International Women’s Day in Syria: ‘Always Be a Pioneer’
March 8th is an internationally observed day on which people everywhere are called to reflect on the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and be inspired to take action to promote equality and inclusivity. International Women's Day is about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action.
PIN Syria on International Women’s Day
Today, we raise our voice for all Syrian women and in particular young Syrian women and girls. With all the challenges facing Syrian men, women and children today as the war rages into its seventh year, we call for young Syrian women and girls not to be forgotten and their education not to be neglected.
There are approximately 5.4 million children in Syria, millions of whom are under the age of 6 and know nothing other than a life of war. With all the challenges facing Syrian society today including active conflict, displacement and poverty, education has been pushed down the priority list. Education has slipped as a priority for both boys and girls, and school enrolment and literacy rates have fallen across the board.
However, maintaining access to education is crucially important during times of conflict, not only in terms of child protection and development but also in terms of their psychological well-being. A school environment allows for the creation of safe spaces in which children can express themselves, build friendships and establish a routine in which they can be distracted from the conflict around them.
The risks posed to out-of-school boys and girls are many and include child labour, child recruitment, early marriage and more - yet, girls are considered more vulnerable. The reason for this, according to a 2015 UNICEF report, is that girls’ education is more closely linked to their empowerment and thus more decisive in their future well-being. According to the report, women with higher education are much more likely than uneducated women to be able to make their own choices in life.
Beyond the individual, the report explains that girls’ education is one of the most powerful tools for creating economic growth and increasing resilience. For the future recovery of the country, Syria will benefit enormously from an educated and empowered female population.
Salha is a teacher at a PIN-supported school in Idlib, North West Syria. Surrounded by her students, she spoke with PIN in the lead up to Women’s Day about what March 8th means to her and what she sees as the changing role of women in Syria as a result of the conflict:
‘On this day, I would like to talk about the role of women in society in these very hard times. In these difficult conditions, the role of women is much more important than before and we have many more responsibilities and duties in standing with and helping men to build and improve our society. The eighth of March serves as a day to honour the endeavours of women and remind us of her rights; the most important of which correspond to her equality with men and protect her against any activities which violate her.’
Education is vital for all. People in Need advocates for the education of all children in Syria and especially on behalf of the 2 million children who are not in school on account of the conflict and whose futures are at risk. On this day, in particular, we proudly recognize and acknowledge the contribution and achievements of women in Syria and encourage each young Syrian woman and girl to continue in their studies and, in the words of Salha’s fifth grade student, Najma, “always be a pioneer”.