The ongoing conflict in Syria is exacerbating the marginalization of women in political life and decision-making processes, and increasing their dependence on men. This is why the Zeytuna project aims to create a capacity building programme for 100 Syrian women who have sought refuge in Turkey. The overall goal of the project is to empower Syrian women, to re-integrate them in the public and social sphere, and to provide them with the necessary tools and strategies for taking part in the reconstruction process of Syria in the post conflict period. The project also aims to inspire other Syrian women to play a leading role in their society, as “champions”.
The programme will consist of 3 different training phases:
- In the first phase, participants will gain fundamental knowledge on the UN system and the international standards protecting them. This will include women’s and children’s rights and an introduction to international law.
- In the second phase, participants will acquire improved capacities and skills in project management.
- In the third and final phase, participants will develop skills for communicating and networking with regional and international resources and organisations, as well as with other Syrian women.
Throughout the project, participants are encouraged to develop their own projects linked to women empowerment. Their projects will also be monitored and supported throughout the periods in between training phases.
The project will run in Reyhanli for 24 months. Each training phase lasts 1-2 weeks and is followed by a two-month period, in which participants apply the lessons of the training and develop their own projects.
The ongoing Syrian conflict exacerbated marginalization of women in political life and decision-
making processes. Syrian women are more and more marginalized in the socio-economic and political
life. Even though Syrian women are traditionally underrepresented or more generally absent in the
decision-making bodies, the situation has gradually worsened as a result of the current conflict. In fact,
many women are widowed and become household heads; others have lost their means of living and
are becoming dependant under the protection of their fathers and brothers. The conflict resulted in the
destruction of schools, health centres, the stagnation of the Syrian economy, and the death of
thousands of civilians, mainly men. Women represent more than 55% of the population. Some are
widowed with dependent children, others, young orphaned women about to lose access to education.
Women are pushed to limit their activities to household, becoming objects to be protected by their
fathers or brothers. A growing number of women are heading households in Syrian society. It is
worrisome and if nothing is done, Syrian women may end up more and more marginalized in a
radicalized society dominated by extremists.
The project intends to empower Syrian women through capacity building in order to prepare the
participating women to play a more active role in the reconstruction of their country and to inspire
other Syrian women to engage in public activities. Some of the Syrian women refugees in Turkey have
previously been active as members of civil society and are willing to remain active, others have project
management skills but lack opportunities to develop or improve their knowledge in order to value their
capacities, while others await to be trained in order to get a better understanding of their effective
needs as regards human rights, political and socioeconomic-related role and the needs as regards the
way forward to control their own future. Given that women represent 55% of the Syrian population
and the fact that they are becoming more and more marginalized, it is necessary to devise a project
designed to harness the potential of Syrian women. Developing their own project will allow them to
discover and use potentialities with which they are endowed and which they could value to enhance
their livelihoods and become independent citizens. The participant women will develop projects with a
public visibility and thus inspire other women, with an expected multiplicative and leveraging effect
with subsequent sustainability. In the long run, the scope of the project is to ensure an active role of
women in the reconstruction of Syrian society. It will rely among others on the dissemination of
universal standards from the UN system and individual capacity building to make sure that women’s
rights and voice become an inherent part of Syrian public life and that the problems that are specific to
women and/or the violation of other rights are taken into consideration. Once trained and active as
effective members of civil society, the Syrian women will be able to contribute on a fair basis to the
socio-economic life and development of their society and to the decision processes related to the future
of their country.
The projects aim at women empowerment, generation of revenue, and/or service provision for other
refugees. Their scope will be to develop the women’s active participation in civic, economic and social
life of Syria tomorrow, as well as to inspire other Syrian women to play an active role in their society.
The Zeytuna project is coordinated and managed by Mandat International, an independent and apolitical foundation with Special consultative status to the UN, and with the support of the United Nations Democracy Fund. Mandat International aims to promote international dialogue and cooperation, and benefits from a long experience in supporting grass-root organisations in attending UN conferences, including the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.