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Women in War

600 million women around the world live within 50 kilometers of a conflict zone, more than double the number it was in the 1990s. Yet our understanding of how women experience war and respond in these highly complex crises is often clouded by narratives that frame them as, at worst, invisible, or at best, victims. Women in War: Leaders, Responders, and Potential challenges these prevailing views by exploring how women endure conflict, and offers recommendations on how to better address their unique needs and challenges.

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Executive Summary

Women are the unsung heroes of crisis, yet are grossly overlooked when it comes to dialogue and decision-making. After surveying more than 13,000 women in 15 countries since 2020, CARE found that 91% led or actively participated in community response. Women provide meals and shelter to those fleeing conflict. They become breadwinners for their families. They are advocates and build powerful networks for change. 79% of women are finding ways to make communities safer, 71% are providing health services, and 46% are diversifying incomes to care for their families.

Despite their incredible leadership, women are underrepresented in global discourse. For example, 95% of media coverage of conflicts since 2013 overlooks women, their roles, and their experiences. Less than 4 in 10,000 (0.04%) of those media mentions talk about women leaders.

Those women are leading in the face of barriers, challenges, and horrific experiences. 2023 was the first year that women CARE surveyed reported that safety is one of their top three problems in the world. Women face sexual violence, the loss of incomes and livelihoods, and plummeting healthcare—leading to higher death rates, even from preventable causes. The challenges are real, and we must do more to address them.

One key path to solving this crisis is recognizing and valuing women’s leadership in times of conflict and on the path to peace. Women step up to be first responders, to build peace, to support their families and communities. They are not merely victims. Treating them as invisible at worst, or victims at best, continues and reinforces their trauma.

Often, armed conflict completely transforms a woman’s role in her family and her community, A This covers 20,000 people (13,785 women) in 15 countries: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Colombia, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iraq, Mali, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Total respondents. Survey timeline: March 2020 to October 2023. The data also reflects 99 Rapid Gender Analyses CARE has conducted since 2013. and she takes on leadership no one dreamed was possible for her. She also faces safety risks that will affect her and generations to come. Acknowledging, supporting, and unlocking this leadership is key to better solutions for everyone. We need to create the conditions where women can thrive as leaders, where they have support, and where they are safe speaking up. We cannot achieve long-lasting peace if we ignore women.

We must act now. The number of women who live in conflict is skyrocketing. In 2022, about 600 million women lived within 50 kilometers (31 miles) of an armed conflict. That’s 15% of all women in the world. It’s also more than double the level from the 1990s.


Since 2013, CARE has been focusing on women’s experience in crisis — starting with the conflict in Syria. Our Rapid Gender Analysis and Women RespondA paint a unique picture of how women are leading in crisis, what they need, and what we must do to support them.

This report combines surveys, qualitative interviews, and data models using publicly available datasets to understand women’s experiences in conflict. It showcases their opinions and their stories to highlight how their leadership is critical to communities surviving crisis. The surveys cover 20,000 people (13,785 women) since 2020. Public datasets and data models build from national-level data about women and women in conflict and draw on articles and expertise from a variety of published sources. The report also includes a media analysis of more than 7.8 million articles published about conflicts between 2013 and 2023 to understand current narratives of conflict.


Key Findings

Women are leading. 91% of women CARE spoke to said they are actively leading and participating in community groups. 79% are finding ways to improve safety. 71% are actively sharing health information, and 60% are focusing on education.

Women’s basic needs are going unfilled. Livelihood is women’s highest priority. 58% of women CARE spoke to in conflict zones said they need livelihood assistance. 41% of women prioritized food as one of the biggest impacts of conflict.

Sexual violence is a growing threat. More than 257 million women were living in countries that had significant or massive reports of sexual violence in conflict in 2021.B

Compromised health services put women and children at severe risk. One in 4 babies born in 2022 were born within 50 kilometers of a conflict. One in 2 women who dies during pregnancy or childbirth is in a conflict area. Maternal mortality is more than 40 times higher in fragile contexts than it is in developing countries.

Formal leadership structures exclude women, compromising peace and prosperity for everyone.

Narratives of conflict underrepresent women. Only 5% of articles about conflict in the last decade focus on women’s experiences. Less than 0.3% of articles talk about women in conflict positively.



A: This covers 20,000 people (13,785 women) in 15 countries: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Colombia, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iraq, Mali, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Total respondents. Survey timeline: March 2020 to October 2023. The data also reflects 99 Rapid Gender Analyses CARE has conducted since 2013.

B: This data is calculated by using the Women Peace and Security Index to identify women living within 50km of armed conflict, and the Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict Dataset of any country reporting 2 or 3 on their scale in 2021.

Further Readings

  1. Women Navigating Health Challenges on the Frontline
  2. No Women, No Peace 

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