Women, Faith and Humanitarian Interventions

About the project

The network began in response to project partner Global One’s ‘More than Half’ report, detailing their on the ground experience of the needs of Syrian refugee women.

The report starts by saying: “‘One in every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum’; women make up more than half of this population. This number is ever increasing, and if we consider that the average refugee will spend 17 years away from their home, it is imperative we look towards long-term, sustainable interventions.’ (‘More than Half’, 5). With the UN 2030 mission to leave no one behind, it is imperative to address women’s needs in situations of humanitarian intervention. In Syria and Lebanon, Global One have identified the needs of refugee women for access to clean water, support for menstrual hygiene and religious support for emotional and psychological well-being. For religion in particular, the report notes that ‘humanitarian strategies are currently failing these religious needs’ (‘More than Half’, 6) The network addresses these issues in an informed way in order to generate future collaborations and propose concrete recommendations for the empowerment of women in situations of humanitarian crisis.

Without the stimulation of research into women’s experiences of displacement, their religious needs in refugee contexts, and the resources (texts, theologies, spokespersons, ritual practice, etc.) that might promote empowerment, the distinctive role of faith – protected in human rights discourse – is in danger of being sidelined and given a low priority. This constitutes a neglected opportunity at the very least, and particularly in the case of conservative religious traditions, may mean groups of women are de facto excluded from the support they need. A new approach to humanitarian intervention which incorporates faith aspects rather than separating them out may benefit women by considering their needs from a more wholistic perspective.

A key conceptual framework running through all of the activities of the network is the idea of women’s spaces. The network will focus its discussions on women’s spaces on the ground, from the personal space of a lockable toilet, to the spaces of activation where women become resources for change.

The workshops will be organised around four spaces relating to key issues for women and faith in a humanitarian context:

  1. Spaces of activation and motivation
  2. Spaces of communication and theologies
  3. Spaces on the ground/spaces of need
  4. Spaces of empowerment, working across all the themes to produce concrete recommendations.

The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and runs from February 2018 for eighteen months.