Women assumed leadership roles and changed societal attitudes in the response to the Syrian earthquake
A report issued by Action For Humanity, the mother charity of Syria Relief and ActionAid Arabia, revealed a shift in attitudes towards women in Syrian society, thanks to the leadership roles women have taken in response to the devastating earthquakes that struck Syria. and Turkiye on February 6th.
The report, titled Recognizing Resilience: Women’s Leadership in the Earthquake Response in Northwest Syria and Beyond, launched ahead of the Seventh Brussels Conference on Syria, highlights the pivotal role women play in earthquake response efforts and explores their potential to shape equitable and inclusive approaches. and sustainable post-earthquake reconstruction and post-conflict recovery in Syria more broadly. Results were achieved through interviews with women leaders, focus group discussions, feedback consultations, and a digital survey of women across northwest Syria.
The findings of the report include:
Despite the ongoing conflict, women have been more active and visible during the earthquake as first responders and in the ongoing relief effort, leading to a shift in dynamics to enable women to take on more active and visible leadership roles. The visibility of women during the earthquake response—working alongside men, taking on critical responsibilities, or successfully mobilizing resources—changed society’s perceptions of women’s societal contributions. A range of leadership responsibilities that extend beyond the local sphere. Women have played a critical role in coordinating and mobilizing resources, leading the coordination of distributions and actively participating in fundraising initiatives. The earthquake response created links and networks between local and international women. Norms/taboos and societal factors continue to pose significant challenges for women in assuming leadership roles, including restricted movement and persistent gender inequality. 12 years of conflict exacerbated by a devastating earthquake has claimed the lives of many women who were not only leaders in their communities, but an inspiration to other women.
In order to address these issues, this report calls for the following, prior to the EU-hosted Pledging Conference in Support of Syria, which will take place in Brussels on 14-15 June:
Women at all levels of society must be involved in decision-making and peace processes in Syria. Greater support is needed for Syrian-led women’s organizations, to enable them to respond effectively to the specific needs they face. Increase investment in programs that promote gender equality and address the specific needs of women and girls.
Nicola Banks, Advocacy Director at Action for Humanity and co-author of the report, says:
In addition to financial investment, political will and resources must be developed to ensure direct representation of women in decision-making processes in Syria. Women’s voices and perspectives are essential to creating a more inclusive and equitable society. By combining financial support, programming, and political commitment, significant progress can be made in advancing gender equality and enhancing women’s participation in peacebuilding efforts in Syria. “
Alem Janbin, Director of Humanitarian Response and Resilience in Syria and Turkey at ActionAid Arab Region, says,
“ActionAid and Action for Humanity collaborated throughout the earthquake response to address the specific needs of women in times of displacement. For example, by prioritizing the rehabilitation of water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, the intervention ensures women have access to safe and private sanitation facilities while promoting good hygiene practices. This approach aims to create dignified and empowering living conditions for women, and ultimately enhance their overall safety, health and quality of life.”
Action For Humanity and ActionAid are hosting a virtual roundtable to discuss the findings of the report on Tuesday 13 June. Those interested can register at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/recognising-resilience-womens-leadership-in-nw-syria-earthquake-response-tickets-648045751287
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