Integrated intersectional and socioecological approach: Engaging with religion to strengthen protection from violence against women in forced displacement

This project explores how intersectional and socioecological approaches could be strengthened to account for socio-cultural and religious factors in preventing and responding to violence against women in forced displacement, humanitarian and migration settings.

Project Lead: Dr Sandra Pertek

Project summary

The project draws on Dr Sandra Pertek’s postdoctoral and doctoral research that examined the religious influences on the experiences of violence in forced migration and uncovered the religious and spiritual dimension of survivors’ resilience and vulnerability and the continuum of religious dis/engagement in humanitarian action.

The number of forcibly displaced people doubled in the last decade, around half of whom are women and girls. Women and men experience forced migration differently, with distinct vulnerabilities to violence and discrimination across forced migration routes, in countries of transit and refuge. Religion remains a significant factor in the experience of forced displacement. Globally more than eight in ten people (PEW, 2010), including many migrants (PEW, 2012), affiliate with a religion. On the one hand, in crises, people turn to religion for meaning and relief from anxiety, and on the other, displaced populations often experience religious discrimination and persecution. Yet, religion has been overlooked as a meaningful category in intersectional theory and humanitarian action.

In turn, this project develops an integrated intersectional and ecological guidance note and analysis tool to support the integration of religious factors into vulnerability and resilience analysis and humanitarian and development programme and policy design and delivery. Accounting for religion in the intersectional analysis is vital to help identify and mitigate intersecting risks and strengthen the resilience, coping and healing of displaced populations. An intersecting (gender and religious) analysis tool will be tested with refugee communities in Turkey and Poland to support socio-cultural and religious integration into the interventions.

Research objectives

This project aims to develop scholarship and practical resources on gender, religion and forced migration, focusing on integrating intersectional and socioecological approaches to understanding and engaging with religious influences in the experiences of violence against women in forced displacement. Practical resources will support the development of socio-cultural and religious sensitivity of humanitarian and migrant policies and programmes.

Outputs and impact

  • Academic publications
  • A policy briefing
  • A guidance note on the intersectional and socioecological framework
  • Intersectional (gender and religious) analysis tool
  • Multi-stakeholder engagements


Research team

Dr Sandra Pertek, University of Birmingham, School of Social Policy

Dr Sandra Iman Pertek is an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Birmingham and gender and protection practitioner with over a decade’s experience in humanitarian and international development settings. Her research focuses on intersectional and socioecological approaches and engaging with religion to strengthen protection in forced displacement. In her PhD from the University of Birmingham, she explored the intersection of religion and the continuum of violence from conflict and forced displacement to refuge, particularly focusing on resilience and vulnerability. Sandra has led several research projects on violence against women across regions, including in Turkey, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Zambia, Poland and Ukraine. Previously, she served as Senior Policy Advisor on Gender in a leading humanitarian agency and consulted on behalf of various organisations, including governments, INGOs and international organisations. She holds an MSc in Social Development Practice from University College London and BA in European Studies from University of Warsaw.

Partner organisations and sponsors

Funder: ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship


12 June 2023

Consultation Workshop: Faith-sensitive VAWG prevention and response in forced displacement - JLI (

This consultation workshop aims to identify faith-sensitive strategies to reduce intersectional vulnerabilities and prevent and respond to VAWG by drawing on religious and cultural resources of displaced populations. It will lead to documenting good practices, ideas and recommendations which would be incorporated into the Guidance Note on “Faith sensitive VAWG prevention and response in forced displacement” which is being developed as part of the postdoctoral fellowship: Integrated intersectional and socioecological approach: Engaging with religion to strengthen protection from violence against women in forced displacement.

Further details


Project posts:

Gender and forced displacement: Time to integrate religion into humanitarian responses to violence against women

Useful resources: