Sandra Iman Pertek

Sandra Iman Pertek

Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology
Research Fellow

Contact details

Institute for Research into Superdiversity
Muirhead Tower
School of Social Policy
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Sandra Iman Pertek is a SEREDA Research Fellow and gender specialist with expertise in faith and gender-based violence (GBV) with over a decade’s experience in international development and migration. Her research integrates an intersectional and ecological analysis to explore the intersection of GBV and religion in forced migration, intersectionality and resilience.  She is a mixed-methods researcher and an active contributor to networks dedicated to gender, GBV, faith and forced migration. She leads the Untold (Forced) Migrant Stories project and led the Forced Migration, SGBV and COVID-19 study. She has consulted on behalf of governmental and non-governmental organisations on integration of gender, GBV and faith sensitivity into policy and programmes, and previously served in a leading humanitarian organisation as Senior Policy Adviser on Gender.


  • MSc Social Development Practice, University College London, Development Planning Unit
  • BA Interdisciplinary European Studies, University of Warsaw, the Centre for Europe
  • NVQ level 2 in Counselling Skills, Counselling and Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body, Institute of Islamic Counselling


Sandra Iman Pertek is an interdisciplinary mixed methods researcher, gender and social development specialist with expertise in faith and GBV and over a decade’s experience in international development and migration. She is a SEREDA Research Fellow, at the Institute for Research Into Superdiversity (IRiS), focussed on GBV across forced migration, policy and impact. In her PhD with SEREDA, Sandra explored the intersection of GBV and religion in forced migration in Turkey and Tunisia drawing upon an intersectional and ecological analysis. In her thesis, Sandra conceptualised religion as multidimensional: an intersectional vulnerability factor and a primary coping resource in the continuum of violence across stages of forced migration. Her continued research involves efforts to integrate concepts of intersectionality and resilience, in context of mental health and psychosocial support provision and GBV mitigation in forced migration and international development. Sandra also leads “Untold Stories: Voices of Forced Migrants and Survivors of Modern Slavery on the Mediterranean” project, and previously led the Forced Migration, SGBV and COVID-19 study. She consulted governmental and non-governmental organizations as gender and GBV specialist. For Home Office UK she developed a theory of change (TOC) for integration and TOC guide notes based on the Indicators of Integration framework. For GIZ, she conducted religious and traditional actors mapping in Zambia in relation to prevention of violence against women and girls (VAWG) programme in Southern Africa. For Islamic Development Bank, she co-developed resources to integrate gender sensitivity into Islamic micro-finance programmes for women. Previously Sandra served as Senior Policy Adviser on Gender (Global Technical Lead) at Islamic Relief Worldwide, where she spearheaded a gender mainstreaming strategy, authoring its Gender Justice Policy and integrating gender into international programmes with faith sensitive approaches. She piloted GBV programmes in Africa and Asia in partnership with institutional donors. Sandra is a member of Leadership Council of the SVRI/JLI Faith & GBV Hub, and serves in the UN Women Roster for Eliminating Violence Against Women (EVAW) Spotlight Initiatives. She is a founder of a social interest advisory consultancy– EQUISTY Gender Lab. She holds an MSc in Social Development Practice (major in gender in policy and planning) from University College London and a BA in European Studies from the University of Warsaw.


  • Forced Migration, SGBV and COVID-19 session in Migration, Superdiversity, Policy and Practice module (2020)
  • Indicators of Integration and Theory of Change session in Migration, Superdiversity, Policy and Practice module (2020)
  • SGBV in Conflict session in Gender, World Politics Module (2019)
  • Forced Migration and Religion session in Migration, Superdiversity, Policy and Practice Module (2019)
  • Gender Mainstreaming in Humanitarian Action in Sex, death and (in)security module (2019)


Research interests

  • The continuum of violence across forced migration
  • Intersectionality, violence and discrimination
  • Resilience, coping and mental health and psychosocial support
  • Gender, religion and development
  • Decolonial responses to gender and GBV (e.g. among non-conventional actors)
  • Gender mainstreaming in faith-based organisations
  • The development, migration and humanitarian nexus

Current projects

Other activities


  • Joint Learning Initiative and SVRI Faith and GBV Hub
  • GBV Community of Practice (AoR)
  • VAWG Research Network
  • Gender Community of Practice for working with Muslim communities
  • Gender and Development Network
  • GIZ Nexus – the Religion and Development Consultants Network

Other contributions

  • April 2021 – Guest Lecture: Religion & SDG 5 – Muslim Perspective on Gender-based Violence. The Role of Religion in Current Global Challenges – UNIVERSITY OF ZURICH
  • From 2021 – Member of the Leadership Council - SVRI/JLI FAITH AND GBV HUB
  • From 2021 – UNESCO Inclusive Policy Lab’s Expert
  • April 2021 - Resilience, coping and religion among forced migrant women survivors of SGBV, Interagency Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Working Group Cox’s Bazaar.

  • From 2020 – Roster of Experts - Ending Violence Against Women Spotlight Initiatives – UN WOMEN
  • 2020 – Reviewer of Transforming Masculinities Manual (adapted for Muslim communities) – TEARFUND
  • 2020 – Reviewer of the Theological Frameworks, training methodology (inter-faith settings in Liberia) for Engaging with GBV for Episcopal Relief & Development Liberia - Unit for Religion and Development STELLENBOSCH UNIVERSITY, SOUTH AFRICA
  • 2019-2020 - Research Fellow - Women, Faith and Trauma Project. HUMANITARIAN ACADEMY FOR DEVELOPMENT.
  • 2019 - Researcher – LOCALiTIES Project - UNIVERSITY OF GOTHENBURG
  • 2019 - Visiting Researcher – UNIVERSITY OF BILKENT (Ankara, Turkey)
  • 2019 - Research Associate – Race & Equality Charter Mark - UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM
  • 2019 – 2018 – Chair – EUROPEAN FORUM OF MUSLIM WOMEN, Brussels (2018 – 2015 – Non-Executive Director)
  • From 2018 – Research Associate - Contested Identity: Social Functioning of Polish Reverts to Islam. COLLEGIUM OF SOCIO-ECONOMICS in Warsaw (Poland).
  • 2018 – Facilitator – Gender Equality, Religion and Development - DANISH HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTE
  • 2017-2018 - Co-Chaired Gender Equality Workstream at the multilateral Partnership for Religion and Sustainable Development (PARD)
  • 2017-2018 - Project Lead for Inter-faith events at the UN CSW 2017 and 2018 co-sponsored by UNFPA, UN WOMEN, UNFPA, OIC and Islamic Development Bank.

  • 2011-2012 – Research consultant in Tanzania, Arusha and London Borough of Newham - UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON, DEVELOPMENT PLANNING UNIT



  • Phillimore, J., Pertek, S., Akyuz, S., Hourani, J., Ozcurumez, S., Darkal, H. and Bradby, H. (2021) “We are Forgotten”: Forced Migration, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, and Coronavirus Disease-2019. Violence Against Women . doi:10.1177/10778012211030943.
  • Rutledge, K., Pertek, S.I., Abo-Hilal, M. and Fitzgibbon, A. (2021) Faith and MHPSS among displaced Muslim women. Forced Migration Review (66): 24-26.
  • Phillimore, J., Pertek S. and Alidu, L. (2019) Sexual and gender-based violence and social justice: parity of participation for forced migrant survivors in the UK? July 2019 Siirtolaisuus / Siirtolaisuusinstituutti.


  •  Le Roux, E. and Pertek, S. (forthcoming) Religion matters – on the significance of religion in violence against women and girls. Routledge.

Book chapters

  • Phillimore, J., Pertek, S. and Alidu, L. (2021) “Gender and Refugee Resettlement: The Role of Proximal and Distal Stressors in the Experiences of Survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence”, in Mora, C. and Piper, N. (eds.) The Palgrave Handbook of Gender and Migration. Cham: Springer International Publishing. pp. 405–424. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-63347-9_25.
  • Pertek, S.I. (2020) “Deconstructing Islamic perspectives on sexual and gender-based violence (GBV), toward a faith inclusive approach” in Khan, I. & Cheema, A. (eds.) Islam and International Development: Insights for working with Muslim Communities. Practical Action Publishing.
  • Pertek, S.I., Almugahed, N. and Fida, N. (2020) Integrating gender-based violence and child protection, an exploration of Islamic Relief’s approaches in Kraft, K. and Wilkinson, O.J. (eds.) International Development and Local Faith Actors: Ideological and Cultural Encounters. Routledge.

Working papers, reports and briefings

Policy documents



  • “In the Qur’an, it is not allowed to beat women”: Understanding Levantine refugee women’s experiences of spousal violence through epistemic diversity”, September 2021, 4th European Domestic Violence Conference, Ljubljana, Slovenia and June 2021, Interpersonal Violence Interventions - Social and Cultural Perspectives Conference in Jyväskylä, Finland.
  • ““We are Forgotten”: Forced Migration, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, and Coronavirus Disease-2019”, July 2021, IASFM 18 Conference. Disrupting Theory, Unsettling Practice: Towards Transformative Forced Migration Scholarship and Policy. University of Ghana.
  • “Rethinking resilience: Religious coping mechanisms among forced migrant women survivors of violence”, March 2021, 'Bold New Voices in Migration Research: Understanding Displacement, Hope, Resistance'. Immigration Initiative at Harvard University.
  • “SGBV experiences in forced migration, religion and intersectional vulnerabilities” - War violence and domestic violence: Understanding the relationship and exploring linkages with forced migration and religious beliefs, February 2021, Project dldl and SOAS.
  • “Faith in the forced migrant experiences of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and modern slavery”, December 2020, U21 Early Career Researcher Conference on Modern Slavery, Trafficking and Forced Labour.
  • “Reimagining Social Justice: Reaching the Furthest Behind and Preventing Gendered Harm”, October 2020, Regional Corporate Social Responsibility Network, The Philanthropy and Social Responsibility Summit. Manama.
  • “Religion in the forced migrant experiences of SGBV”, October 2020, Poster Presentation. USAID Evidence Summit for Strategic Religious Engagement. Washington DC.
  • Faith and Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS): Integration and Implications for Humanitarian Action”, June 2020, Rethinking Faith in Development and Humanitarian Contexts Conference, Queens Margaret University, Institute for Global Health and Development, Psychosocial Wellbeing, Integration and Protection Cluster.
  • Engaging with faith perspectives on sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), toward a faith inclusive approach in programming”, June 2020, Faith Leadership for Global Challenges Panel. University of Birmingham, Development Studies Association conference.
  • Religion, resilience and trauma in the experiences of sexual exploitation across the refugee and migrant journeys”, January 2020, University of Sheffield, University of Leeds and ESRC, Faith and anti-trafficking Conference.
  • Faith in refugee & migrant women’s experiences of sexual exploitation”, December 2019, Brussels, Five Years After the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders against “Modern Slavery”, European Parliament, EPP group, S&D group, COMECE and Don Bosco International.
  • “Do you have faith? Religion in experiences of intersectional violence against refugee and migrant women”, October 2019, Sexual Violence Research Initiative Forum, Cape Town, South Africa.
  • “Religion in SGBV experiences of refugees; gaps and challenges”, June 2019, PGR Annual Conference, University of Birmingham
  • Exploring the power of faith in preventing domestic abuse: reflections from the Somali regional state of Ethiopia” International Symposium on Human Rights, Human Rights and Equality Institution of Turkey (TIHEK) 
  • “Gendered Islamophobia in Europe”. Hearing on Islamophobia of The No Hate Parliamentary Alliance, at the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, April 2019, Council of Europe.
  • “Sexual and gender-based violence and refugees: the impacts of and on integration”, July 2018, Annual Conference of International Association for the Study of Forced Migration (IASFM), Thessaloniki, Greece.
  • “Launch of the Global Consultation on the Islamic Gender Justice Declaration” Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), New York in partnership with UN Women and UNFPA.
  • “Do you have faith in the SDGs? Faith Sensitive Gender Justice Mainstreaming, Towards Inclusion of Faith Actors in CSW and SDGs” Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), New York in partnership with Lutheran World Federation, Finn Church Aid, WCC and UNFPA.
  • “Promoting Gender Justice in the Muslim World, toward faith-sensitive gender mainstreaming”, March 2018, 62nd Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), NY in partnership with UN Women and OIC.
  • Addressing Violence and Harmful Practices against Rural Women and Girls, including women and girls on the move”, March 2018, CSW Session for Arab States, Tunis.
  • “Consultation on the Islamic Gender Justice Declaration” a multi-stakeholder meeting in Birmingham with INGOs, NGOs, FBOs and UN agencies.
  • Wilton Park Conference, International Partnership for Religion and Sustainable Development (PARD), October, 2017. Co-chaired SGBV work-stream with intergovernmental and international organisations.
  • “Harnessing Faith & Culture: Advancing Women’s Rights & Responding to Violence”, June 2015, 49th Session of Human Rights Council of UN, Geneva.
  • “Protecting the Rights of the Family in Humanitarian Contexts”, April 2015, 2nd Session of Human Rights Council of OIC, Jeddah.

View all publications in research portal