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.

Featured Project

Examining the Regional Impact of the Lord’s Resistance Army

The Women in War program spent more than two years investigating the Lord’s Resistance Army’s (LRA) activities and impacts in Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This project synthesizes unique insights from survivors of LRA violence, including returning abductees and former combatants. Drawing on the voices and knowledge of those most affected by the LRA illuminates ways to better support these individuals and communities.

Featured Publication

We Mobilized Ourselves

November, 2015

Despite facing violence and terror, local communities have created innovative systems of self-protection and resilience in the face of the LRA threat. 

Resources and resourcefulness:

October, 2014

Two dominant narratives have characterized the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): (1) the horrific abuse of women through sexual violence and (2) the use of “conflict minerals” to fuel the fighting. These two advocacy narratives intersect uniquely in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) towns and can lead to flawed understandings of the true dynamics of women's experiences in these contexts. Mining areas are important centers of economic activity for women, but also pose distinct risks.


HHI Fellow

Principal Investigator: Michael VanRooyen, MD, MPH