24-25 June 2020, University Foundation (Brussels)
Female-centred humanitarian aid has gained traction in recent years. In 2016, the UN Population Fund stated that ‘to succeed in building a more stable world, leaders will have to address the needs and protect the rights of affected women and girls, and incorporate their leadership and knowledge into all plans.’ In response, humanitarian agencies have launched a number of initiatives that empower girls through education, create cash-for-work programs for women and localise long-term aid in communities through female involvement.
While these issues might seem new and timely, women have shaped humanitarian agendas for more than a century. In the era of World War One, when Europe was also a recipient of help, numerous international aid organisations such as the Commission for Relief in Belgium, the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Rockefeller Foundation, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Save the Children tried to combat poverty, illness and trauma through the education and participation of European girls, women and mothers. The international, national and local civilian aid programs were often carried out by women. Female volunteers (society ladies and nobility members) laboured alongside professionals (home economists, nutritionists, nurses, physicians, social workers and librarians). These relief workers struggled with some of the same challenges humanitarian workers face today: how to reach crisis-affected civilians and particularly women in the private sphere of the home? How, when and where are traditional gender roles maintained, reinforced or disrupted by helping women and employing female humanitarian workers? How to push forward, fundraise for and carry out female oriented humanitarian projects in male dominated organisations and societies?
The two-day conference Women, Gender Roles and Humanitarian Aid in the Greater War will examine these and other questions by looking at the specific humanitarian programs for women and girls in Europe during and after the First World War. We look for contributions that analyse the nature of the programs by and/or for women and girls – both internationally and locally. We especially welcome presentations that go beyond Western Europe. It is envisaged that a selection of conference papers will be published in a special issue.