Researchers worked with Yazidi and Muslim groups in the Kurdish region of Iraq, many of whom had fled from ISIS. The team, from Tearfund and the Institute of Global Health and Development (IGHD) at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, aimed to find out where people in conflict-affected communities put their trust and support.
To gain these insights they looked at who people turn to in different scenarios. These included, when people had immediate needs for food or other essentials, when they needed to resolve disputes or if someone experienced gender-based violence (GBV).
The key findings were telling:
The research highlighted faith as a key factor in personal and community resilience during crises. For the majority of people, both men and women, God was their most important source of support. Particularly when considering sensitive issues like GBV, there was a reluctance to access external sources of support, as one woman said, ‘I can only confide in God’.
Family, neighbours and local community actors like faith leaders were more trusted than NGOs and government bodies. Avoiding shame and protecting family honour was a priority in responding to GBV. ‘In our tradition it is better not to share these things with strangers,’ said a Yazidi woman, while another woman described: ‘If a woman went there [to a women’s rights organisation] she would lose her reputation in the wider family.’
The research highlighted further gender disparities. Women had fewer external connections and placed a higher level of trust in their family and local community. Displaced men were more connected to NGOs, but due to constraints around honour, they were increasingly reluctant to turn to traditional coping mechanisms by asking close friends, family or neighbours for support in meeting basic needs, if they were unable to return the favour.
So what do these results tell us?
These findings highlight the difficulties facing NGOs and other agencies, who recognise that forging connections and gaining the trust of the communities they work with is a powerful tool to help them deliver effective humanitarian aid.