Negotiating Relationships and Redefining Traditions: Syrian and Iraqi Women Refugees in Jordan

This project focuses on the changing nature of family structures, within sexual and conjugal relationships among Iraqi and Syrian refugee women in Jordan.
Project status

The project examines: a) how heritage is re-defined to empower women to gain dignity and resilience as refugees in Jordan; b) how the refugee context places women in positions of added vulnerability, subjecting them to interpersonal or structural violence; and c) what support mechanisms exist within the law, civil society and among NGOs, which are religio-culturally sensitive and can be used by women to oppose violence within their refugee context. The aim is to improve gender socialisation among refugees in Jordan, thus contributing towards gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Heritage is understood as being manifest in cultural and religious identities and articulated through women’s local - and very often, patriarchal - traditions and gender-related discourses. The project examines to what extent Iraqi and Syrian women can: a) re-define gender orders and ideologies, regarding sexual and conjugal relationships in particular, through the re-interpretation of Islamic normative discourses around Muslim marriage and divorce practices following their migration and re-settlement experiences; b) develop a new understanding of gender socialisation and construct new models of masculinity and femininity that accommodate a greater diversity of ways of living by establishing novel forms of matrimonial practices in their new diasporic contexts and thereby contribute to a re-definition of their religio-cultural heritage.

Dignity is understood in this project as bodily dignity and is related to the value and worthiness of the individual as perceived by oneself and by others. It, therefore, incorporates both private and public perceptions of oneself. The project examines the extent to which women’s bodily dignity is preserved through their ability to gain financial independence, to achieve religious institutional and social support, and to secure the legal status of their conjugal relationships within their refugee contexts in Jordan. 

Read Dr Yafa Shanneik's article on how Western refugee policies can cause power imbalances in the home, leading to unintended dangers for women.


Principal Investigator: Dr Yafa Shanneik, University of Birmingham 

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