16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women

Educate a woman, build peace.

Syria sees its first major national campaign: 16 Days of Activism is a campaign that was organized by the United Nations Population Fund in Syria. The campaign succeeded in portraying the solidarity and resilience of the Syrian community.

After the crisis hit, it was a great challenge for all the partners to run a harmonized program in 8 cities (Damascus, Rural Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Lattakia, Tartous and Swida). However, our goal is to keep spreading the same values we worked on in this campaign.

Today, UNFPA along with 7 local partners is celebrating the success of illuminating Syria with peace, love and the pride, making Syria see its first major national campaign.

Within the 8 cities, the campaign included many workshops on reproductive health, early marriage and gender equity. Additional to that, cultural, musical and sport events were organized.

One of the issues that the campaign addressed was education for girls and child marriage. Awareness raising campaigns were held to stand up for women and to elevate the voices of their young daughters.

“I will never repeat the actions of my ancestors and apply them to my kids”, a crying women says to a reporter during a session. She claims to have been forced to marry a man she never met before, when she turned 12.

“If they think self-protection is a shame, I’m fine with breaking the chain”, another young lady says during a self-defense techniques training session. In most areas in the suburbs, it is not allowed for a girl to practice self-defense techniques because it is a man’s responsibility to protect her.“Nevertheless, it is everybody’s responsibility to be aware of how and when to use their powers, especially when they are in danger or feel threatened”, the qualified Syrian trainer and a kickboxing champion says.

Another 23 year-old girl comments: “After my husband disappeared, I woke up to find myself as a helpless single mom with a 7 year-old and a 4 year-old boy. I started hating myself and looking for a way out. That is when I decided to get back to school and earn a decent education to raise my kids.”

During this journey of 16 days, we were able to deliver the message of empowering women and young girls through education. This will not only allow them to effectively contribute to making peace, but will also open many chances for economic and social prosperity in the community.

Because women are only a part of a bigger population, empowering them alone will not be enough. And the commitment can never stop at this point. We are thrilled to see more campaigns and more inspirational contributions from other youth and men in the context of community development involvement.

Being a volunteer in the communication department and a social media advocate for this campaign made me realize the importance of the internet, the messages sent through social networks and its effect on many youth.

Lastly, “The key to success is hard work and determination”. That was our slogan when we first met to start organizing this campaign. We were able to succeed with the great efforts of passionate people, community leaders and dedicated believers in the role of women in the process of community building.

Syrian Arab Republic