We Are Still Here
By Angelika Heike Schweer
Women on the Front Lines of Syria’s Conflict
They are living in ghost towns. Currently, women in Eastern Ghouta have the biggest role, as men of the families are either imprisoned, missing, killed or are on the front lines. They are involved in providing aid, helping out medically, and also move between the basements, helping out wherever they can. Women provide psychological relief sessions for children, and teaching people how to react when struck by chemical weapons.
Laila Bakri, an activist in Eastern Ghouta, gave her message to the world on International Women’s Day to Al Jazeera:
"We are human beings - we have ambitions and a life that we want to live. We need to express ourselves, continue our studies and live like other people. Our children, who were born during the war, know nothing about what normal life would look like. My daughter has never tasted bananas - she can only distinguish between the sound of warplanes and bombs. If you support our right to freedom, then stand by us and deliver our message to the
decision-maker in your countries".
Women are bearing the brunt of the war and keeping the country together.
This is the brutal effect of war on the women of Syria
Displacement, sexual assault, kidnap, house arrest and political exclusion are all daily occurrences for Syria’s female population. Though the Women must pass through areas controlled by armed groups, negotiating checkpoints where rape and sexual assault are commonplace. When they arrive in poorly-resourced camps, they face enormous difficulties and healthcare problems. Much of Syria remains under the control of extremists like Isis and al-Nusra.
About 450,000 Syrians have been killed in the war, the vast majority men. The slaughter has left thousands of women as head of their household, yet even with greater responsibilities falling on Syrian women they remain drastically underrepresented at the top table of diplomatic negotiations.
Syria's peace talks need more women at the table.
This is the chance the war gave them – to empower women. If they didn’t use it well, it would be another disaster of war. They must use this opportunity to do better things.
Even in the relative normality of life before the war women were suffering from discrimination.
Human rights violations during the Syrian civil war have been numerous and serious.
Women’s responsibility is in the family, and they dominate the majority of the work in the place of men. Before the war, in 2010 women made up 22 percent of the formal labor force. The female employment rate in 2015 was 14 percent. In some areas of Syria 90 percent of the agricultural workforce is female. They work in restaurants, in services. They go to factories, they do agriculture, make the handmade things. They are the base today for the future.
According to the Syrian Network of Female Journalists, women make up 54 percent of the radio workforce in emerging media – outlets set up after the war broke out in 2011 – and 35 percent in print. Many Syrian women are highly educated, but due to war “adolescent girls have had their education interrupted … and been forced as a result of dire economic conditions to assume livelihoods-related responsibilities early.
“Today, the woman is stronger and more responsible, and these seven years of war have proved that women can do anything.” (Alessandria Masi )
Syria had a strong education system in place before the civil war, with almost 100% primary school enrolment and 70% of children attending secondary school. Since beginning of the conflict most of Syrian schools have been damaged, destroyed, or are being used as shelters by Internally Displaced People. Moreover, the violence and trauma of war also affects their mental development and their ability to learn. With no end of the war, it will lead to a “lost generation” of children, who will be unable to gain access to education. UNICEF estimates that around 7 million children in Syria live in conditions of poverty. Around 1 million people are injured since the beginning of the war.
The Assad regime has been blamed for using chemical weapons (chlorine gas) against civilians and conducted torture and extrajudicial killings. Assad has also been accused of "Indiscriminate and disproportionate aerial bombardment and shelling" which led to mass civilian casualties and spread terror.
How women in northern Syria won freedom in a region ravaged by Islamic State. It's not a war. It's a massacre!
The 24-year old Lilwa Ebdullah knew she was going against tribal rules, but now she is part of a movement of women who have helped their country defeat Islamic State.
Every day, she dressed in her military uniform, carries her chest rig and weapon to work — the last frontline in the battle against Islamic State.
Not long ago, she was planning her wedding. A year later, the young Arab wife joined the military resistance and is now a spokesperson for the Kurd-led forces kicking IS out of their last major stronghold — her hometown of Deir ez-Zor.
Like many young women in Northern Syria, Lilwa has taken the war into her own hands and joined the Kurdish Women Protection Units (YPJ).
But once the fight is over, will women keep their freedom?
“It's a new way of life for us, it's a democratic way of life for women. A way to liberate women who grew up in a male-dominated society. A lot of our youth died fighting to free our land. Liberating the land needs sacrifice. I feel that my life is a sacrifice to free my society."
Women have been at the front line of confronting violence and corruption over the last 6 years in Syria.
Women Now For Development was set up to help families suffering from the effects of the conflict. Today, they are the largest Women’s Organization working to empower Syrian women inside Syria and its neighboring countries.
In the Syrian countryside, the Women Now Organization was launched. It aimed to enable Syrian women to become an active member of society, both economically and socially, and to become a key partner in the political decision-making at the local and international level. Ms. Muzna Aljundi, a spokeswoman for the organization, told SyriaUntold, that Women Now was
opening now 6 centers.
In 2015, the organization grew significantly. Hundreds of women had enrolled in their vocational courses, including hairdressing, nursing, and textile work, and their financial education courses, such as operations methods and budget preparations. Ms. Muzna emphasized that all the courses offered were free, and that the reason the number of women affiliated with the centers increased was due to the flexibility of choosing your own course at your own pace.
Over time, a special department for psychological support was opened, with psychosocial guides and instructors to train and lead activities and lectures concerned with the daily life of Syrian women and the challenges they face with regards they face to their health and their families. The centers offer private counseling to help them with their trauma and psychological issues they’ve been exposed to during the war.
The founders depend on funding from various humanitarian organizations concerned with women and children for all their activities, according to Ms. Muzna. She added that in addition to their concern with women, the organization now provides courses for children, including drawing, reading, writing, and arithmetic’s. Upon successful completion of the courses, the students get certificates. (SyriaUntold)