SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Practical Perspectives on Decolonisation in the VAWG sector


Date: 31 August 2022Time: 10:00 AM

Finishes: 31 August 2022Time: 11:30 AM


Type of Event: Webinar

Date: Wednesday 31 August 2022 10:00 -11:30 AM UK time / 12 – 1:30 PM Ethiopia & Eritrea time

Project dldl/ድልድል and the Faith & VAWG Coalition are co-organising the webinar ‘Practical Perspectives on Decolonisation in the VAWG Sector’ in an effort to share  knowledge, build bridges and explore topical questions in the VAWG sector together.


Efforts to decolonise research and practice in the VAWG sector have been growing in recent years. Critical and decolonial discussions have emerged around the concept of VAWG (and cognate terms) in recognition of different understandings of violence across communities, how VAWG should be addressed in respect to diverse cultural and religious contexts, whether VAWG providers are sensitive and can engage with the religio-cultural backgrounds of their clients and how personal identities might influence the provision of services in a sector that does not eschew western and colonial cultural influences and is increasingly becoming transboundary and called to cater to multi-cultural clients. Funding restrictions, hierarchies and ideological limitations in the donor sector have also been problematised as part of an effort to address the more systematic, normative and ideological barriers for moving towards a more diverse, inclusive and community-grounded approach in the international VAWG sector.
In this webinar, we would like to enrich on-going decolonisation efforts in the sector by integrating practical perspectives from the ground to understand better how efforts to diversify and sensitise the sector to religious and cultural differences have translated to in practical terms, what obstacles such efforts have encountered, and what would need to be done more so that grassroots organisations can be more effective in their work in the UK and internationally.

Some of the questions driving this webinar are:

  • What does decolonisation really mean to the VAWG sector?
  • How do we make the VAWG sector more diverse and sensitive to difference and more inclusive in its practices?
  • What are the practical obstacles to such efforts in view of political, ideological and funding regulatory systems?
  • What are the implications of decolonisation of the ‘by & for’ UK-based organisations as well as grassroots organisations in the Global South?

The webinar will combine a series of presentations by practitioners from different disciplines and sectors who are experienced in responding to VAWG in multi-cultural and in migrant contexts, as well as practitioners in the wider Global South. The aim is to reflect on and respond to the questions guiding the webinar to achieve knowledge exchange and to farther cross-sectoral and cross-disciplinary learning. The presentations will be followed by a discussion with the audience, who will be welcome to share their own experiences and response to the webinar questions and presentations.


Dr Romina Istratii, UKRI Future Leaders Fellow at SOAS University of London (UK) and Principal Investigator of Project dldl/ድልድል (Ethiopia, Eritrea, UK)
Ms Mebrak Ghebreweldi, Co-Director of Diversity Resource International (UK) and Founder of Waniney (Eritrea)
Ms Naana Otoo-Oyortey (MBE), Executive Director at FORWARD (UK)
Dr Sehin Teferra, Founder of Setweet Movement and Director of Setaweet (Ethiopia)

Speakers’ bios

Dr Romina Istratii
Dr Romina Istratii is UKRI Future Leaders Fellow at the School of History, Religions and Philosophies at SOAS University of London. She is Principal Investigator of the UKRI-funded project “Bridging religious studies, gender & development and public health to address domestic violence: A novel approach for Ethiopia, Eritrea and the UK” and creator of project dldl/ድልድል. She is a critical international development thinker and practitioner from Eastern Europe with decade-long experience in developing cosmology-sensitive and people-centred methodologies and approaches for analysing and addressing issues with gender dimensions in religious societies of Africa. She is the author of the monograph Adapting Gender and Development to Local Religious Contexts: A Decolonial Approach to Domestic Violence in Ethiopia (Routledge, 2020).

Ms Mebrak Ghebreweldi
Born and bred in Eritrea, Mebrak is the founder and director of three organisation two in the UK and one in Eritrea. Mebrak is community researcher, facilitator, business start-up mentor and coach. Through her social entrepreneurial work, Mebrak has established a strong professional reputation in offering effective support, guidance, and inspiration to international migrants, has been recognised by the public and private sector for her strong leadership attributes, and is a trustee and member of board of directors of several public and charities policy advisory boards. Mebrak was a member of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) from 1978-1994. As a young female independence fighter, she was a Morse Code radio operator until Eritrea gained its independence in 1991. Mebrak came to the UK as an international student to study business at Bachelor and Masters Level. She has successfully combined her experience of war and conflict with community research, leadership, and business education. Mebrak share her practical experience in how to research, start, develop, and grow diversity lead social enterprises in the UK. She is a mother, role model and inspiration to those who dare to start from scratch and succeed in life.

Ms Naana Otoo-Oyortey
Naana Otoo-Oyortey MBE is the Executive Director of FORWARD, the leading African diaspora women’s rights organisation in the UK working to end multiple forms of violence against women and girls including female genital mutilation (FGM). For over 30 years Naana has championed gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights of African women and girls at multiple levels. Naana was born in Ghana and has an MPhil in Development Studies from Sussex University and received her MBE in 2009. She is a board member of the Gender and Development Network and co-founder of the End FGM European Network.

Dr Sehin Teferra
Sehin Teferra is the founder of Setaweet Movement, an Ethiopian feminist project that aims to create a fertile ground for a mass-based movement in Ethiopia. Dedicated to feminist-academic activism, Setaweet engages with research, training and movement-building with a wide range of groups including married adolescents and university students through its Circles, and engages on activism around Gender-Based Violence through a series of campaigns, and through direct service provision including through the free Alegnta hotline for sexual violence survivors. Sehin is also the mother of Rekka and Leeben, and committed to feminist parenting. Sehin obtained a PhD in Gender Studies from SOAS, University of London in 2015, on a Mo Ibrahim Scholarship.

About the organisers

Project dldl/ድልድል is a research and innovation project dedicated to the development and strengthening of religio-culturally sensitive, domestic violence alleviation systems in Ethiopia, Eritrea and the UK. The project seeks to promote a decolonial approach to addressing domestic violence in religious communities by engaging substantively with the religio-cultural belief systems of the victims/survivors and the perpetrators, and by understanding how these belief systems interface with gender, material and psychological parameters to facilitate or deter domestic violence.
Working with Ethiopian and Eritrean collaborators, and rural and urban communities, the project seeks to generate new research and intervention approaches, and to apply this knowledge to inform strategies for integrating in domestic violence services and better-supporting affected ethnic minority and migrant populations in the UK. The project is funded by UKRI under a Future Leaders Fellowship (Grant Ref: MR/T043350/1) and is supported with additional funding from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation (Distinguished Scholars Award 2019). The project’s website can be accessed at the link:
The full project team can be found at the link:

The Faith and Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Coalition is a partnership of organisations lead by the Safety Across Faith and Ethnic (SAFE) Communities project at Standing Together Against Domestic Abuse. The Faith and VAWG Coalition brings together a range of organisations (Standing Together- SAFE Communities Project, Restored, Respect, Muslim Youth Helpline, Jewish Women's Aid, Forward UK and Latin American Women's Rights Service) and activists (Sara Hyde, Natalie Collins Huda Jawad and Nikki Dhillon-Keane).
Many survivors with faith feel that some specialist services and society, in general, are unable to understand their experiences of abuse, and their barriers to accessing support due to their religious identity, their faith community, and any spiritual abuse that they may experience at the hands of their perpetrator. The Coalition seeks to build bridges between members of Faith Communities or Faith-centric organisations and domestic abuse specialists and organisations within the VAWG sector.
Find out more on the Coalition here


Please register on Eventbrite:

In an effort to value the time and effort made by the external speakers, a £5 fee is charged for international attendees. The amount collected will be shared equally between FORWARD, DRI, and Setaweet. Members of the Coalition, anyone who is attending from Eritrea and Ethiopia, and anyone unable to cover the fee, can register for free at this link:

Organiser: Faith & VAWG Coalition and Project dldl/ድልድል

Contact email: