Soad Bakkur, president of the Syrian Women’s Union, paid tribute to Mrs Mubarak’s tireless endeavours in the field of social work, championing the issues of women and children. She said that Syria would like to see a closer cooperation between the Syrian Women’s Union and the National Women’s Council in Egypt through exchanges of information and experience at frequent visits and meetings.
The Syrian Women’s Union was established in 1967 with the aim of mobilising 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.
Bakkur explained that the Syrian Women’s Union has 14 branches in different governorates, 114 associations and 1850 centres. The latter are the organs responsible for reaching out to encourage women to join. Today, some 280,000 or 60% of total Syrian housewives are affiliated to the Union. Article 45 of the Syrian Constitution, Bakkur said, guarantees women full and active participation in political, social, cultural and economic life. "Further, the Constitution provides for the elimination of all obstacles to the development of women and to their participation in building the Arab socialist regime," she noted.
Women in Syria, Bakkur added, are treated on an equal footing with men in rights and duties. The union has pledged to end the isolation and marginalisation of women and involve women as an effective force in society. "Our plans provide for the building of 343 day care centres and kindergartens to accommodate 30,000 children. We are also planning to establish vocational training and production centres in all governorates to train women on skills which include sewing, knitting, typing, hair setting, etc and to establish outlets for the sale of women’s products to help increase family income," she said.
Women’s role in Syria’s social economic and political life is by no means insignificant, Bakkur explained. Women constitute some 30% of the work force in the public sector in Syria. They are responsible for 10% of private sector businesses and are members of chambers of commerce. In agricultural and rural activity, women’s work accounts for 75 to 80 % of total activities. Women sit in the legislative assembly, and are members of the Central Committee of the Baath Party, and its branches. They are members of local councils, ministers, members of the judiciary, trade unionists, policewomen, and have even joined the military. In the present parliament, there are 26 women representing 11% of the total assembly.
The Syrian Women’s Union, Bakkur emphasised, is looking forward to implementing the National Syrian Women’s Strategy until the Year 2005. The Strategy was drawn 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.
The Union, Bakkur noted, is a member of the Arab Women’s Federation, the World Federation for Women and the Women’s Committee of the Arab League. The Federation participated actively in all meetings held during the decade for women and provided effective input to the resolutions and recommendations ensuing from such fora. On the political level, Bakkur said, her union played an active role in campaigning against Zionism and the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the Golan Heights and South Lebanon in the international arena.