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Lecturer offers new perspective on social policy and religion in the Middle East

Rana Jawad: A major research project into social policy in the Middle East has been launched by a lecturer at the University of Kent.

Dr Rana Jawad’s three-year project, funded by the ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council), will examine the role of religion in social policy and social welfare in the Middle East, with a particular focus on Lebanon, Iran and Turkey. The project is made up of a team of researchers based in the Middle East and the UK.

Dr Jawad believes that her research – which will involve up to three hundred face-to-face interviews and focus groups across the region – will reveal more about people’s lives in the Middle East, and how religion acts as a force for social welfare, than has generally been reported in the past.

‘Though my research is about public policy, it will also seek to show a more human face of the Middle East region. It will tell a story about people’s struggles for a decent life and their understandings of concepts such as equality, social justice and welfare,’ Dr Jawad said. ‘In my view, few studies have attempted to find out what the people of these countries think about these issues.

‘Apart from the academic dimension of developing the study of social policy in Middle Eastern countries, I hope to reveal that there is much more going on in people’s lives, and to develop a much broader understanding of the region’s social and political dynamics that incorporates examples of positive social action.

‘From a policy-making point of view, the research will provide a rare space for ordinary people to discuss and share their experiences at a time when social injustice and corruption seem to be the order of the day,’ she added.

Dr Jawad, a Lecturer in Social Policy at the University’s Medway campus, is to lead a team of researchers who will be interviewing policy-makers from Middle Eastern governments, as well as representatives of international agencies such as the World Bank and UNDP (The United Nations Development Programme). One of her key themes will be the experiences of women in relation to the social services provided by religious organisations.

There will be a conference held at the end of the project (2012) to report on its findings and develop momentum for this hitherto poorly researched area in social policy.

A member of the University’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR), Dr Jawad’s books include Social Welfare and Religion in the Middle East – A Lebanese Perspective (2009), described by one critic as ‘a ground-breaking analysis of the contribution that religions make to social welfare programmes in the Middle East and to their wider involvement in social and economic development’.

More information on the research project and its members is at


Story published at 4:05pm 14 July 2010

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