Alongside with Women’s International Day on March 8th, 2013, a group of Syrian activists (male and female) launched “I am She“, a movement to support the political and social participation of Syrian women. The Center for Civil Society and Democracy in Syria (CCSDS) supported this movement in coordination with other civil society groups and civil activists.
The aim of this movement was to raise awareness and to support women’s right to conduct their natural role in society and participating in political, social and economic life, and to remove all forms of exclusion, oppression and perception of inferiority.
In an attempt to raise social awareness towards women, the movement aimed to make women speak up for themselves and share perspectives on their role in Syrian society and politics; and help Syrian women to take their own decision.
Azza Al-Bahra, a Syrian actress, said; “As a Syrian woman, I will not rest until I see women of my country in their right position, part and parcel of an effective role in building their country side by side with men, as part of their right in Syria being a civil and democratic country; a country where there is justice, equality and pluralism”.
In order to deliver this message to the largest global demographic possible, the movement’s team spread their message in many languages including: Arabic, Kurdish, English, Turkish, Spanish, Roman, Japanese, Italian, French, German, Georgian, Swedish and Korean. They also asked all supporters to take pictures of themselves wearing white t-shirts on Women’s National Day 2013, and upload it to the movement’s page on Facebook which accrued nearly 90 thousand “likes”.
The campaign had a great impact although media coverage was not as extensive as hoped. The significance of the movement can be marked by how many men participated and supported the campaign participation, including numerous political and cultural figures such as the head of the National Coordinating Body Mr. Hassan Abdel Azim, Mr. Burhan Galioun the previous head of the Syrian National Council (SNC), artist Mr. Samih Shokir, musician Mr Malek Jandaly, and the writer Mr Zakaria Tamer, who wrote on their net pages about the vision of the importance of women’s role in the future of a country like Syria, which continues to suffer from continued and growing violence –a heavy portion of which is directly aimed at women and children- and the increased fear of a civil conflict. Numerous organizations, including women’s groups, Syrian human rights, Arab and International organizations, participated in supporting the campaign by promoting it on social networking pages and through other media platforms.
Among those organizations who participated included: Women of the Charter of Syria, Free Syrian Woman Organization, Rooney Association for Kurdish Women, and Women Network for Democracy.
Yasmin Meri, one of the supervisors on the campaign says “ We have tried to customize this week for Syrian women to express themselves and their projects, then highlight the effects women have in society and their role in building Syria’s future through their participation in political, economic and social life. Women who participated in the campaign expressed through writing on the campaign webpage, what kind of future projects and dreams their envisioned fro themselves and also the roles they aspire for themselves which could translate into a better future for women in Syria.
The “I Am She” campaign was accompanied by many activities and civil events, including printing brochures in four languages and distributed in some areas inside Syria, such as Aleppo, Idlib, Qamishli, the Damascus countryside, the refugee camps and between the Syrian gatherings in the Turkish cities. A introductory movie was also created for the campaign:
Scarfs with the campaign logo were also distributed in the streets of Gaziantep, a key hub for Syrian refugees and opposition networks. A group of women living in Gaziantep also participated in a ceremony during the International Women Day, which was organized by one of the Turkish women associations, where the ceremony supervisors presented a show about the plight of Syrian women during the revolution, and about the armed conflict in Syria.
This campaign was very important as it made the situation in Syria –and especially the plight of Syrian women- central to discussion and contemplation. The violence engulfing Syria right now has had a great impact on women and children, and further discussion of this topic must be brought to light through campaigns such as “I am She.” The situation regarding women’s marginalization and exclusion from representation in the various opposition bodies, local councils boards and political coalitions are consistent features of the Syrian political scene and has been a running theme throughout Syrian political culture over the past 50 years. This cycle of marginalization and exclusion must be broken if Syria is to have a more educated and robust civil society and pluralistic political culture.
Center for Civil Society and Democracy in Syria