16-Day Campaign of Activism to End Gender-Based Violence

Violence against women is one of the most widespread and devastating human rights violations in today's world. This violence is a barrier to gender equality, women's and girls’ rights and empowerment and it is an impediment to the achievement of the goals of sustainable development.

On the occasion of the international  Day for the elimination of violence against women, the Syrian Family Planning Association (SFPA) in cooperation with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPFA)  launched  recently a 16-day campaign for “Ending Violence against Women”  throughout all the Syrian provinces. The campaign was kicked off on the 25th of November  and it lasts till December 10th.

To shed light on this campaign, the Syriatimes e-newspaper interviewed Mr. Ghayath Zaybok, the Executive Director of the Family Planning Association ( FPA) in Lattakia province.

 Mr. Zaybok said “ The United Nations General Assembly has designated November 25th  as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women”, stressing that the violence against women and girls is an important public issue which constitutes a form of discrimination and a devastating violation of women fundamental freedoms and rights.

Educating and empowering women is part of social development

He made it clear that the FPA’s centers and mobile work teams carried out symposiums and workshops, delivered lectures and held awareness-raising sessions which target various age groups and places to explain the fact that women around the world are subject to different forms of violence mainly physical, psychological, sexual, social and economic violence, and to stress the need to empower this category of society.

Mr. Zaybok affirmed that as the gender-based violence is a complicated and sensitive subject, the campaign focused on the importance of educating and empowering women as part of social development, on the danger of early marriage, on the importance of women’s participation in decision making as well as on establishing a society which is free of gender-based violence.

At the Syrian family Planning Association's Center for Supporting and Empowering Syrian Women (Women Safe Spaces),the Syriatimes also met two ladies, who had experienced different kinds of violence by their husband. The ladies, who preferred not to mention their names, talked about their experiences and explain how they surpassed their problems and started a new life.

Love is not enough

"Love is not always enough and getting a divorce is not a failure. The more I stay with him the more I destroy my self-esteem”, a 23-year old lady from Homs province said.

The lady made it clear that her first marriage was in Homs governorate when she was 14 years old while her husband was at the age of 40.

“ We had good times together before marriage, but once we get married he changed. He became very jealous and no longer loving me and he didn’t trust me at all”, she said, adding "my life with him turned into a nightmare and when he knew that I was pregnant he hit and tortured me and forced me to have a medicine to abort."

"I shall never forget the day I got divorced, because I felt like I was born again," she said, pointing out that after divorce she left Homs to Lattakia, due to bad circumstances there because of the crisis.  

However, her bid to avoid society’s look towards divorced women led her to another failed marriage. "Unfortunately,  I repeated the same mistake and get married to a man who is already married and older than me with 22 years”.

"He is very rude and aggressive. He spends only a little time with me and he always tells me that if you betray me, I will burn your body," she said.

She made it clear that after she joined the center for supporting and empowering the Syrian woman ( woman safe spaces) and attended a number of training courses she felt relaxed , had a positive energy , enjoyed  more self-confidence to challenge her circumstances.

"It is quite a terrible thing to admit that I have been in two failuremarriages. I began to believe it was my fault and I felt like I was in a rollercoaster that I couldn’t get off , I wish I got divorce”, the lady concluded.

Another lady from Lattkia province, who is an employee and has got two children and who has a breast cancer told the Syriatimes e-newspaper that 'something whispered in my ear and said “you aren’t strong enough to withstand the storm”, but, as I drifted to sleep I smiled and said I am the storm".

She said that after her husband knew that she had a breast cancer his violence became much worse and was being directed at their children also.

She went on to say “he became very nervous shouting all the time and I fought for as long as I could to be the patient wife”.

 She stressed that “while I was totally knocked sideways by my husband’s unjustified departure and getting divorced , I realized that the situation presented me an opportunity to be stronger and to depend on myself and begin my treatment journey”.

The lady affirmed the fact that her divorce has allowed her to stay comfortably with a smile on her face and a sense of gratefulness for her health, her happiness and her dream.

“ I am hopeful that my story has many more chapters to go and many of them will be good. I encourage all the women to stay positive and surround themselves with supportive people” the lady concluded .

Interviewed by Rawaa Ghanam