The double burden of female protracted displacement: Survey evidence on gendered livelihoods in El Fasher, Darfur

Wolfgang Stojetz and Tilman Brück


This paper examines the effect of gender and forced displacement on livelihood outcomes in El Fasher, the capital of the North Darfur region in Sudan. There are approximately 160,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in the Abu Shouk and El Salam camps (IOM, 2021), located in the peri-urban areas of El Fasher town, the majority of whom have been displaced for more than a decade.

The analysis is based on: (a) survey data collected by IOM from May to July 2018, covering over 18,000 IDPs and non-displaced individuals living in urban and peri-urban areas of El Fasher; and (b) geo-referenced conflict event data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED) dataset. Survey data provide a comprehensive displacement profile of IDPs, including pre-displacement conditions, displacement history and outcomes, as well as detailed socio-economic data for both IDPs and non-IDPs.

The authors categorize the factors affecting employment outcomes into three groups: (1) individual factors such as health status and educational attainment of household members; (2) household factors, such as gender structure and demographic composition of the household; and (3) institutional factors, including both formal rules and regulations as well as informal constraints to behavior, including access to labor and consumer markets, access to land, access to services, access to legal documentation, and safety and security.

Main findings:

  • Women, regardless of whether they have been displaced or not, are less likely to be employed compared to men. Being a woman is associated with a 24-percentage point decrease in being employed, even when controlling for IDP status.
  • IDPs are more likely to be employed, and the employment gap between IDPs and non-IDPs is driven entirely by women. Being an IDP is associated with an 8-percentage point increase in the likelihood of being employed, conditional on age and household size. The employment gap between IDPs and non-IDPs is driven entirely by women: displaced women are more likely to be economically active compared to non-displaced women, whereas for men there is no difference in employment status between IDPs and non-IDPs.
  • IDPs are more likely to be poor: the poverty gap between IDPs and non-IDPs does not vary by gender. Being an IDP increases the likelihood of being poor (below the US$1.90 per day poverty line) by about 22 percentage points, most likely because IDPs’ economic activity is more concentrated in the agriculture sector and generates lower returns. Economically active IDPs also tend to engage in fewer livelihood activities, and for fewer hours and months. These differences are likely to reflect legal, economic, and social barriers to employment; IDPs report poorer access to the labor market (26 percent of IDPs versus 45 percent of non-IDPs), and to various markets and services, and feel less safe at night than non-IDPs. The large poverty gap between IDPs and non-IDPs does not vary by gender—overall, IDP women work more than non-IDP women, but are poorer, on average.
  • IDPs who were displaced to El Fasher at older ages are less likely to be employed, and if they do work, they tend to work fewer months of the year on average and they are more likely to work in the agricultural sector.
  • The gender gap in IDP employment also increases with age at displacement, i.e., among IDPs who were displaced at older ages, there is a much larger gap in employment between male and female IDPs, while among IDPs displaced at younger ages, the gender gap in employment between male and female IDPs is smaller.
  • Compared to displaced men of the same age and background, displaced women were less likely to be in school when they were displaced and have lower levels of schooling and literacy today. The evidence suggests that IDP women were significantly disadvantaged in terms of formal education in their places of origin, which would constrain their current employment opportunities. Compared to older IDP women, younger IDP women have higher literacy levels and are less likely to work in agriculture, which suggests younger IDP women have had better educational opportunities in displacement and time to ‘catch up’ to non-IDP women.


The authors conclude that displacement and gender strongly combine and interact in shaping livelihood outcomes in protracted displacement settings. There is a ‘double burden of female displacement’ due to norms and institutions in both their place of origin, resulting in disparities in individual endowments, and at their destination, where IDPs are consistently disadvantaged in the labor market. The double burden is more acute for older IDP women, and less acute for younger IDP women, who have been able to access better education in the camps. These findings highlight the need for and potential of unified policy approaches, explicitly addressing the intersectionality of gender and long-term displacement.


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