Despite the dangers of detainment, torture and death, Syrian women risk their lives to build peace. Yet most of their stories are left untold. These are their stories.
Trained by the 'I Am She Network', set up by a Christian Aid partner, 500 women, who are now in leadership positions across Syria, have achieved the unthinkable. They tackle sexual violence, re-open schools, secure aid to besieged areas, and negotiate ceasefires in one of the most challenging contexts in the world.
Despite their immense impact, space for movements like this are under threat, according to our new report Syrian Civil Society, A closing door. This new research traces the growth of civil society organisations, and shows how international intervention has both enabled vital help and changed the role and agenda of these emergent civil society actors.
Here, women from these movements, give insight into life inside Syria, and how they bring hope and healing, despite the odds.
Describing her family as conservative, Aisha was initially prevented from undertaking training or travel for work. Now she supports women to secure their rights and works to tackle gender-based violence. Aisha and these women live in a displacement camp.
These are her words.
'There is no peace in Syria without a female role in it – this is how we are going to build a new Syria.
Syrians are not just victims suffering from psychological trauma, or extremists or helpless. We are experts on the situation here.
I’ve been part of the political movement, supporting young women subject to underage marriage and helping women to participate in local councils. It’s very important for females to have their voice in politics'.
It took us a year with the parliament to negotiate opening an office on women affairs so females can be part of the local council.
Aisha is hopeful that Syria can be rebuilt with women playing a central role in decision-making in all aspects of political, economic, social and cultural life. Unequal laws and the ingrained values need to change.
Ramia works for a civil society organisation supported by Christian Aid, and lives in a displacement camp outside of Syria. Ramia motivates women in the camp to be leaders in their society.
In her words.
'Two years ago, we formed a peace group; eleven of us from diverse backgrounds, working within the camps. This encouraged women to establish themselves as people who build societies. Females take both the role of man and woman now; many men are absent or disabled due to the conflict.
Working with local police, we managed to establish a female unit. We have become known for our work within the camps. Women need to be able to vote, stand for election, and rise as leaders for the country to emerge from the ravages of war.
We face big challenges; we’re on the receiving end of harassment for working to build peace, amid a deteriorating political situation.
I hope for the end of the war; the return of those disappeared by the regime and other groups; return to our homes and leave the humiliation of the camps'.