Female caregivers in war zones need recognition and support – new research

  • Women provide the most social care work in conflict zones (and post-conflict zones) but receive little recognition, resource or reward from the state, causing their health and wellbeing to plunge – according to research by the Monash Warwick Alliance
  • While female caregivers are ensuring the survival of communities, they are less able to participate in wider society or contribute to rebuilding peaceful societies – negatively impacting everyone
  • This research will be presented at a public panel alongside the launch of the Warwick Interdisciplinary Research Centre for International Development on 6th September 2019
  • In conflict zones around the world, women’s health and wellbeing will decline further, unless caregivers are given better state social protection, according to collaborative intercontinental research by the University of Warwick (UK) and Monash University (Australia).

    Examining the Ukrainian crisis, the researchers demonstrate that during times of conflict, and post-conflict, women shoulder the principal burden of social care work.

    This caregiving is vital to the survival of people and communities during war, austerity and extreme hardship, but is barely recognised, resourced or rewarded by the state during post-conflict reconstruction.

    The study demonstrates that while women are busy providing the social care that is central to sustaining society, they are less able to participate in civil society activities once the conflict has ended – nor do they have a voice in governance structures, or in any attempts at reviving peace processes.

    Lead researchers, Professor Shirin Rai and Professor Jacqui True of the Monash Warwick Alliance, argue that this inevitably leads to the deeper decline of women’s health and wellbeing in conflict and post-conflict zones, which in turn creates negative effects across households and communities.

    To prevent this, the researchers suggest that a regenerative state should recognize the importance of this social care work by providing support and recognition to those who engage in it.

    This, according to Professors Rai and True, would make it possible for post-conflict states to transform the power relations underpinning conflict – reducing gender inequality, improving the wellbeing of its citizens and advancing peace.

    Shirin Rai, Professor of Politics & International Studies at the University of Warwick and Director of the new Warwick Interdisciplinary Research Centre for International Development, commented:

    “Peace can be sustainable only when the work of all those contributing to the rebuilding of life after conflict is recognised and supported. Women’s unpaid care work is often overlooked. This needs to be supported and redistributed in both public and private spheres. By focusing on this important area of work in times of conflict, our research supports the Sustainable Development Goals 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions), 8 (decent work) and 5 (gender equality)”.

    Jacqui True, Professor of International Relations at Monash University, commented:

    “Our research provides an evidence base for promoting greater attention to women’s ‘unrecognised and uncounted labour’ and to women’s participation and rights in post-conflict environments. This evidence may inform gender-inclusive reforms and support gender equality and decent work opportunities for women as an integral part of the transition to peace”

    The research will be discussed at a public panel at the University of Warwick on 6th September 2019, called ‘Inclusive Economies and Enduring Peace: The Transformative Role of Social Reproduction’.

    Professors Rai and True will present their findings, alongside Dr Jayanthi Lingham from Warwick, Nela Porobić Isaković (Women Organising for Change Bosnia and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom).

    The Monash Warwick Alliance

    This international research collaboration has been made possible by the Monash Warwick Alliance, an award winning partnership between Monash University (Australia) and the University of Warwick (UK) that seeks to tackle global challenges through joint research, innovation and education.

    Already, the Alliance has collaborated on around 50 joint and multi-party projects awarded over AUD$100m (GBP£50m) in grants from external sources. More than 1000 students have engaged with Alliance activities in the first five years, and a joint PhD programme has been established.

    Furthermore, research excellence at the two institutions has been combined with the creation of joint professorial appointments in fields such as polymer chemistry, polymer materials, sustainable chemistry, advanced imaging, and healthcare improvement.

    Warwick Interdisciplinary Research Centre for International Development

    This event will also see the launch of the Warwick Interdisciplinary Research Centre for International Development (WICID), which has been established to address urgent problems of inequality and social, political and economic change on a global level.

    Directed by Professor Shirin Rai, WICID is set to become a hub for collaborative, cutting-edge research on international development and to contribute to change making for the better.

    Professor Rai said: “We hope that the work of WICID will contribute to improving our understanding of the global challenges of development and to policy interventions to address these.

    “WICID’s work will be interdisciplinary, collaborative and robust – bringing together colleagues from the university and across the world to produce excellent research.

    “WICID will also be a hub of critical pedagogy and methodological innovation in the field of international development through the work of our Lab.”

    /Public Release. View in full here.