Research aims to enhance understanding of enterprise within refugee communities

The extent to which entrepreneurship is a catalyst for empowerment and poverty alleviation among women refugees in Arab countries is to be explored in a new study.

Academics from Plymouth University and the University of Nottingham will work alongside researchers in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey to analyse entrepreneurship as a sustainable means of poverty alleviation.

This study will also assess the impact of institutional support from governmental and other aid agencies on displaced Iraqi, Syrian and Palestinian refugee communities, to develop recommendations which enhance the effectiveness of aid programmes across the Middle East and parts of Africa.

The three-year research project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council in collaboration with the Department for International Development, will be led by Dr Haya Al-Dajani, Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship in Plymouth University’s Futures Entrepreneurship Centre, alongside Professor Susan Marlow, Professor of Entrepreneurship in the Haydn Green Institute, Nottingham University Business School.

Dr Al-Dajani, who has previously conducted studies into enterprise and empowerment among women refugees in Jordan, said:

“Many women refugees produce traditional crafts from within their homes as a means of heritage expression and social identity, as this is all they have left of their homeland. It gives them a sense of pride to be supporting their families and meeting the expectations of their clients. Through their micro enterprises, they get the opportunity to engage with others beyond their family members, which also enhances their general wellbeing. Enterprise is known to be integral to poverty alleviation, but there needs to be a re-assessment of the extent to which government and aid agencies are effectively helping short and long term refugees.”

For the research, academics will work with several distinct refugee communities residing in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey – Palestinians who left their homeland following the Six-Day War of 1967, Iraqis who either fled during the first Gulf War in 1990 or in 2003 following the fall of Saddam Hussein, and Syrians displaced by the ongoing civil war in their nation.

The researchers will collaborate with the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut (Lebanon), UDA Consulting (Turkey) and the King Hussein Foundation Information and Research Centre (Jordan), on data collection from both the aid agencies and the refugee women. 

The ultimate aim is to develop guidance and policies that will be shared with governments and agencies in the Middle East, as well as other nations which have refugee populations such as Somalia and Sudan.

Dr Al-Dajani added:

“There are growing numbers of refugees all over the world, and while they may find home in a new country many are unable under current laws to acquire full citizenship. As a result, while new refugees are afforded support and assistance, there are those who have been displaced for decades who still live in poverty because that support is no longer available yet they cannot access the full opportunities and employment afforded to nationals or citizens living around them. This research will give us a deeper understanding of the challenges they all face, and how we might enable refugees now and in the future to improve their prospects.”
  • The research project – Poverty Alleviation and Women Refugees in the Middle East: Empowerment through Grassroots Micro-Entrepreneurship – was awarded £337,451.82 by the Economic and Social Research Council under its call, ESRC-DFID Poverty Alleviation 2014-15.

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