Women, Faith, and Humanitarian Interventions

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: School of Philosophy Theology & Religion

Abstract

This project takes as its starting point the religious needs of refugee women in Syria and Lebanon identified by the work of NGO partner Global One. Refugee women are in need of clean water to meet basic needs for water and hygiene, but also faith requirements for ablution. Women also require support for mental health needs created by situations of statelessness and the all too common ramifications of gender based violence (GBV); some of these needs could be met by faith-based organisations and communities. Although the rights of women to equality and religious freedom are enshrined in human rights declarations (UNDHR), in practice humanitarian organisations recognise that there is still a long way to go to attain the equal treatment and empowerment of women, and faith remains further on the margins in terms of priorities. The challenges of empowering women and girls and enabling faith to play a significant role in this are in need of further attention and solutions, areas the network addresses through cross sector and multidisciplinary approaches. Research has suggested the potential for empowerment through the creation of spaces for women of faith to meet together with other women. Yet, it should be recognised that there is no single 'religious space', but rather heterogeneous spaces with different constitution and character. Part of the problem addressed by the network is the differences in ways of speaking across different contexts and the role of religion in empowering groups of women in different types of spaces, drawing on a variety of religious resources, such as texts, theologies, and ritual practice. Women in refugee settings on the ground ought to be afforded their own spaces to identify in their own terms their faith requirements. In spaces of activation in the international humanitarian realm, there could be greater prioritisation of issues affecting women and girls in terms of faith, and greater involvement of women in leading development support. Multidisciplinary research can contribute to the development of these spaces, fostering informed understanding of the issues and identification of initiatives and recommendations that give religion a distinctive voice and role which is not separate from human rights principles, but recognises common goals and areas of distinctive contribution to the issues facing women. It is also important to identify where fears about faith-based organisations come from and how they are perpetuated, in order to speak meaningfully in the public sphere. The intersection of these spaces through dialogue and the formulation of concrete recommendations to policymakers and stakeholders have the potential to encourage groups of women leaders who are best placed to speak to other groups of women in crisis situations and enable them through the provision of basic needs and prioritisation of religious freedoms.
By facilitating sustained conversation between NGOs working on the ground, faith groups and academic partners, the network addresses the gap in cross sector collaboration in order to formulate concrete recommendations for addressing the needs of women in situations of crisis and greatest need. The expertise of network participants in policy, religion, sociology, and refugee and migration studies in dialogue with the perspectives of those working closely in situations on the ground establishes a strong position from which to petition governments and faith leaders to prioritise issues affecting women's identity and mental health, women's theologies and ritual needs, and realise women's potential as change makers in situations of statelessness and displacement. The recommendations of the network will be focussed on making provision for faith to be a core part of the international response to crisis situations affecting women and girls, and ensuring women and their needs in relation to religion are well represented, from refugee camp committees to UN working groups.

Planned Impact

The central concerns of the network are currently of high significance to policy makers (in the UK and internationally), NGOs and international humanitarian organisations as they have strong relevance to current situations of humanitarian crisis in ODA recipient countries. The project has an outward facing focus based on an underlying belief in the relevance of religion in public discourse and humanitarian intervention, recognising the need to engage meaningfully with women of faith in different settings, and to avoid the imposition of a Western, elite voice in addressing needs on the ground. The workshop based in Jordan will solidify connections and meaningful engagement with ODA recipient countries of most relevance to the project (Syria, Lebanon). The NGO partner Global One will have direct benefit from the project for their humanitarian work, and equally, their close involvement in the network enables meaningful interaction across sectors with common interests in the support and empowerment of women.
Forms of impact
One of the major dissemination outputs of the network will be a toolkit of documents, all closely tied to the main working paper document. The working paper document will emerge from the discussions at each of the main network events, and will contain input from academic and non-academic participants in the events, as well as the steering group. Whilst the working paper itself will emphasise the research gains from the project in terms that are accessible to a wider public audience, a set of other documents will be produced, aimed at: 1) policy makers in the UK, specifically targeting groups such as the All Party Parliamentary Group on Women; 2) policy makers in the EU and internationally; 3) NGOs, specifically those with a religious focus; and 4) faith leaders and faith organisations with a global or cross-national focus. The toolkit will be available via the project webpage, hosted by the University of Birmingham and CPUR.
Reach of impact
Members of the network have considerable connections, expertise and experience of writing for the various audiences. Through converting learning into policy briefs and papers with recommendations to be presented at existing conferences and events held by policymakers at local, national and international level, this enables knowledge sharing and transparency across all levels.
The role of international organisations are two-fold, the first is to understand the value of faith-based organisations and their approaches and the intersectionality between religion, gender, humanitarianism and crises. The second is to understand the scope of faith-based organisations, their capacity and ways of working together. This can be achieved through raising awareness of their work and focusing on their expertise so as to create an understanding between the two groups.
Professional and practitioner groups will benefit through the extra added dimension of faith/ religion and how that plays a part by working with them on the lessons from the workshops in London and Jordan. By identifying the issues they face in the field, they will understand how evidence based work from an academic perspective can help develop solutions or new approaches. We hope to share our learning through interfaith development networks, women's organisations or networks, human rights, World Humanitarian Summit, SDGs process, conferences such as Women Deliver and International Conference on Family Planning.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Follow on work to 'Elalmadinah...To The City' 
Description The network team initiated a collaboration for follow-on work to the immersive installation, 'Elalmadinah...to the City' (Herbert Gallery, Coventry, 2017), which included curated objects and photographs. The collaboration is based shared interests and discussions of the network's research findings with the artist. The final product of the collaboration is still to be completed (anticipated prior to July 2024). 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact The impacts are still to be realised with the completion of the final product. 
URL http://lizhingley.com/elalmadinah-to-the-city
 
Description The key findings of the network emerged from multisectoral collaboration focussing on the progress required for women and girls in terms of sustainable development goals. Researchers, NGOs, activists and religious representatives and leaders contributed to focussed discussions on the SDGs and on the intersections between matters of faith, gender, and development. Key findings centred on the need to ensure that faith and gender considerations are fully part of humanitarian activity and are not sidelined or ignored; the recognition that faith communities and faith-based NGOs have a wealth of potential in terms of resources (material and non-material) and leadership for addressing situations of crisis; the recognition of the need to address both material and non-material needs of women, including those related to religious identity; and an emphasis on intersections between faith, gender and development as crucial to wider human flourishing. The findings have ODA relevance and planned impact and benefit, having emerged out of key contributions from Jordan, Kenya, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
Exploitation Route Further research on involvement of religious leaders for promoting women's WASH initiatives, such as those carried out by ICDDR,Bangladesh may be commissioned and prioritised. In the area of religious/theological resources, further work may be done, such as that carried out in Kenya on religious resources and FGM, or faith and water. Further consultation between the research team and partners in Jordan may lead to further outcomes of benefit in the Jordanian context. It is hoped and anticipated that policy makers and APPGs will pay greater attention to the recommendation areas of the project in future humanitarian programming.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy

Creative Economy

Education

Government

Democracy and Justice

Culture

Heritage

Museums and Collections

URL https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/ptr/departments/theologyandreligion/research/projects/whfi/index.aspx
 
Description All the main network activities had relevance to ODA countries, with a focus on Jordan, where one of our key events was held. The network has at its core, multi-sector (including academic) concern for gender equality within the SDGs, and progress toward the goals. More than half of presenters (from multiple sectors) on all network events were women, and more than half of contributors from ODA countries were women. SDG 5 is a focus of the network, in relation to other SDGs (e.g. 1, 3, 6, 17). Network participants are continuing their humanitarian, development and education work with connection to the network through the toolkit and other outputs.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

Societal

 
Description University of Birmingham Undergraduate Research Scholarship
Amount £1,500 (GBP)
Organisation University of Birmingham 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2019 
End 08/2019
 
Description Good Faith Partnership Collaboration 
Organisation Good Faith Partnership
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Engaged with GFP on planning and development of a parliamentary engagement strategy
Collaborator Contribution Consultation and development of a strategy to engage government post-Brexit with the key findings and recommendations of the network. This strategy, with a development summary has been delivered to the project team.
Impact Generation of briefing document and dissemination strategy for parliamentary engagement, supported by CPUR (Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion), University of Birmingham
Start Year 2019
 
Description Hashemite University 
Organisation Hashemite University
Country Jordan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The network team arranged for a public lecture to be given by a UK academic working in the area of freedom of religion or belief (FORB), and collaborated with senior staff at Hashemite university on the content and direction of two days of events in Jordan (day conference, public lecture at HU campus, and Za'atari camp visit), including arrangement of permissions for camp visits. Further consultation following on from the events focusses on shaping policy recommendations from the project for the greatest benefit to Jordan.
Collaborator Contribution Hashemite university staff contributed their time in the lead up to the events in Jordan (23-24 July 2019). The network were hosted by HU at their campus, and HU provided the use of lecture space for the public lecture, and a welcome and collaboration meeting with the HU President. At the day conference on the 23rd of April, the Vice-President of HU addressed the audience and the collaborating Associate Professor gave a summary of the morning sessions. HU staff supported the network with letters of invitation and in obtaining permissions for camp visits. The network seeks ongoing advice on project outcomes.
Impact The collaboration will be instrumental in a multi-authored publication emerging from the project. The collaboration is multidisciplinary, and involves academics from the disciplines of business, law, religion, nursing, development, psychology, language, among other areas.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Jordan Hashemite Charity Organisation 
Organisation Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization
Country Jordan 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The network team consulted with JHCO in the lead up to their event in Jordan (23 April), and gave input into the aims and purpose of the network and areas of shared interest. Volunteer helpers were given certificates following the event to acknowledge their work and support of the network.
Collaborator Contribution JHCO supported the event on 23 April by delivering a keynote address and providing a team of volunteers to support the day.
Impact The partnership facilitated and contributed to a key multi-disciplinary and multi-sector event in Jordan, providing crucial insight into priorities for women and girls in humanitarian settings in Jordan.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Yarmouk University 
Organisation Yarmouk University
Country Jordan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The research team and PI shared the insights and priorities of the network with the founder of the Refugees and Displaced Persons Studies Centre at Yarmouk University, and worked with them to plan and develop the network event in Jordan.
Collaborator Contribution The founder of the Refugees and Displaced Persons Studies Centre at Yarmouk University collaborated with the network, contributing time and support for arrangements prior to the event, and intellectual input into the day conference, at which they presented a paper on the situation for Syrian refugees in Jordan.
Impact Contributions toward the working paper and forthcoming publication(s).
Start Year 2018
 
Description 'Spaces of Activation and Motivation' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact 17 invited participants gathered for this workshop event in Birmingham, held at Winterbourne House and Gardens, in connection with the Cadbury Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion, University of Birmingham. The purpose was to gather experts from academic, INGO and faith community contexts to share their perspectives on the relationship between religion and rights-based approaches, Consideration was given to where such approaches are sometimes seen to be in conflict with each other, and where commonalities could be identified. By identifying key motivations and synergies between religious resources and rights values, the group articulated emerging areas to build on in relation to women and rights. Participants were connected to a variety of UK FBO and INGO organisations, religious leadership in Kenya, and academic research centres.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description 'Spaces of Communication and Faith Discourse' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact 16 invited participants gathered for this workshop event in Glasgow, held in connection with the UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts, and the Glasgow Refugee, Asylum and Migration Network (GRAMNet), University of Glasgow. Additional attendees from the general public registered through the event being listed in the Refugee Festival Scotland programme. The purpose was to gather experts from academic, development and faith community contexts to share their experiences and identify areas where a silence and lack of awareness raising on faith matters may be a significant barrier to potential change with the result that women and girls are not afforded equal rights to the practice of religion in situations of humanitarian crisis. Equally, the group considered positive initiatives and contributions of faith leaders, FBOs and faith communities in developing religious concepts and theologies which prioritise the needs of women and girls and engender support through leadership. Participants were connected to a variety of UK FBO and INGO organisations, UN programmes, a leading research centre in Bangladesh, faith leadership in the Netherlands, as well as local action groups and university researchers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description 'Spaces of Empowerment' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact This workshop was a collaboration with Shelanu (meaning 'belonging to us'), a women's craft collective in Birmingham, working with refugee and migrant women to develop sustainable craft social enterprise. The workshop was designed to allow the project to take steps toward a decolonised approach to research (Phipps 2019), through being taught rather than providing answers, and engaging in co-creation through practical activity. Participants were from the UK, Hong Kong, Ivory Coast, Gujarat and China. Guided by the collective, and based on sharing of the aims of the network, participants created an artistic depiction of article 18 of the Declaration of Human Rights. Members of the Shelanu collective produced a blog entry following the workshop.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://craftspace.co.uk/shelanu/
 
Description 'Spaces on the Ground' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact 35 invited participants, along with Jordan Hashemite Charity Organisation (JHCO) student volunteers attended the day conference event, held at the Landmark Hotel in Amman, Jordan. The event, held on the 23rd of April, focussed on material (e.g. shelter, physical health and finance) and non-material (e.g. mental health and wellbeing, freedom of religious belief) needs which may be identified and addressed by various actors in humanitarian settings, concentrating on priority areas for women and girls in line with SDG goals, and the particular Jordanian context. The activities over the course of the day initiated dialogue and sharing of perspectives (both religious and non-religious), with the aim of recognising leadership in successful initiatives as well as identifying areas requiring greater attention and support in order to promote thriving livelihoods for displaced women and girls. The event focussed on the relevance and impact of the issues in Jordan, and developing potential for future collaboration and activity to support economic development and welfare in that context, with a range of humanitarian actors identifying priorities for enhancing potential for women's empowerment.The project was mentioned in several Jordanian news sources, including hu.edu.jo, rumonline.net, urdoni.com, nayrouz.com and petra.gov.jo in April 2019.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description ANCSSC Global South South Conference and Kofi Annan briefings 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Presentation by Global One (Project Partner) at the ANCSSC conference in New York, and Kofi Annan briefings. The ANCSSC is headed by the founder of Global One and has 250 global members, focussing on the SDGs and particularly SDG 17.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Presentation at Women Deliver, Vancouver 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Presentation by Global One (Project Partners) at the 2019 Women Deliver Conference in Vancouver
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Presentation to Lord Sheikh 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Project partner Global One presented, along with representatives from ICDDR,Bangladesh, their WASH research report to Lord Sheikh at the House of Lords on the 25th of June 2018. The project PI was in attendance, along with other invited guests.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Public Lecture on Freedom of Religion or Belief 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A public lecture was delivered by a leading UK academic working on Freedom of Religion or Belief, at the Hashemite University campus outside Amman, Jordan. Network participants attended alongside students and staff of Hashemite University. The network team were welcomed by university officials.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Roundtable Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact The Cadbury Centre (CPUR) hosted a roundtable event at the University of Birmingham, gathering together a panel of NGO experts to provide feedback on the network toolkit and working paper, and to generate priorities for government briefings to follow. This took place on 4 February 2020.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Solas Festival Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Approximately 20 people were involved with this open workshop session, which took place as part of the Solas Festival programme in Scotland. The workshop session was linked with the Solas Festival's partnership with the UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts (RILA) and took place at the UNESCO tent location at the festival. The activity was an open workshop session exploring key issues and priorities for supporting the religious needs of women and girls in refugee situations. Issues for consideration included access to clean water and lockable toilets, hygiene, health and psychosocial support, and how faith and beliefs relate to these priority areas. Drawing on stories from the work of project partner INGO Global One, the experiences of a UNESCO Ambassador participant in the network project, and the recent findings of the research centre ICDDR,Bangladesh, the workshop explored how rights to religion for women and girls can be advanced. The session was co-led by the project PI, two representatives from Project Partner Global One, a UNESCO ambassador, and two representatives from ICDDR,Bangladesh. Attendees were encouraged to share their own experiences, reactions and responses to the issues raised. Discussion centred around increasing awareness of key issues and the impact of hearing the stories shared during the workshop session.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.solasfestival.co.uk/
 
Description UGRS End of Scheme Showcase Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact The Undergraduate Research Scholar (UGRS) working with the project team, presented their poster at a showcase event for the scheme, held on the 9th October 2019, at the University of Birmingham welcome marquee. The event also referenced project blogs, and was open to participants in the scheme, as well as staff and students in the College of Arts and Law.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://blog.bham.ac.uk/calstudentresearch/2019/08/27/women-faith-and-humanitarian-interventions/
 
Description Visit to Za'atari Camp 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact The network team visited Za'atari Camp in Jordan, close to Jordan's northern border with Syria. The camp has become emblematic of the displacement of Syrians across the Middle East following its establishment in 2012. Initially a small collection of tents, it is now an urban settlement of some 80,000 inhabitants. Network participants, with a UNHCR guide, saw projects where women were involved with soap making, artistic work, and hairdressing. They also spent time with the TIGER (These Inspired Girls Enjoy Reading) girls initiative on site. The network team was able to see first hand the work supporting women and girls at Za'atari, supported by, and informing, their collaborations with Jordanian colleagues, strengthening the capacity for research and knowledge exchange.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Women, Faith and Humanitarian Interventions Toolkit 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The Women, Faith and Humanitarian Interventions toolkit website is active, and continuing to be developed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021,2022
URL https://www.wfhi.online/