Women are not inherently vulnerable research participants, but often their environments create conditions of vulnerability which require special ethical considerations. In crisis settings, women and girls are extremely susceptible to sexual and gender-based violence due to factors exacerbated during conflict or disaster, for example, the breakdown of social structures. Research should incorporate appropriate physical and psychological safety measures that do not unintentionally create barriers to research participation. The methodology chosen should serve to respect women as decision-makers, be cognizant of any power imbalances between researcher and participant, and create a safe, accessible environment for study participation. Facilitating access to woman’s health services outside the research study is vital, especially in areas of poor healthcare infrastructure or in cases where women have faced significant trauma and violence. When the research involves sensitive topics, such as sex work or HIV infection, recruitment and informed consent should be conducted by well-trained, carefully selected staff who are familiar with the unique needs of the studied population. It is important to be aware of specific cultural values that may affect recruitment and consent, for example, in societies where male partners or relatives are a woman’s primary decision-maker. Women who are pregnant or of child-bearing age also face unique challenges in clinical research during infectious disease outbreaks. The cited concerns dictate a clear need for evidence-based interventions and knowledge for women and disasters.
Which of the following are features of your study?