5 Jan 2022

New ERC grant to CMI

CMI researcher Carlo Koos has been awarded a Starting Grant by the European Research Council for a project that poses the intriguing question: Do civil wars empower women? 

Linking civil war to the empowerment of women is not as controversial as it may sound. The question stems from a strand of research literature that shows that women in the aftermath of civil wars tend to get a more prominent position in politics. Several studies show that in post-war countries, a higher share of women engage in peacebuilding, win seats in the national parliament, and become breadwinners and heads of households.

But local level studies that compare war affected and peaceful regions have more ambiguous findings. In the new ERC project Carlo Koos aims to dig deeper to find out exactly when, why and how civil wars promote women’s empowerment, and when they do not.

-The existing literature often focus on a minority of women belonging to the political elite; for instance women who get a seat in the national parliament or lead national institutions. Yet these studies do not give us much information about how the majority of non-elite go about their everyday lives after a civil war, and how the conflict has affected them. This project aims to explore how civil wars affect women’s social and political empowerment at the local level, says Koos.

He will combine quantitative survey experiments and qualitative research in Colombia, DR Congo and Sri Lanka. Drawing on women’s experiences in these case countries, he will be able to see patterns in the effects civil wars have on women’s empowerment in the household and family, in the community, and in local politics. He will also explore to what extent civil wars affect women’s and men’s gender attitudes and norms.

  • The call for ERC Starting Grants 2021 attracted over 4000 proposals, out of which only 397 applicants were successful.
  • Grants worth a total of 619 million Euros have been awarded to researchers in 22 European countries in this round.

 Koos is one of only nine researchers in Norway to be awarded an ERC Starting Grant in this round .

-I am very excited about this project and the opportunity to better understand changes in gender relations during and after wars. There has been a lot of progress in research on women and men affected by civil wars, but this project will shed light on a significant blind spot: the impact and mechanisms through which civil wars affects those women and men most affected by violence in civil wars. This is a timely and critical shift. We have seen in other research fields, that aggregate data at the national level can be extremely misleading and that variation in violence exposure at the local level can lead to very different and importantly more reliable insights. Whatever, we will find out, the theoretical and methodological contributions of this project will advance research and provide a tangible evidence-base for global debates on women’s inclusiveness, social change and political empowerment.

More about the ERC Starting Grants to researchers in Norway in this article from the Research Council of Norway (text in Norwegian):