Poverty Alleviation and Women Refugees in the Middle East: Empowerment through Grassroots Micro-Entrepreneurship?

Lead Research Organisation: University of Plymouth
Department Name: Plymouth Business School

Abstract

Contemporary political volatility within the Middle East region has led to far reaching socio-economic upheaval and strife with a devastating impact generating mass displacement of Iraqi, Palestinian, and Syrian refugees to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey (UNCHR, 2014). In their host nations, these displaced communities seek to reconstruct their lives in a context of loss, poverty, violence and devastation (Kuttab, 2008; Chatty, 2010). Here, as in other contexts of displacement and refugee movements, women and children are subject to the worst effects of such upheaval given their limited power and resources to counteract the ensuing violence and poverty (Al-Dajani and Marlow, 2013; Holmes, 2007; UN, 2006).

As one strategy to address the matrix of disadvantages and especially poverty arising from displacement, the potential of home based self-employment for women has become a focal point of contemporary policy interest. Such micro enterprising is positioned as a development tool across many contexts as it presents pathways for socio-economic empowerment for women which require few resources but also, do not challenge prevailing cultural patriarchal norms. Despite critiques of this argument (Kuttab, 2008; Bruton, 2010; Franck, 2012), home based enterprise is positioned as a critical activity for displaced women as a simple but effective point of entry for economic participation with related social and status benefits (Al Dajani and Marlow, 2013). As such, numerous support and advice agencies aiming to encourage such enterprising activities now focus upon helping displaced and refugee women to undertake self-employment.

Our previous research (Al-Dajani et al, 2015) however, suggests that such agencies are perceived to impose numerous stifling constraints upon the displaced refugee women. This tension and the preferences of the displaced women regarding business start-up and trading partners has prompted many women to reject engagement with formal support agencies. Rather, they are finding other pathways and networks to support their enterprising activities. Thus, within this project we will explore the effectiveness and impact of the available pathways for support and advice for displaced and refugee women and analyse the extent to which entrepreneurship is a sustainable conduit for poverty alleviation and empowerment in socio-politically volatile circumstances.

The project brings together the Issam Fares Institute (Lebanon), UDA Consulting (Turkey) and the King Hussein Foundation (Jordan) to undertake the project alongside Haya Al-Dajani at UEA (PI) and Susan Marlow at Nottingham University (Co-I). The partners have already attained definite agreement from potential stakeholders to contribute to the project, and are working with key refugee support agencies identified by UNHCR as partner agencies assisting Syrian refugees. In each geographical location, an initial stakeholder meeting will be held, bringing together 20 non-academic key stakeholders, including potential research users, to engage in the design of the ensuing project and conduct through the adoption of a Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) approach (UNV, 2013). This will be followed by individual interviews with 150 Iraqi, Palestinian and Syrian refugee women displaced to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Upon completion of this data collection, another stakeholder meeting will be held in each location to deliberate the findings and to inform the design and development of Phase 2 of the study involving a follow up survey with the refugee women. Finally, a key stakeholder dissemination event will be held at the end of the project in each of the three geographical locations. These events will engage 50 key stakeholders in each location, and will focus on research, practice and policy development for displaced and refugee populations.

Planned Impact

As noted in the Case for Support, there is a dearth of informed evidence regarding the activities and contributions of displaced refugee Arab women but an excess of anecdote and myth. Thus, the proposed project will have considerable value in generating longitudinal empirical evidence, developing theoretical frameworks regarding entrepreneurship, empowerment, gender and poverty alleviation in a context of displacement whilst generating impact through informed models of policy and practice. To this extent the objective of the non-academic impact is to respond to the UNV's (2013) call for supporting refugees in the Middle East region through a bottom-up understanding of the landscape that they must navigate.

The most important primary beneficiaries of the project are the desperately poor Iraqi, Palestinian and Syrian refugee women and their families displaced to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Through an enhanced understanding of their entrepreneuring to alleviate their poverty, and the opportunities and challenges that this presents, we will gain a deeper, richer and more relevant understanding of how national and international agencies can more effectively support these vulnerable communities. Thus, the national and international agencies that support the Arab refugee women in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey (referred to within this application as stakeholders) and their donors are also very important beneficiaries of the project.

Clearly, there are academic beneficiaries too. The absence of existing research focusing specifically on Arab refugee women and their displaced entrepreneuring in Arab host nations, makes this project an internationally valuable contribution to knowledge on poverty alleviation and related policy and theory. The objectives of the academic impact therefore, are to foster new academic engagement with refugee agencies to support engaged scholarship, encourage new international research relationships, and to engage researchers in the emerging theoretical and empirical advances arising from the proposed project. Through the poverty alleviation, entrepreneurship, refugee women, displacement, and development dimensions of the project, we will contribute to knowledge within the disciplines of entrepreneurship, gender, and development, as well the emerging and growing scholarship that intersects the three disciplines.

To ensure that the project beneficiaries have the opportunity to benefit from the project, in each of the project's three locations, a stakeholder engagement focus group will occur at the beginning of September 2016 involving 20 non-academic key stakeholders, including potential research users, and comprising non-governmental organisations (NGOs), governmental organisations, international agencies, charities and social enterprises, and private sector organisations engaged in supporting Arab women refugees. The aim being to engage them in the design of the ensuing project to enhance their ownership of the process and the outcomes. This will be achieved through the adoption of a Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) methodology. These stakeholders will be invited for a further focus group where the results from the first phase of the data collection with the Arab refugee women will be shared, and further contributions from the stakeholders will be sought for designing and developing Phase Two of the data collection with the Arab refugee women. The stakeholders will be invited for the third time towards the end of the proposed project for the dissemination events. Here, the engaged stakeholders will have the opportunity to network with other invited stakeholders, to deliberate the overall results of the project to determine policy and action pathways for supporting the Arab refugee women more effectively and efficiently. Please see Pathways to Impact document for further elaboration.
 
Description Despite popular rhetoric that refugees fleeing from conflict regions head towards the Global North, the majority seek shelter in neighbouring developing countries. In the contemporary Middle East conflict for example, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have been the major recipients of refugees travelling from Iraq, Syria and Palestine, many of whom are women and children separated from their extended families and support networks. Government initiatives, NGOs and charities support the immediate needs of refugees but also, attempt to assist in supporting them to identify longer term solutions to poverty, exclusion and trauma. Women are particularly susceptible to these issues and in addition, are subject to gender based violence. One critical support strategy has been the encouragement of micro-enterprise. As refugees have extremely limited, if any formal employment opportunities, which would not be accessible for women regardless, home based enterprise - providing local services or producing traditional artisan crafts - has become increasingly important as a form of income generation. In addition, engaging with locally based self-employment is safer than informal employment and may also have possible emancipatory effects providing women with some degree of independence and enhanced status. The benefits of such micro-enterprise can also support family cohesion, child support and education plus, wider community benefits. There are also problems with this model where women have to take on additional responsibilities as income generators whilst still expected to care for their families in a context of traditional patriarchy unsympathetic to women as independent actors. Within this project, we are investigating the impact of micro-enterprise upon refugee women in terms of income generation, enhanced emancipation, family well-being and broader community development.
Thus far, we have collected data from 152 Iraqi, Palestinian and Syrian refugee women residing in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, as well as a range of stakeholders supporting refugee women and micro entrepreneurship in these host countries. Our data confirms that displacement is a long term phenomenon rather than a temporary measure whereby refugees are pushed into creating their own solutions for poverty alleviation. The vast majority of refugee women in our study were pushed into micro-entrepreneurship due to their increasing poverty and extreme limitations on their formal employment within the host countries. They created their opportunities within feminised sectors that capitalised on their existing skills such as tailoring, embroidery, hairdressing, cosmetics, and catering. Typically, the micro-enterprise owners were targeting customers from their immediate communities, that is, other refugee women, and their prospects of growth and/or formalisation were minimal. A small group of refugee entrepreneur Palestinian and Iraqi women in Jordan managed to break through the barriers and registered their businesses formally, and have business premises within affluent neighbourhoods within the capital city. Despite such breakthroughs, the changing gender norms amongst the displaced Arab refugee communities are not widely accepted but instead, face resistance from both men and women within these communities except amongst the Syrian refugee women in Turkey who prefer to remain in 'liberal Turkey' rather than return to Syria. These findings have led us to question the extent to which entrepreneurship amongst refugee women is about poverty alleviation rather than wealth creation. Accordingly, we are critical of the benefits of 'refugee enterprise' and recognise the potential problematic issues arising from this strategy for both the refugee women and the agencies supporting them.
Exploitation Route Academic Route:
We have led a 'professional development workshop' entitled Entrepreneurial activity at the interface of conflict, displacement and resettlement at the Academy of Management 2017 conference in Atlanta. This focused on creating awareness about the project, sharing the preliminary findings, and collecting questions and comments from the academic delegates to share with the non-academic stakeholders in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
Through the research articles that we will publish in leading entrepreneurship journals, the findings of the project will be taken forward and put to use by other researchers and scholars.
The project PI has co-founded the Displacements Studies Research Network launched in January 2018 at the University of Plymouth. Through this forum, the outcomes of our project can also be taken forward and put to use by others.

Non-Academic Route:
The stakeholder engagement focus groups in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey were attended by key stakeholders and potential research users, including non-governmental organisations (NGOs), governmental organisations, international agencies, charities and social enterprises, and private sector organisations. The initial focus group discussions engaged the stakeholders in the design of the ensuing project and the second focus group discussions informed participants of the preliminary findings obtained from the Stage 1data collection, and invited participants to commit to a specific action to be undertaken by their organisations during 2018. Follow up on these commitments took place in July 2018 and again in December 2018.
In each country, the dissemination events entitled 'Policy and Action Pathways for Women's Micro-Enterprise' involve a wider delegation of invited stakeholders to deliberate upon the overall results to determine policy and action pathways. The Dissemination Tour occurs in April 2019.
Sectors Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Retail,Other

URL https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/research/resilient-refugee-women
 
Description The Dissemination Tour planned for April 6-13 encompasses dissemination and engagement visits with stakeholders in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey to deliberate and validate the recommendations arising from the project. These are captured with each country's policy brief and infographic (availalbe in Arabic, English and Turkish). The dissemination event in each country will launch the change campaign led by our project partner in each country and targetting policy and decision makers. The overarching purpose of the change campaign is to enhance awareness about the Arab refugee women entrepreneurs and especially the forgotten Iraqi and Palestinian refugee communities, and to implement the over arching recommendations emerging from the study: 1. Developing a comprehensive and accessible up-to-date directory of refugee support and services to create awareness about the available support services. 2. Permitting and simplifying business registration for refugees to recognise their contribution to the local economy and to facilitate business growth. 3. Encouraging refugee women to join forces to create community enterprises rather than operating individually, and to understand the difference between home-based work and home-based enterprise. Doing so will help them to help themselves and each other. 4. Fostering and nurturing design thinking amongst creative refugee thinkers, to create innovative, community based solutions to address their everyday challenges arising from their marginalisation and poverty. 5. Providing affordable financial support services and products for refugee women entrepreneurs that they can utilise without fear of accumulating excessive debt.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Retail,Other
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description Invitation to serve on the Advisory Committee at Issam Fares Institute - American University of Beirut
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Turquoise Mountain 
Organisation Turquoise Mountain Foundation
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The initiation of this collaboration began when a representative from Turquoise Mountain got in touch with our project partner in Jordan.
Collaborator Contribution Turquoise Mountain is starting a new (free) highly specialised training programme for refugee artisans in Jordan and Lebanon based on their success in Kabul and Myanmar. They have offered our research participants (operating artisan micro-enterprises), places on this highly sought after programme. This will be an excellent incentive for our research participants and as such, we will direct them to the Turquoise Mountain contact person.
Impact None yet - these will emerge following the completion of the data collection (September 2017) and the recruitment of the research participants in the Turquoise Mountain programme thereafter.
Start Year 2017
 
Description 'Conquering Borders: Gender, Entrepreneurship and Prosperity' webinar at the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship Annual Conference November 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Th webinar addressed some of the political borders that separate the international gender and entrepreneurship community by bringing together academics, practitioners and policy makers from around the world to share and discuss the potential of entrepreneurship in conquering borders through virtual and physical presence.
A panel of gender and entrepreneurship experts including Haya Al-Dajani and Susan Marlow shared their research on how entrepreneurs conquer the borders in their minds, as well as the social, political and economic borders that define our present and future.
To maximise the impact of the webinar, we encouraged colleagues to host 'webinar parties' to stream in to the live broadcast so that chapters of localised discussions and networking could follow on when the webinar being broadcast from Belfast ended.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOOBXaesyY0&feature=youtu.be
 
Description A Responsible Entrepreneurship Taster for Refugees and their Support Agencies in Plymouth - Refugee Week Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I led this workshop for refugees residing in Devon to creatively explore responsible entrepreneurship and starting up responsible small businesses locally. To design and develop a bespoke and tailored responsible enterprise training programme for refugees in the South West region, an outcome from this event was the identification of the responsible enterprise knowledge and skills training needs, as identified by refugees and their support workers. 48 persons attended this event and the majority of them returned for the event I led during Global Entrepreneurship Week in November 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/uploads/production/document/path/6/6600/WR_RFJ26797_6380_Ply_RefugeeWeekB...
 
Description British Council Roundtable on Syrian refugees and higher education 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Held in December 2016 in London, the Higher Education and Syrian Refugees: UK Response Coordination Group met to share and discuss information, research activity and best practice with the aim to support UK higher education institutions to develop a better understanding of current activity in order to help them with their own Syria engagement strategies. 26 decision makers representing the British Council, UK HEIs, UN agencies, and others from the UK, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt attended and shared their on-going activities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Dissemination event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation by Haya Al-Dajani - Principal Investigator entitled 'Refugee Entrepreneurship in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey'. Presentation for the Gown Meets Town Series held at the Global Centre of Devon Development Education in Exeter; June 20th, 2018
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description ESRC DfID Power of Partnership Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation by Haya Al-Dajani and Nasser Yassin entitled 'Poverty Alleviation and Women Refugees in the Middle East: Empowerment through Grassroots Micro-Entrepreneurship?' Presentation at ESRC DfID Power of Partnership Conference, New Delhi, December 5th, 2018
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.theimpactinitiative.net/power-of-partnership
 
Description Enterprising Together - Social Science Festival 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This event embraced the responsible entrepreneurship theme by creating the space and opportunity for Plymouth's refugees and asylum seekers to come together with students and staff from Plymouth University as well as local business owners, and other members of the general public, to collectively brainstorm, design and ignite team-led responsible enterprises that aim to foster community empowerment.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/whats-on/enterprising-together
 
Description Entrepreneurial Activity at the Interface of Conflict, Displacement and Refugee Resettlement - Academy of Management Professional Development Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This professional development workshop (PDW) explored the impact of conflict upon entrepreneurial activities by refugees displaced by warfare in the Middle East region. It acknowledged that to progress analyses of entrepreneurship we have to problematize it and explore how it is articulated within diverse contexts especially those involving forced displacement where entrepreneurial activity is a critical form of employment and a pathway to greater socio-economic security and empowerment. Within the PDW we invited participants to critically reflect upon the role of entrepreneurial activity for refugees, displaced peoples and others forced to leave their homelands in conflict regions. To promote an interface between theory, policy and practice, we invited academic colleagues (Haya Al-Dajani, Susan Marlow and Johanna Mair) and those actively working with displaced and refugee people (Aida Said and Nasser Yassin) to share their experiences of entrepreneurship on the ground. Following these presentations by the academic and policy and practice based speakers, we had breakout sessions focusing specifically upon how the interface between theory and practice can be amalgamated to support and encourage sustainable pro-social forms of enterprise within displaced communities. The outcomes were fed back directly to a selection of international aid agencies and NGOs working with displaced refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey in October 2017, and thus, the PDW was an excellent platform for the AOM Entrepreneurship Division to contribute to the global debate and international policies framing the international refugee crisis. To date, the role and potential for entrepreneurial activity is not a key feature of policy dialogues upon refugee resettlement and the entrepreneurship scholarly community has remained largely silent about the refugee crisis. To this end, the PDW brought together senior scholars and Middle East based experts to share theory, evidence, policy and practice to progress this debate. Following the PDW, we received several emails such as the one we share here: From: Signe Hedeboe Frederiksen
Sent: 05 August 2017 23:04
To: Haya Al-Dajani; Marlow Susan
Subject: PDW AOM

Dear Haya and Sue,

Thank you for contributing to and hosting the PDW today about gender, refugees and entrepreneurship. That was the best session I have attended so far at AOM with a sense of importance and meaningfulness. It opened my eyes and I left the room full of new ideas. I hope I will be able to follow up on some of them.

Certainly, I would love to hear more about the topic and the work you are doing, so please let me know when/if there is something to read.

All the best,

Signe

Signe Hedeboe Frederiksen
Research Assistant, PhD.

Aarhus University | School of Business and Social Sciences | Department of Management| Fuglesangs Allé 4 - M214, 8210 Aarhus V, Denmark
T: +45 871 650 35 | M: signehf@mgmt.au.dk | W: pure.au.dk/portal/en/signehf@mgmt.au.dk
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://my.aom.org/program2017/
 
Description Global Challenges Research Fund 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Held on February 10, 2017 at Plymouth University, a presentation about aims and objectives of the project and its intended methodology.
The aim of the presentation was to showcase the research project as an example of high quality international research undertaken at Plymouth University, and addressing global priorities.
As a result of the presentation, a 'Displacement Studies Research Network' has launched at Plymouth University, bringing together an interdisciplinary group of 27 academics, postgraduate researchers and practitioners focusing their research and activities on displacement and refugees.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/research/displacement-studies
 
Description Haydn Green Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dissemination event with presentations by Haya Al-Dajani Principal Investigator, Susan Marlow - Co-Investigator and Nasser Yassin - project partner entitled 'Creating Enterprising Futures: The case of women refugees in the Middle East'. Event for the Haydn Green Seminar Series held at the University of Nottingham; May 17th, 2018
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Science Impact Article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The article outlined the both projects and their main findings. It was included within the Science Impact publication circulated internationally.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://impact.pub/January2019-1-digitaledition/
 
Description University of Plymouth Research Magazine 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact University of Plymouth Research Showcase Handbook. The aim of this hardcopy book was to show case research excellence at the University of Plymouth, and is distributed widely by the Office of the Vice Chancellor.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Workshop - Responsible Entrepreneurship Success for Refugees 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Responsible Entrepreneurship Success for Refugees. Held during Refugee Week in Plymouth showcasing success stories amongst Plymouth's entrepreneurial refugees. The purpose of the event was to engage refugees in entrepreneurial design thinking, ideating social enterprises that they could initiate with students and members of the host community in Plymouth.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Writing grant applications workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I designed, led and delivered a 2 hour workshop entitled 'Sources and Grant Applications for Gender and Entrepreneurship Research'. This workshop attracted 42 participants - a mix of postgraduate students, early career researchers and mid-career academics. The workshop was funded by the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE) and held at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation entitled 'Micro-Enterprise: a Solution for Permanent Temporariness Amongst Arab Women in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey?' Presentation at Prince Mohammad Bin Salman College for Business and Entrepreneurship, Saudi Arabia, Jan 20th, 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019