According to president of the Syrian Women’s Union, Soad Bakkur (2003):
"The Syrian Women’s Union was established in 1967 with the aim of mobilizing women within a single organisation and enhancing their level of education, political awareness, and level of skills to prepare women for a more effective and fuller role in social and economic development. ... [It] has 14 branches in different governorates, 114 associations and 1850 centers. ... Some 280,000 or 60% of total Syrian housewives are affiliated to the Union. ... The union has pledged to end the isolation and marginalisation of women and involve women as an effective force in society." (in Al-Ahram Weekly, Para. 2, 3, and 4)
Along with the above, the Union seeks to implement the National Syrian Women’s Strategy until the year 2005 drawn up by the National Syrian Committee based on the guidelines set forth by the Beijing Conference for women and on the Arab Plan of Action for Women (in Al-Ahram Weekly)
The union’s goals entail:
a. eradicating illiteracy among women;
b. raising women’s awareness concerning health, legal, social, economic and political issues;
c. empowering women and generating new sources of income;
d. identifying obstacles that prevent women’s development;
e. proposing essential amendments to laws related to women;
f. providing family planning and health services through 20 health centres; and,
g. assisting working women by providing childcare through 266 nurseries and kindergartens.
The union also acts as an information centre, umbrella research institute, and training centre. Its areas of intervention are:
c. food security;
e. human rights;
j. rural development; and
The union coordinates with the Ministry of Culture and Ministry of education, and collaborates with the Directorate of Education to ensure the availability of schools to conduct its literacy classes. It collaborates with the Directorate of Agriculture in order to ensure the promotion of rural development and to institute projects for the empowerment of rural women. In addition, when necessary, the union collaborates with the Ministry of Health, UNFPA, UNIFEM, UNICEF, UNDP, and WFP. Its sources of funding are international, national and public.
According to president of the Syrian Women’s Union, Soad Bakkur (2003), the union’s achievements include 343 day care centres and kindergartens to accommodate for 30,000 children, a vocational training and production centres in all governorates to train women in sewing, knitting, typing, hair setting, and outlets for the sale of women’s products to help increase family income (in Al-Ahram Weekly, Para.4).
A report in Aman reviews achievements of the union during 2002. It states that:
a. 1626 sections to teach women were set up in different villages of the Syria, while the plan was to set up 1740. The number of women who joined reached 26,973. Students included housewives, women who work in agriculture, labourers, and young girls.
b. Statistical reports were produced to monitor women who enrolled in literacy classes, and specialised institutions which taught income generating skills, health awareness, first aid as well as cultural and legal awareness.
c. Women’s groups meetings through house visits were conducted in order to introduce women to the law concerning compulsory education, and convince them of the necessity of implementing it with their children.
d. Statistics were produced to show how it succeeded in limiting school drop-outs, especially among girls, and further plans were designed to reduce school drop out especially among girls.
e. Household visits were conducted to raise awareness and encourage illiterate women to join the literacy classes offered by the Union.
In October 2002, in collaboration with the UNIFEM, the union held a taskforce meeting for the agencies working on the regional "Gender Equality Measured through Statistics" Project implemented in Syria, Jordan and Egypt.
Furthermore, according to Aman, recently (2003), the Union sponsored a study on Violence and Discrimination against Women in Syria. The study was conducted by two researchers, Najwa Kassab Hasan (Head of the Research and Planning Bureau, and the Bureau of Central Statistics) and Raghda Ahmad (Head of the Central Legal and Health Bureaus). Information was collected through interviews with 240 battered women and women who suffered from forms of discrimination by their families and the general society. The study describes the profile of women victims of violence and discrimination in Syria and points out to the prevalence of these situations in the family whereas both the Constitution and the Civil Codes safeguard equal treatment of men and women in the community.
Updated by TE. Approved by GT. Last update: 30 Sept 2004.