'As in a number of Arab countries, many of Syria's women were largely confined to traditional roles before the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the outbreak of war. Now, however, more and more women are at the forefront of new efforts to solve local problems and counter the death and destruction that has engulfed the country.
One of the ways they've done this is by starting their own independent magazines and radio stations, such as Jasmine Syria, Sayedet Souriya, Radio Souriyat and Nasaem Radio, which focus on highlighting the daily struggles of Syrian women amid the conflict."The stereotypical image of women presented in media reflects a patriarchal society," said Reem al-Halabi, director of Nasaem Radio, which is based in the northwestern city of Aleppo. "Women's interests are not limited to fashion, beauty, cooking, family and children. This image does not reflect the real interests or concerns of Syrian women or how hard they are working to take part in building their country."
More women are also launching community initiatives, such as Women Now for Development, a center formed by women in 2012 in the besieged town of Hazza in the Damascus countryside to provide training in new skills. The initiative focuses on young women who have had to quit school due to the security situation and widows who need to generate income to support their families. Layla, the manager of Women Now for Development, said the conflict had paradoxically "opened new horizons" for some Syrian women. "They are more self-confident and not afraid to express their opinions anymore, and this is reflected in the way they raise their children and deal with their husbands and the society around them," said Layla, who asked that her real name not be used for security reasons.Layla added that Women Now's workshops about women's rights have contributed to increasing the number of women who voted in local council elections in Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of the Syrian capital, Damascus.
"Since the revolution began, Syrian women have shown an interest in politics," she said. "They do not base their opinions on what men say; they form their own opinions by analyzing the news themselves."
"My work with the Network of Guardians helped me develop management skills, which was something I never learned in college," said Hiba, a fourth-year architecture student at the University of Damascus who had to quit her studies because of the security situation, especially the random arrests at checkpoints between Damascus and her home in Douma. "The current conflict in Syria has played a positive role in breaking the stereotype of women as housewives. Women today have a great opportunity and they should take advantage of it, especially with the number of men being lost in Syria to the fighting, imprisonment and abduction."
In the city of Raqqa in northeastern Syria, Suad Nofal has become a symbol of resistance to tyranny. For a long time, she had opposed the Syrian regime. Later, she confronted the Islamic State. Since she had been a well-known teacher in Raqqa, she initially succeeded in opening a dialogue with a number of IS fighters who were former students, which irritated IS's foreign leaders. They banned their fighters from talking to her, then they began to harass and threaten Suad and issued a fatwa ordering her execution, which forced her to move to Turkey in 2013.'