A University of Birmingham research network: Women, Faith and Humanitarian Interventions, has been established by Dr Karen Wenell, of the Department of Theology and Religion, to address the challenges of empowering refugee women and girls and enabling faith to play a significant role in this.
It takes as its starting point the religious needs of refugee women in Syria and Lebanon. In this setting, clean water is needed to meet basic needs, but also faith requirements for ablution.
Women also require support for mental health needs created by situations of statelessness and the ramifications of gender-based violence.
Although the rights of women to equality and religious freedom are enshrined in human rights declarations, in practice humanitarian organisations recognise that there is still a long way to go to attain equal treatment and empowerment, and faith remains further on the margins in terms of priorities.
The network will investigate the challenges of empowering women and girls and how this can be done, including the creation of different spaces where women of faith can come together.
By enabling conversations between NGOs, faith groups and academics, the network will address the gap in cross-sector collaboration, formulate recommendations for addressing the needs of women in situations of crisis and greatest need, and establish a strong position from which to petition governments and faith leaders.