Women in War

The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative's (HHI) Women in War (WiW) program seeks to investigate and address issues relating to gender, peace, and security in fragile states. HHI's network of diverse faculty, fellows, and researchers explore pressing issues that impact the security of women and girls as well as men and boys throughout the world.

The goal of this work is to examine the unique vulnerabilities that can be exacerbated by crisis and conflict, including gender-based violence, human trafficking, other forms of exploitation and abuse, and economic insecurity, and to understand the most effective ways to address these issues by elevating the voices of those most affected.  

Our research identifies consequences of social instability and violence not only on individuals, but also on families and communities as a whole. Our work highlights the ways in which women are vital actors in their communities—advocates for change, businesspeople, service providers, and leaders. WiW’s research attempts to capture the complexities and nuances of these roles and to explore how women interact with other actors.

Our Approach

WiW’s investigations inform approaches to reduce the vulnerability of women and girls as well as men and boys in conflict and support community-level resilience strategies. Our 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 – individuals 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

Studies report that between 6 per cent and 29 per cent of survivors of sexual violence in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are...

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

Individuals recently demobilized from the LRA detail the internal dynamics of the group, and describe how magic, rules, and culture are used...


HHI Fellow

Principal Investigator: Michael VanRooyen, MD, MPH