Toronto Metropolitan University
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Syrian brides and the Global Compact on Refugees: How Canada’s FIAP can reimagine refugee women’s empowerment

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-05-21, 16:12 authored by Dina Taha
The current Liberal government has publicly endorsed a feminist agenda which has led to initiatives such as Canada’s feminist international assistance policy (FIAP), initiated in 2017. At the same time, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Report (TRC) of 2015 reiterates how the histories of colonialism are still persistent and need to be addressed in our curriculum, research, and policy. This essay argues that a fully feminist agenda must be anti-colonial in nature, rejecting Eurocentric, stereotypical and universalizing explanations and leaving space for cultural interpretations, local solutions and listening to the voices of marginalized groups as experts. In short, FIAP and the TRC must be brought together in practical and policy-orientated ways to promote women’s empowerment and gender equity through a decolonizing framework. In support of Canada’s leading role in the advancement of refugee issues and the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), and informed by its feminist approach to foreign policy and FIAP which “comes with “aggressive” funding targets for gender equality and women’s empowerment” (CCIC, 2017), it is important to scrutinize the notion of gender empowerment and related notions, such as forced marriage and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). Drawing on doctoral fieldwork conducted in Egypt summer of 2017, this paper uses the case of Syrian refugee women who marry ‘for refuge’ to explore how certain groups of refugee women and their stories challenge international humanitarian perceptions that often stigmatize similar arrangements as exploitation, sex trafficking and/or forced marriages. I use what I refer to as marriage for refuge and marriage immobility to demonstrate how humanitarian notions such as empowerment and related notions such as SGBV and forced marriage can be reimagined. The study aims to offer insights for a gender-responsive refugee policy that is feminist, decolonizing and sensitive to culture, context and diversity.



Usha George