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 in crisis contexts. 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.

Our Approach

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.


Examining the Regional Impact of the Lord’s Resistance Army

This project explores the dynamics of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda, South Sudan, Central African Republic, and northeastern DRC. Focus groups and interviews with key informants in communities will provide insight into community responses to, and needs resulting from, the LRA threat. This project also makes use of an innovative technique called “conceptual mapping” to detail the threats and risks in each community through a participatory mapping process. The results of this investigation will aim to provide a new understanding of how this tightly controlled armed group can differentially impact countries based on the socio-political climate of each country.

Featured Publication

September, 2014

The decades-long conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has resulted in major changes to local economies, strained social networks and insecurity. This environment forces many to pursue unconventional and, at times, socially stigmatised avenues for income. This paper explores the ways in which individuals in eastern DRC engage in, and are affected by, the commoditisation of sex within the context of decades of violent conflict.


Director, Women in War Program
Research Coordinator, Women in War Program

Principle Investigator: Michael VanRooyen, DM, DPH