Syria: War changes women but not always the way we think

By CARE Australia February 27, 2020 0 comments

Nine years of war have taken a significant toll on Syrian women. Despite difficult circumstances, many have found greater independence amidst the turmoil, finds a report released by the aid agency CARE today.

Families who have taken refuge in neighbouring countries, as well as those who remain in Syria, are struggling to afford food and basic necessities. To make ends meet, many women are able to seek jobs outside the home for the first time in their lives.

Yara*, a 35-year-old who took refuge in Lebanon, said her first job gave her the means to finally leave the abusive husband who repeatedly raped her.

“The most dire thing is living these horrible days and years knowing that your partner is not someone you can rely on, especially in difficult times, knowing that his only concern is his lust,” Yara said.

“The decision to work started a time bomb in the house, but I was determined to have control of my life…Men’s decisions were sacred but I stepped over them and I began to carry out my plan [to leave].”

Many other Syrian women have become the family breadwinner because their husbands have gone away to fight. It’s a transformation often observed during war, famously encapsulated by the WWII-era ‘Rosie the Riveter’ poster.

But many Syrian women are beginning to feel weighed down by the double burden of paid and domestic work.

Rawda*, a 26-year-old refugee in Jordan, described feeling overwhelmed by additional responsibility.

“I was forced to be the mother and the father for my daughters…My life was turned upside down as I was carrying a responsibility bigger than me,” Rawda said.

But other young mothers, such as 21-year-old Fatima*, wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Everything changed once I started to work and become an independent woman…I wasn’t a strong woman before, and I couldn’t make my own decisions, but now I am completely changed.”

CARE’s report stresses that whether or not women remain in paid work post-war, their newfound strength and confidence needs to be reinforced.

“The war has forced Syrian women to learn new skills, forge new social networks and change the way they view themselves. No matter what women hope to do in the future, aid and reconstruction efforts need to reinforce their right to make decisions about their own lives,” said CARE Australia’s spokesperson, Roslyn Dundas.

CARE is also warning that the war is having a devastating effect on girls’ and young women’s education.

“As families who have had their lives torn apart by war struggle to make ends meet, many girls are pulled out of school and forced into child labour or early marriage,”Ms Dundas said.

“While we are seeing some positives for one generation, another generation of women is at risk of being left behind. People have lost so much to this war, girls need an education or else their futures will be lost too.”

For interviews with spokespeople in Australia or the Middle East, contact Iona Salter on 0413 185 634. 

Images and further resources

The following resources are available on Dropbox:

  • Images of Syrian women

  • Detailed case studies (with real names)

  • Full report (includes short case studies without names – refugee women only)

  • Policy brief (includes short case studies without names  – refugee women and women inside Syria)

Donate to CARE Australia’s Syrian crisis appeal

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