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Middle-Aged Syrian Women’s Contributions to Family Livelihoods during Protracted Displacement in Jordan
Dina Sidhva, Ann-Christin Zuntz, Ruba al Akash, Ayat Nashwan, and Areej Al-Majali

This article explores the intersections of generational and gender dynamics with humanitarian governance in Jordan that cause shifts in the division of labour within displaced families. Drawing on life history interviews and focus group discussions with seventeen Syrian women in Jordan in spring 2019, we explore the monetary and non-monetary contributions of middle-aged females to the livelihoods of refugee households. Older women’s paid and unpaid labour holds together dispersed families whose fathers have been killed or incapacitated, or remain in Syria or in the Gulf. In doing so, many women draw on their pre-war experience of living with – or rather apart from – migrant husbands. Increased economic and social responsibilities coincide with a phase in our interviewees’ lifecycle in which they traditionally acquire greater authority as elders, especially as mothers-in-law. While power inequalities between older and younger Syrian women are not new, they have been exacerbated by the loss of resources in displacement. Our insights offer a counterpoint to humanitarian attempts at increasing refugees’ ‘self-reliance’ through small-scale entrepreneurship. For now, culturally appropriate and practically feasible jobs for middle-aged women are found in their living rooms. Supportive humanitarian action should allow them to upscale their businesses and address power dynamics within families.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Brendan T. Lawson

Over the past 25 years, the humanitarian sector has become increasingly dominated by numbers. This has been reflected in the growth of academic work that explores this relationship between humanitarianism and quantification. The most recent contribution to this literature is Joël Glasman’s Humanitarianism and the Quantification of Humanitarian Needs. Through his empirical and theoretical contributions, Glasman draws our attention to the different ways that academics approach this topic. These four strands structure the literature review: knowledge – the technical difficulties in quantifying phenomena; governance – how numbers help humanitarian organisations manage the sector; effects – the impact that quantification has had on the sector as a whole; meaning – the importance of rhetoric, discourse, representation and communication when it comes to understanding the quantitative. As part of the review, the essay also identifies how academics can better engage with each of the four strands.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Arjun Claire

Evidence-based advocacy is all the rage in humanitarian action. It is premised on rational thinking, which posits that factual evidence can limit subjective bias in humanitarians’ call for change. Data has come to be a cornerstone of this turn towards reason, aggregating human stories in numbers and percentages, which when reaching an elusive threshold is expected to persuade decision-makers to act. This article claims that the prominence of data and facts comes at the cost of understanding people’s concerns and aspirations, and reveals an increasingly emotions-scarce and morally depleted humanitarian enterprise. Examining Médecins Sans Frontières concept of témoignage, the article argues that the pull between reason and emotion crystallises a more profound tension between the need for a professional and technical humanitarianism as opposed to a political and morally charged one. It concludes that the prism of solidarity can help reinvigorate humanitarian advocacy helping reconcile reason with emotion, combining practices of advocacy with those of activism, in turn creating the foundations of a more solidarist humanitarianism.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Open Access (free)
Róisín Read
Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Open Access (free)
Gender Equality and Culture in Humanitarian Action1
Ricardo Fal-Dutra Santos

Despite increasing attention to gender issues in the humanitarian sector, the notion of gender equality as a humanitarian goal remains largely rejected, as some argue it would require interfering with cultural values and practices, and thus lie beyond the remit of humanitarianism. This paper questions this by examining the close relationship between certain humanitarian goals, and cultural values and practices. It ultimately calls for a gender-transformative humanitarian action that recognises and supports local feminist actors, in an effort to transform gender relations both in local communities and within humanitarianism itself.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Catherine Akurut

This review examines the appropriateness of including men within the existing sexual and gender-based violence programming in armed conflict settings rather than providing services explicitly designed to address their needs. A central premise of the paper is that men experience sexual violence differently to women and that the way they seek help also varies. This gender-specific difference calls into question why humanitarian organisations pursue a ‘gender-inclusion’ approach, which simply extends services designed for women to men. There is a need to reconsider this approach, and specifically its implementation. The paper reviews relevant secondary sources and argues that current practices of sexual and gender-based violence programming fail to translate into actionable responses suited for and sensitive to men.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Dispelling Misconceptions about Sexual Violence against Men and Boys in Conflict and Displacement
Heleen Touquet, Sarah Chynoweth, Sarah Martin, Chen Reis, Henri Myrttinen, Philipp Schulz, Lewis Turner, and David Duriesmith

Sexual violence against men and boys in conflict and displacement has garnered increasing attention over the past decade and has been recognised in UN Security Resolution 2467. Despite increased evidence and understanding of the issue, myths and misconceptions nevertheless abound. The authors of this article – practitioners and academics with extensive experience in the field – aim to dispel ten of the most common misconceptions that we have encountered, and to highlight the current evidence base regarding sexual violence against men and boys in humanitarian settings. We argue that just as there is no universal experience of sexual violence for women and girls, there is no universal experience for men and boys, or for nonbinary people. In order to address the complexities of these experiences, a survivor-centred, intersectional approach is needed.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Corporations, Celebrities and the Construction of the Entrepreneurial Refugee Woman
Annika Bergman Rosamond and Catia Gregoratti

In this article we seek to extend recent debates on how the promotion of self-reliance through vocational training and entrepreneurship has become the new neoliberal mantra among refugee-supporting agencies, policymakers and humanitarian actors. More specifically, we do so in the context of corporate and celebrity-endorsed humanitarian partnerships and initiatives that single out refugee women and girls. Informed by postcolonial feminist scholarship and guided by Carol Bacchi’s ‘what is the problem represented to be’ (WPR) approach we compare IKEA’s partnership with the Jordan River Foundation (JRF) in Jordan and Angelina Jolie’s support for the RefuSHE project in Kenya. While differences between the two problem representations exist, both initiatives seek to empower refugee women by activating latent entrepreneurial abilities. These, we conclude, reinforce a saviour/saved humanitarian logic while also obscuring the gender division of responsibilities and precarious nature of artisanal labour.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
The Aid Industry and the ‘Me Too’ Movement
Charlotte Lydia Riley

In 2018, the global #MeToo movement turned its attention to the aid industry, after scandals at Oxfam and Save the Children highlighted the sexual harassment, abuse and assault prevalent in the sector. This article explores #MeToo in the context of the aid industry (informally known by many participants as #AidToo), particularly within a British context. The article argues that the aid industry exists in a historical, social and political space that is particularly volatile. The abusive behaviour of men in the sector is shaped and enabled by race, class and gender inequalities, which undermine many of the stated aims of international aid programmes. The humanitarian and development aid sector will not eradicate this behaviour until it recognises how it is enabled and encouraged by these inequalities. The article argues that the aid sector needs to develop an ethical code of conduct around sexual relationships, harassment and abuse that recognises power inequalities within the sector and seeks to protect vulnerable individuals.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Megan Daigle, Sarah Martin, and Henri Myrttinen

Humanitarian, development and peacebuilding work has become increasingly dangerous in recent decades. The securitisation of aid has been critiqued, alongside the racialised and gendered dynamics of security provision for aid actors. What has received less attention is how a range of intersectional marginalisations – gender, racialisation, sexuality, nationality and disability – play out in constructions of security, danger and fear in aid deployments. Focusing on sexual harassment, abuse and violence as threats to safety and security, the article examines how in training and guidance for deployment to ‘the field’ (itself a problematically securitised notion), danger is projected onto sexualised and racialised ‘locals’, often overlooking the potentially far greater threat from colleagues. Here, we employ a review of security guidance, social media groups, interviews with aid staffers and reflections on our own experiences to explore how colonialist notions of security and ‘stranger danger’ play out in training. We argue that humanitarianism is still dominated by the romanticised figure of the white, male humanitarian worker – even if this problematic imaginary no longer reflects reality – and a space where those questioning exclusionary constructs of danger are quickly silenced and even ridiculed, even in the age of #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs