The date is 12 January 2019. It is a windy Saturday morning in the fifth-largest city of Germany, Frankfurt. Inside the far more warm conference room, 45 Syrian women have arranged to meet. Together, they are the ‘Syrian Women’s Political Movement’ (SWPM). In their founding document, the movement envisions “establishing a democratic and pluralistic state, based on the principles of equal citizenship for all citizens regardless of their gender, race, religion, sect, geographic region or identity,” and they aim to achieve a state that is “based on the rule of law” and affords “equal rights to women and men without discrimination.”
One of its inspiring co-founders is Mariam Jalabi, Syrian political activist, who is supporting the rise of the Syrian Women’s Political Movement as part of their work for peace in Syria.
In advance of the first General Assembly in Frankfurt, WILPF had the honour to interview Mariam Jalabi, we have asked about her inspirations, goals, and dreams for the emerging women’s movement: a movement that aspires to drive change, not only on the Syrian political scene but also for the global feminist peace movement.
A vision becomes reality
Already in the early days of the revolution, Mariam Jalabi and other Syrian women asked themselves: “How do we Syrian women get to sit at the table? How do we make an impact? How do we ensure change? How can we guarantee women’s rights? How can we change the power balance between men and women?”
Together with six other women activists that shared the same concerns and also had a vision of creating a better and more equal future for Syria, they decided to turn thoughts into action and start a women’s movement.
“It was important for the co-founders and me to highlight the power of collaboration. I know that I by myself can’t create a democratic Syria, I by myself can’t lead a nation. I by myself can’t change the world, but together we have a chance,” says Mariam Jalabi.
The SWPM organised their first conference in Paris, from 22-24 October 2017. Hosted with the support of the WILPF, Independent Diplomat and Kvinna till Kvinna, it gathered 27 individuals from different backgrounds and walks of life. Determined to turn the dreams of a better future for Syria into reality, the group discussed and set the vision, principles, and work plan of a new movement leading to freedom, justice, and dignity for all Syrians. They had founded the Syrian Women’s Political Movement.
A vision for the future
Asking Mariam Jalabi how she envisions the future, she emphasizes that she would like to see at least 50% of the high official positions in Syria filled by women who can bring the interests and experiences of women across society. She would like to see feminists in those positions so that there is always someone making sure that the rights of women and girls are actually being protected when there is a treaty, or when laws are being changed.
“Our movement will advocate for women’s rights to be fulfilled; it will give them their rights. It will change, push, and work in a way that makes it easier for women to get an education, to have access to health, to have access to their legal rights, to have access to assets, land, and inheritance, so that women are able to live in dignity and with justice, ” says Mariam Jalabi. Together with the Syrian Women’s Political Movement, she wants to create a “democratic state where there is no longer a solution with violence or with guns, where people are treated equally, and where presidents come and go through fair and open voting.”
“You would know that this movement is a place of leadership and an oasis of belonging when someone like me – who is thought of as an imaginary tale – can be so real, so vocal and so inspired by everyone in the movement and share her place in the new Syria. A home for all,” says Ziva Gorani, a Syrian Kurdish trans queer feminist and LGBT activist attending the first General Assembly.
WILPF has been funding and supporting the co-founders of the Syrian Women’s Political Movement to come together and strengthen their movement. The movement can bring the voices and experiences of Syrian women to the political process, with the ultimate aim of strengthening women’s participation of at least 30% feminist women present at all levels in the peace-building process in Syria.
The movement is working towards a state based on a democratic, gender-sensitive constitution. This kind of constitution, driven by a feminist agenda, forms the basis for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. WILPF believes that this unique and inspiring movement has already created history by putting in place the roots of a brighter future not only for the Syrian society but for meaningful women’s participation worldwide.
To become a member you have to be recommended by two members of the movement and not vetoed by anyone of the SWPM. All members sign on a declaration of principles that adhere to the ideals of democracy, justice and equality for all regardless of race, gender, orientation, sect, religion and background, women’s empowerment, and active participation in all aspects of life and decision-making in Syria. Join the movement!
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