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

Project description

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.


First name Last name Gender Rank Affiliated Institution Country
Nasser Yassin Male American University of Beirut Lebanon




Scientific field

Sociology & Anthropology

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