its emergency response, including prevention and response initiatives to address gender-based violence (GBV). UNRWA has taken a multi-sectoral approach to addressing GBV for Palestine refugees by ensuring survivors’ access to services through the establishment of referral systems and by engaging community members in prevention and awareness-raising initiatives. One of the Agency’s main initiatives is the multi-year programme Building Safety: Mainstreaming GBV Interventions into Emergency Preparedness, Prevention and Response. In 2017, UNRWA became a member of the Call to Action on Protection from GBV in Emergencies. In response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNRWA rapidly developed and issued guidance and adapted service provision to ensure that assistance could be provided to GBV survivors. Specifically, the Agency pivoted to offer remote assistance through helplines, WhatsApp check-ins and adjusted referral pathways, and disseminated information via social media, text messages and television on how to access services.


Economic Opportunities for Women

Palestine refugee women have higher levels of unemployment than men. Considering the challenges faced by women in terms of employment and engagement in economic activities, UNRWA provides economic opportunities to women to help reduce the disparity in employment between women and men. In 2021, 13,861 women accessed loans through the Agency’s Microfinance programme in four fields of operation (Gaza, West Bank, Jordan and Syria). Through its Job Creation Programme, Palestine refugee women receive job opportunities in a wide range of professions in UNRWA installations and partner community-based organizations. UNRWA also delivers tailored vocational training for women to provide them with the necessary skills to enter the job market. The Agency’s Young Women Leadership Programme offers training courses in life skills, project cycle management, IT, English and women’s rights to young female graduates between 22 and 28 years-old. In 2021, 45 per cent of the 7,930 students enrolled in the eight UNRWA Vocational Training Centers (VTCs) were female.


Maternal and Child Health Services

In line with the commitment towards ensuring coverage and improving the quality of maternal and child health services, in recent years UNRWA has put a focus on the engagement of men in pre-conception care and family planning as a way to increase men’s understanding of the importance of family planning and to empower women in making decisions affecting maternal and child health. In 2019, UNRWA launched the e-Maternal and Child Health (e-MCH) mobile applications as a means for mothers with children under the age of five to receive health information and services during periods when health center access is limited.


Gender Mainstreaming

In line with the UNRWA Gender Equality Strategy, UNRWA employs a ‘dual-track’ approach to gender mainstreaming, focusing on both organizational and programmatic change to contribute to achieving more inclusive and equitable services for Palestine refugees. Through its gender mainstreaming initiatives, UNRWA aims to strengthen the gender focus in programming and service delivery for Palestine refugees by taking into account different needs, vulnerabilities and interests of women and men. At organizational level, UNRWA has taken steps to mainstream gender in the Agency’s culture, management, human resources, communications, staff participation as well as in monitoring and evaluation. In 2022, UNRWA established the Women Advisory Forum to advise the Commissioner-General on issues, priorities and interests of female staff, and to ensure that UNRWA continues to become an inclusive, respective and gender-sensitive Agency.