Women In War


The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative's (HHI) Women in War program seeks to investigate and address women's needs in today's most troubled settings. HHI's network of diverse faculty, fellows, and researchers examines pressing issues that impact women's security throughout the world. Our projects emphasize the unique vulnerabilities women face in humanitarian settings, including gender-based violence, other forms of exploitation and abuse, and economic insecurity. Our research identifies some of the consequences of social instability and violence on women's livelihoods as well as the key role women can play as agents of social change. Our work highlights the ways in which women are vital actors in their communities - advocates for change, businesspeople, service providers, and leaders. HHI's research attempts to capture the complexities and nuances of these roles and to explore how women interact with other actors.

HHI's investigations inform approaches to reduce the vulnerability of women in conflict and support community-level resilience strategies. The Women in War program employs a participatory research approach grounded in collaborations with international and local non-governmental organizations and community-based associations. This approach helps us bring the voices of the experts – the women affected by violence and instability – to practitioners and policy makers to catalyze the development of more effective programming. The program's goal is to translate the knowledge gained from working with affected communities into timely and impactful programming and policy.




The Women in War program understands the multifaceted nature of issues related to women in conflict and works to pursue multiple avenues of research and intervention at once. Learn more about the research projects here.



The Women in War program works closely with local organizations in research and clinical partnerships to address the needs of those in crisis. Read more about our strategic partnerships here.



Our research is conducted with the goal of generating results that can be translated into programming and policy on the ground in a timely way. Working with grass-roots and international organizations ensures that findings from research have impact at multiple levels. Read more about our impact in programming and policy here.



HHI faculty, fellows, and researchers are seen, heard, and read in numerous media outlets that cover sexual violence in conflict situations. They have recently appeared in and on BBC News, The Economist, The New York Times, Al Jazeera, PRI's "The World," and PBS "Wide Angle," among others. For the full list of the Women in War program's presence in the media, go here. For a multimedia feature on the Women in War program's work in the DRC, go here.



Below are the most recently published reports from the Women in War program. For the full list of the program's publications, go here.

Assessing the Impact of Programming to Reduce the Stigmatization of Survivors of Sexual Violence in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo

By Jocelyn Kelly and Beth Maclin

This project rigorously evaluated programming that addresses stigma against survivors. In this program evaluation, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s Women in War program worked with the Congolese NGO, Centre d’Assistance Medico-Psychosociale (CAMPS) to assess which parts of their programming are most effective and how to continue to improve services related to reducing stigma. To learn more about the World Bank’s LOGiCA program, which funded this work, please go to: http://www.logica-wb.org/


A Patient Heart: Stigma, Acceptance and rejection around Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in the Democratice Republic of Congo

By Jocelyn Kelly, Justin Kabanga, Katherine Albutt, Beth Maclin, Sunkyo Im, Michelle Kissenkoetter, Michael VanRooyen

This report identifies factors – societal, financial and health-related – that influence men’s behaviors towards survivors of sexual violence and the barriers towards acceptance and reintegration of survivors into their families and communities after rape. This investigation, through interviews, focus group discussions, and a survey, looked at how to more effectively prevent and address rejection of survivors by their families and communities. This project was based in eastern DRC and funded by the World Bank. More on the funder can be found here: http://www.logica-wb.org/



Jocelyn Kelly, MS
Director of the Women in War Program, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

Beth Maclin
Research Coordinator of the Women in War Program, Harvard Humantarian Initiative

Susan Bartels, MD, MPH
Department of Emergency Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard University

Sadia Hader, MD, MPH
Division Director of Family Planning, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Jen Scott, MD, MBA
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Julia VanRooyen, MD
Visiting Scientist, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

Michael VanRooyen, MD, MPH, FACEP
Director of Harvard Humanitarian Initiative