Social enterprise groups for South Sudanese refugee survivors of sexual and gender-based violence and torture living in refugee settlements in Northern Uganda.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This article provides empirical data that demonstrates the success of social enterprise groups established following British Academy/Leverhulme-funded research with South Sudanese survivor refugees living in settlements in Northern Uganda. The conflict in South Sudan is characterized by human rights violations, including sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and torture, with over 1.5 million South Sudanese fleeing to Northern Uganda. This innovative British Academy/Leverhulme-funded research project investigated the impact of SGBV and torture on refugees’ health, including their psychological and reproductive health. It analysed health, welfare and social justice needs of men and women refugees using a gendered approach from both their own and service providers’ perspectives. The research team investigated the experiences of 20 men and 31 women refugee survivors living in 3 locations in Adjumani and Bidi Bidi refugee settlements as well as 37 key stakeholders. The research found that women refugees became heads of households as they arrived as refugees before their husbands and that men torture survivors frequently chose not to register due to fears of personal safety and security. As a result men refugees could not access treatment for their injuries. Their health problems left men unable to work and support their families. In addition, the sparse services struggled to respond to refugees’ health and social justice needs. The services received were better for women refugees, but women told us they were at risk of SGBV from locals, relatives and other refugees and thus lacked personal security. Specialist reproductive, gynaecological and maternity health services for women survivors and specialist medical treatment for male survivors of sexual violence and torture were particularly lacking. This research further indicated refugees’ pressing needs were to improve access to livelihoods as well as emotional support for their experiences. Subsequently, the researchers successfully obtained Enterprise Funding from Coventry University to assist with this. Six men and women refugee social enterprise groups were established in Bidi Bidi and Adjumani refugee settlements in Northern Uganda. The researchers provided training in developing and running social enterprises as well as strategies for using their groups for emotional support. The project worked in collaboration with the Refugee Law Project, Women’s International Peace Centre, and Kitgum Women’s Peace Initiative, all international community-based organisations in Uganda.

The research utilised participatory methodologies aimed at empowering the refugees we worked with as well as capacity building the skills and knowledge of the Refugee Welfare Councils and Ugandan organisations we worked with. The enterprise groups were evaluated using a self-report scale, which addressed factors including the ability to run a social enterprise, resilience, and an ability to care for themselves and their families. Focus group discussions were also held and analysed using thematic analysis. This article will present the results and describe the different ways in which culturally-informed social enterprise groups are improving the lives of the 36 women and men refugees, as well as their families and communities. It will discuss the intended application of the researchers’ holistic and integrated model through combining social enterprises with emotional support in service delivery with urban refugees in Kampala.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Asian Yearbook of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
EditorsJavaid Rehman, Ayesha Shahid, Steve Foster
PublisherBrill Nijhoff
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9789004466180
ISBN (Print)9789004466159
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2021


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