Syrian women have been actively involved in almost every aspect of the Syrian uprising since its outbreak in March 2011. Yet, they remain underrepresented in the political sphere, their contributions discredited and their voices marginalized in the process of peacebuilding and decision-making in Syria. A group of Syrian women from all walks of political and social life sought to change that back in 2012, establishing the Syrian Women Coalition for Democracy.
The coalition convened its first seminar in Cairo in late October 2012, in collaboration with the "Women and Democracy Forum", to form the Syrian Women’s Forum for Peace. The seminar was an opportunity to forge a much-needed alliance between women organizations and assemblies, says the activists.
"We needed a platform that amplifies women's voices against violence and engage them in political action" activist and coalition deputy Amal Nasir explains to SyriaUntold, "This helps build a pluralistic, democratic civil state in syria, through sustainable development."
On January 14, 2014, The coalition launched the "Syrian Women’s Initiative for Peace and Democracy", in collaboration with a number of feminist and political organizations. The initiative was the outcome of a two-day meeting convened in Geneva by UN Women together with the former international envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi.
The initiative stressed "the importance of Syrian women's involvement in the political and public sphere," and asked the United Nations to exert pressure on the international community and negotiating parties "to guarantee the effective participation of women on all negotiating teams and committees regardless of their political affiliation."
Women in Syria have accomplished much in terms of gender equality, earning the right to vote in the 1950s and being represented in political and legislative assemblies, such as the parliament and local-governing councils. However, women's much like men's representation was symbolic in the reign of the Assad family, articulates Amal Nasir, because in the reign of the Assad family, they were most likely chosen by security officials.
Although the uprising put Syrian women back on the spotlight, being notably involved in coordinating peaceful demonstrations and sit-ins, the militarization and violence that followed forced women to "hold back of fear from detention, abduction and death.”
Today, thousands of women are internally displaced or refugees in neighboring countries, and many became the sole providers for their families because of the war, all of which distance women from the political life and prevent them from shaping the future of her country.
Considering the challenges that lay before it, the Syrian Women Coalition is building connections with all women assemblies that share the same goal, to enable women to actively participate in peacemaking processes, building democracy and working towards a unified vision for peace.