Gaziantep (Turkey)- Women empowerment has long been a vital aspect of building stronger communities, and Kinda Omriin wears a confident smile when describing her journey with the “Syrian Women’s Network.”
Kinda, 28, is a single Syrian mom that had escaped her war-torn country in 2012 and headed for Turkey. Staying in Turkey’s Gaziantep, she tells the story of a five-year struggle after getting divorced and having to support her four-year-old child alone.
Kinda carries on describing how she survived six months after her divorce, with no husband to support the family of two, no work to provide a much-needed income to cover the expenses of living in Turkey.
A while later, Kinda revisits the day the sun shined a bit brighter when she received a call from her friend, changing the course of her life. Her friend invited her in March to attend a workshop for empowering Syrian women organized by the Syrian Women’s Network.
Prior to attending the workshop, Kinda thought the term ‘gender’ was a mere category to differentiate males from females. Afterwards, she came to realize that it stands for so much more; it is a statement covering a wider social spectrum.
After attending the workshop, she decided to join the network and aspired to become a fully invested feminist activist. She stressed that the most important workshop she attended this year revolved around “Political Empowerment for Women”—at which she learned what the constitutional “quota” stands for and how it represents a positive electoral system for achieving equality and reducing the gender gap.
“The workshops have critically turned my life around. I feel that my awareness was given a 70 percent boost,” said Kinda.
The Syrian Women Network was founded on March 8, 2013, by a group of public activists who are focused on the political empowerment of women and building up their capacity to reach decision-making positions. The group does not only aspire to merely have Syrian women reach highly contributive posts in society, but also to do so with excellence.
Khawla Dunya, who runs the network’s office in Gaziantep, said that many Syrian women after attending workshops and seminars organized by the group had experienced a positive impact on their lives.
Kinda, for example, was employed shortly after completing the first seminar. She needed to regain self-confidence, something that the group greatly focuses on— “these workshops changed the lives of many women for the better,” added Khawla.
“Men participate in all network activities at the rate of 20 percent. After participation, their views on women differ and they are convinced that they too are capable of leadership and decision-making,” said Khawla.
Members of the network participated in the rounds of the Syrian peace talks held in Geneva, including Jumana Saif, who is working on the talks’ civil platform.
Alice Mafraj, another women activist, was a negotiating member of the Syrian opposition delegation.
Basma Qadmani is a key leader in the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) and along with Marja al-Beqa’i, who is the media advisor to the opposition delegation. Both of which are women.