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Out of a strong belief that at the heart of powerful feminist movements are well-equipped and sustainable organisations, WILPF has been working closely with Syrian partners towards a feminist peace in a country deeply impacted by conflict, instability, and violence.
Since 2018, we have been supporting our partners’ efforts to build a future of justice and security for women in Syria through a wide range of strategies and initiatives.
Take a look at the impact we are helping to create through the power of partnership.
Providing Flexible Funding for Impact and Sustainability
Donor-restricted funding – or funding that can only be used for specific purposes, as defined by the donor – presents a growing challenge for Syrian grassroots civil society organisations working towards feminist peace.
Unable to address their most urgent needs, which are constantly evolving due to highly volatile social, political, and economic circumstances, many feminist organisations struggle to pursue their work for social change to its fullest extent while meeting restrictive donor requirements, policies, and agendas.
Seeking to address this challenge, between 2018 and 2020 WILPF provided flexible funding to 23 partner organisations across Syria, in neighbouring countries, and in the diaspora. Free from restrictions or caveats, this funding allowed partners to deepen their impact in the communities they serve by advancing their core activities and services.
Each organisation used the funds differently. Administrative costs, IT support, office space, legal fees, outreach costs, training spaces and course development, team-building retreats, translation services, and awareness-raising campaigns are just a few examples of how WILPF’s flexible funding enabled our partners to meet their unique needs over the three years of the project.
In 2020, as COVID-19 started to present unpredictable challenges to the work of our partners and drastic shifts in donor priorities, this funding helped our partners quickly adapt their plans to mitigate difficulties and fulfill their urgent needs.
Partners reported that the flexible funding they received has helped them pursue their long-term feminist agendas by reducing the pressure to meet basic costs, allowing them the time and resources they need to think and act strategically, and focus on their core goals.
According to many partners, needs-oriented flexible funding has enabled them to grow stronger and more sustainable.
Supporting Mental Health and Capacity Building
Many organisations working on Syria lack the technical support and opportunities for networking and coordination required for their development into more sustainable entities. Particularly for many activists pursuing a feminist peace agenda in Syria, working closely with women, children, and other individuals directly and disproportionately impacted by instability and conflict can take a profound mental health toll that requires urgent support.
With the aim of enhancing our partners’ ability to carry out their work effectively, WILPF designed technical support plans that met and addressed partners’ needs and the contextual challenges they are facing. Tailor-designed based on annual capacity assessments held with each of the organisations, these plans included psychosocial support, feminist dialogues and capacity building webinars.
To provide a trusted outlet for our Syrian partners to express themselves in a safe and private space, WILPF offered regular psychoeducational and group psychosocial support sessions where women could receive support, connect with one another, and speak freely about their challenges and concerns. As one partner stated, “The psychosocial support was very useful for me personally, and for the organisation as well. It left an impact despite it being brief.” With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent toll it has taken on feminist activists, topics such as work-life balance and dealing with COVID-19-related stress were also addressed in the sessions.
In addition to offering psychosocial support, WILPF also hosted a number of closed feminist dialogue webinars in Arabic for its Syria partners, focused on building contexualised knowledge of feminist principles and incorporating feminist approaches into organisational activities and systems.
These webinars explored topics such as feminist governance, feminist leadership, women’s political participation, complaints response mechanisms in relation to harassment and bullying at work, and more.
Other training webinars focused on feminist monitoring, evaluation and learning, crowdfunding, and international human rights mechanisms. All of these training opportunities sought to develop the skills and capacities of our partners and enable them to pursue their feminist agendas.
Many partners described these webinars as transformative.
Advocating for a Gender-Sensitive Approach to Transitional Justice
Discussions on transitional justice in Syria– or the ways in which countries emerging from conflict address widespread human rights violations – remain male-dominated and gender-blind, despite the fact that women and other marginalised communities have been uniquely and overwhelmingly impacted by conflict and instability. Representation on justice-related issues has often engaged women merely as victims or representatives of victims, while engaging men as experts.
As part of WILPF’s efforts to ensure transitional justice processes are gender-sensitive and victim/survivor-centred, we jointly designed a project with Dawlaty – an organisation launched by Syrian activists dedicated to building democracy, human rights, activism, and gender equality – in which we partnered with five Syrian women-led organisations working on justice and gender issues to amplify the voices of grassroots feminists on the international stage.
- To support and strengthen the capacity of small- and medium-sized women-centred organisations in Syria to advocate for gender-sensitive, victim-centred transitional justice strategies.
- To increase knowledge of the gendered impacts of conflict in order to inform gender-sensitive transitional justice strategies.
- To engage partners in advocacy opportunities that will elevate their voices on the local and global levels.
- To foster community-led efforts to promote gender-sensitive transitional justice strategies.
WILPF, Dawlaty, and partner organisations adopted a local-global-local approach that creates linkages between local, regional, and international efforts. At the local level, partner organisations engaged with women and community leaders to introduce a feminist analysis of issues affecting Syrian women. As such, their feminist demands targeted the impacts and outcomes of challenges vis-à-vis women’s roles during the transitional period and justice from a gender perspective.
This unified approach aims to bring the voices and needs of women at the community level to multilateral fora, while ensuring the information and analysis of what is happening at the international level is taken back to the communities.
By using a bottom-up approach – engaging grassroots activists in efforts to promote feminist approaches to transitional justice – this project has directly supported women’s meaningful engagement in diplomatic and peace processes.
Partner organisations in this joint project shared how useful it has been in helping them understand complex political concepts from a gendered perspective.
WILPF believes this model can be expanded to other thematic areas, ultimately building a stronger, more focused movement for feminist peace by creating specialised feminist working groups.
Listen to the first episode of WILPF’s podcast “Political is Personal” to learn more about women’s meaningful participation in Syria before and after the uprisings of 2011.
#political_is_personal #WILPF_Podcast #السياسي_شخصي
For more information about WILPF’s work in Syria, visit the Syria page on our website.