Student-Supported, Research-Based Solutions for Women and Child Refugees


Today, war and natural disasters are producing suffering worldwide, particularly among women and children. Faced with escalating demand and finite assets, governments and relief agencies only devote resources to humanitarian crises with comprehensive research and documentation. A proposed collaboration between University of Michigan students and the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) will help meet the urgent need for high quality research. Leveraging the unique strengths of both organizations, the WRC-U-M Student collaboration will generate advanced social science research to support sound policy-making and effective, targeted solutions for women and child refugees around the globe.

The Challenge: Shaping Effective Responses to Increasing Humanitarian Crises:

During 2012, more than 172 million people were affected by global conflicts. Currently, 53.5 million individuals have been uprooted by conflict-the highest number since World War II. In 2013, 22 million were forced to flee their homes due to natural disasters. Women and children are disproportionately affected by these emergencies. They are more likely to die, to experience gender-based violence, to be without life-saving health services, and to lose their livelihoods, educational connections and support networks.
As crises become increasingly prevalent and complex, and as resources become increasingly limited, funding decisions require more accurate and timely information. The best way to assure responsible, efficient use of scarce humanitarian aid is through advocacy based on high quality research.

The Vision:

We envision a capacity-building program that includes regular training for WRC staff as well as opportunities for U-M students to work alongside WRC staff. Through a collaboration that leverages the complementary strengths of ISR and WRC, we will use advanced social research to identify and evaluate the most effective solutions to specific threats and issues facing women and children refugees – physical attack, sexual assault, exposure to disease, and hopeless prospects for any family for financial security.

Two Key Resources: the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) and U-M Students:

The Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) is a global research and advocacy organization that fights for women, children, and youth in crisis settings. WRC contributes to the safety, health, and resilience of these vulnerable populations by advocating on their behalf to donors, UN bodies, and humanitarian organizations. The ultimate effectiveness of WRC’s advocacy work depends on clear, convincing research that documents the extent of a crisis situation, the degree to which needs are unmet, and the program interventions. University of Michigan students will develop research skills while assisting in WRC efforts by working closely with researchers from the Institute for Social Research (ISR), the world’s largest academically based survey and social science organization. For more than 65 years, ISR has been an exemplar of social science in the public interest-setting the standard for innovative scholarship, rigorous education, and high-impact outreach.

The Project: A Partnership That Meets the Urgent Need for Situation-Specific Research:

World governments and relief agencies are increasingly calling upon WRC to propose specific solutions. Mixed-methods research will provide the tools to identify and understand problems, develop solutions, and evaluate their relative effectiveness and efficiency. This partnership will help WRC become a better advocate through enhanced research capacity while simultaneously enabling University of Michigan students to apply their training to global humanitarian problems. Ultimately, this collaboration will produce a “Solution Bank” of research-driven, field-tested programs and policies, which will be freely distributed worldwide through a dedicated website.

For additional information about the Women’s Refugee Commission please visit: