Local media in Syria has been increasingly highlighting the significant role of women in reviving the community. While this has opened up many opportunities for women to work in both media and in other sectors, the true perception of women's role in society is still falling short.
Syrian media outlets have been accused of under-reporting on the increasing role that Syrian women are forming for themselves since the start of the seven-year conflict.
“Private channels specialising in showing the role of women in the regions of northern Syria need more training and greater awareness concerning the important role of women in the revival of this community and its success,” one activist told reporters.
During the revolution, local and national media highlighted the extensive work of women in Syrian society. Additionally, many media outlets presented employment opportunities to women, both within the media organisation or other roles in a similar field of work.
However, there has been no consistency in media reporting since the revolution and the subsequent war, at a time when many women’s civil society organisations have been the most active.
In the northern Hasakah province, Arab women are joining an exclusively all-women brigade under the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ). The YPJ along with their counterparts in the People’s Protection Units (YPG) are a major component of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which have been extremely effective in eliminating the presence of ISIS in northern Syria.
Zilan, who came from a traditional background, is one of the YPJ’s new Arab recruits at the Shahid Arin Military Academy in north-west Raqqa. At 21 years old, Zilan has already been married twice to abusive husbands and has a child from each of the marriages. Joining the YPJ has given her a new start at life away from the abuse she received at home. “I feel respected as a woman, my life has meaning now,” she said.
Civil society organisations for women have taken a more pronounced role in promoting women’s rights in northern Syria. The Free Kurdish Women’s Organisation (FKWO) based in Qamishli is one of the oldest women’s groups in northern Syria, having been established in 1994. Before the war, the organisation was regularly harassed by the Syrian intelligence agencies, but the war has provided the group with a high level of freedom in which they can operate.
The FKWO empowers women socially and provides them with the resources to learn new skills, such as nursing and IT; both of these skills will be necessary in the reconstruction of Syria. The FKWO work in conjuction with the Star Forum, which helps women break free of societal constraints in areas of Syria where woman’s role in society is limited to staying at home.
Civil society organisations working in conjunction with media outlets can provide training courses for women journalists, who can represent the women of Syria as their role in the future of the country increases.