Human Voice: Sama Masoud
Life during war is unforgiving. Everyone -especially the youth- endures double the burden, which in its turn increases the challenges of moving towards a stable future where the spirit of hope lives. Imagine a young Syrian girl who resides in a camp inside Syria, whose father passed away during war, and whose mother lost her job for compelling reasons. This girl collapsed in tears when the organization decided to assist her with her wish. She was about to respond, but the tears of pain from a harsh reality preceded her answer.
Her youth was burdened with war. She was categorized as an adolescent in the “space of peace” organization that supports her. After her mother was fired from a factory that exploits the need of the poor to work, she did not find a way to beat the nightmares of the harsh life her family was living, so she started looking for a job to fulfill as many needs as possible and overcome poverty.
However, her family suppressed her will to live and her endeavours to get out of the deteriorating situation surrounding her younger siblings. Her male cousins beat her as she was working long hours and retuning home in the early night hours. Her relatives became more oppressive of her as if the harshness of life was not enough.
In one of the protection sessions organized by “space of peace” organization for pushing women back towards a semi-normal life, a question was posed to the young girl about her wish in life. She was not able to hide the repression inside her. Her eyes were filled with tears and she collapsed in front of the audience, because she was drowning in the sea of harsh realities and customs.
After explaining her case to the organization’s administration, the organization set out to provide social assistance to the young girl’s family, to compensate her for the work she was doing and at the same time to provide a shield that protects her from her relative’s oppression under the harsh conditions.
On her part, the director of the protection project in “space of peace” organization, Mrs. Rasha Al-Khader, said: “we do not provide financial support or relief. We only provide protection services.”
Al-Khader said that the spread of the awareness-raising and protection sessions among girls and women has contributed to creating a safe environment between the beneficiaries and the staff. She also mentioned that many cases of violence and harassment and other humanitarian cases were dealt with during the protection sessions, after the beneficiaries have resorted to specialized supervisors in the organization.
The organization intervened in this family’s life through the supervisors who are in charge of the protection sessions, and it worked to reduce the mother’s working hours by half and to put the girl back in school.
“Accordingly, we were able to restore the most important levels of protection for that girl; firstly the mother and secondly the school.” Explained Mrs. Rasha during the conversation.
Despite the many needs in the Syrian north and the limited available resources to meet those aggravating needs, at a time when military and political tension is escalating among all the conflicting parties, the glimpse of hope will keep approaching the weak.
According to Syrian human rights sources, the Syrian north is the most densely populated area in Syria. This happened due to the deportation of the Assad regime opponents from Damascus and its countryside, and from Daraa, Quneitra and Homs, in addition to the other civilians looking for safer areas. This means that the Syrian north is the ideal environment to test the effectiveness of the work of civil society organizations as a new experience in Syria, away from the services associated with financial support, because such organizations do not work on the relief aspect and they do not provide the beneficiaries with financial support.
Creating joy is a priceless work
According to statistics provided to us by the executive director of “space of peace” organization, the number of women benefiting from the projects presented by the organization between 2016 and 2018 was over 70 thousand beneficiaries including women and young girls.
The work area includes “the camps of Al-Dana, Sarmada, Qam and the western and eastern Idlib countryside, in addition to Jericho and its countryside, Taftanaz and its countryside, and the northern and western Aleppo countryside.” Said Bitar.
The figure (70,000) is considered good in a conservative environment that suffers from war and the suspension of education, especially that there are other problems, such as early marriage and social customs and the cultural heritage that limits the movement of women and sometimes prevents it.
For its part, the team of “Human Voice” did not stop at this point, but rather went to the beneficiaries of the organization and presented several questionnaires to them regarding all aspects included in the work of “space of peace” organization.
Through the statistics documented in numbers, proportions and names, the team conducted questionnaires regarding the organization’s negative and positive work through a sample of beneficiaries. There were 26 participants evaluating the quality of the organization’s performance. 79.5% of them evaluated the work of the organization as good. This percentage is perhaps expected, as work in Syrian life is a very important requirement, and this reflects the organization’s ability to provide the greatest possibilities for beneficiaries.
Spring of life… steps towards a stable life
10.8% evaluated the work mechanism as medium. From a general evaluation perspective, it is a big percentage because these people did not praise the organization and did not talk about its negative aspects. Perhaps, this group of women represents the category that employers would want to keep as employees.
Moreover, 6.2% of the women participating in the questionnaire evaluated the work as below good. It is noteworthy here that 3.3% refused to evaluate the work. In these two percentages, differences appear in relation to the largest percentage of women who evaluated the work of the organization as good. In addition, the evaluation of the work as below good and the abstention of some women from voting are considered dangerous indications. They indicate the lack of equal standing of all beneficiaries by the organization, and whoever refrained from casting their voices is perhaps classified within the category of people dissatisfied with the organization’s work, for reasons we could not know.
Education is the backbone of life and the pillar of the future. This expression of thought was observed in a large percentage among the beneficiaries participating in the poll. 92.4% of the beneficiaries considered “space of peace” a provider of good educational support despite the harsh conditions surrounding them. Here, if we return to the statistics above, we see that the two highest percentages, 79.5% and 10.8% have met on the same goal of education. Whereas the two groups that abstained from voting and that assessed the work of the organization as being below good, have agreed that the financial factor is the most important from their point of view. This only indicates their need for money to cope with the compelling circumstances for starters, and perhaps that is the reason they preferred financial support to educational support.
In the questionnaire, it was noticeable that the beneficiaries enjoyed the freedom to vote. Each woman expressed her opinion transparently without any concerns. 68.9% of the beneficiaries said the services are provided irregularly, while 24.1% said that services are provided monthly. These statistics reflect the difficulty of moving to and from the organization. On the other hand, it may indicate the lack of means to meet the needs on a regular basis.
The activities include transforming women from consumers to producers through their rehabilitation and integration in the labor market. Moreover, there are efforts to prepare women cadres for participating in local decision-making according to executive director Mrs. Rana Bitar.
The will to life and education races the war
The organization has drawn a clear line for itself, whose basic approach is to protect victims of social violence and to manage GBV (gender-based violence) cases according to what Mrs. Rana Bitar, the organization’s executive director, said in an exclusive interview with Human Voice website.
Bitar said that the organization is “giving training on humanitarian work, like the minimum standards for child protection and directives for gender-based violence, and raising awareness on sexual assault”. She added: “we are active in rehabilitation and vocational training, along with our interest in qualifying and empowering female community leaders.”
She explained that the organization is in the process of launching a new project that deals with women’s rights advocacy. Given the high population density in the Syrian north, and the conditions of war and the constant moving, the human activity by its nature will create many issues of violence and societal problems. According to sociology, “there is a link between high population density and the spread of violence, crime and internal chaos,” Which makes it so important to work in this direction.
In this regard, Marah Al-Zeer, the psychological and social specialist within the “Human Voice” team, says: “in wars, it is natural for a demographic change to occur in the regions. In addition, there is a forced migration of a large number of people, and an increase of population in certain regions compared to other regions. This leads to the disruption of social life, in addition to social, economic, political and possibly sectarian imbalances, and the increase of violence and crime. Overall, the chaos increases because of this unexpected change.”
Civil society organizations face great pressure, as they are stuck between the goals for which they were established and a reality of expanding needs and increased political and military tension between all the conflicting parties. This coincides with a scarcity of funding resources, and their inability to continue their work and provide assistance in accordance with the set standards.
Many civil society organizations interested in the Syrian issue have found a rich field in the Syrian north, where the largest Syrian community outside the control of the government is randomly self-managed. “Space of peace” is one of the organizations that have found in that place their chance to raise awareness based on principles they believe in and work to achieve.
This human rights story was produced with the support of JHR organization and Donner Canadian Foundation.