In the words of Rouba Mhaissen: “Syrian women should have a central role in all facets of the conflict”

Date: Monday, May 21, 2018

Dr. Rouba Mhaissen, Syrian activist, is the founder and Director of Sawa for Development and Aid. 
Photo: UN Women/Diego De La Rosa

                       Dr. Rouba Mhaissen is a Syrian-Lebanese economist, activist, and professional. She is the Founder and Director of Sawa for Development and Aid, a civil society organization that supports Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and Sawa Foundation UK, that supports forced migrants in Europe and the Middle East. Dr. Mhaissen, was one of the panelists at a dialogue co-hosted by UN Women, bringing together Syrian women and international policy makers to discuss issues of humanitarian action, resilience and peace, held on the sidelines of the Syria Conference 2018 in Brussels.

“In 2011, I heard about the first 40 Syrian refugee families that arrived in Lebanon. We started first as an initiative and then ended up being an organization. Working with women was not a choice, it was organic because, in the majority of the cases we worked on, women were the head of the household. When we started going to the refugee camps it was usually the women who came up front with specific demands so we organically developed women-targeted programming and mainstreamed gender across all of our programmes and approaches.

I believe Syrian women should have a central role in addressing all facets of the conflict. I want to move away from linking women only to the peace process. Women have been playing a central role at all stages; from fighting for their rights during the war, to keeping the family together during displacement, all the way to being actors in peace.

I agree very much with the slogan “no women, no peace” because in Syrian society specifically, women are the backbone of the family, the heart of the community. So is just a matter of putting them at the forefront of this fight and giving them the center stage to participate.

It is important to build Syrian women’s resilience and support them in acquiring the skills they need to be independent agents. On the other hand, policy-makers should focus on ending the war. If the war ends they will ultimately improve everyone’s lives, including women’s lives.”