16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence December 2018 Rural Damascus

16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence December 2018 Rural Damascus

With a view to raising awareness about GBV-related issues, emphasizing the rejection of this and all forms of violence, introducing the concept and types of GBV, discussing its causes and consequences, proposing solutions to reduce it, and stressing the importance of reporting in case of exposure, the Syrian Society for Social Development organized an event on the occasion of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence under the slogan Safety and Equality at Home, at Work and Everywhere at the SSSD community centres in Rural Damascus (Jaramana, al-Hameh, ‘Adra Industrial Zone) and in the ‘Adra Workers’ Housing neighbourhood.
The event included activities and awareness sessions carried out within the community centres. The aim of the event was to recapitulate and highlight the awareness campaigns carried out throughout 2018 on all GBV-related topics that targeted all age groups. Several outdoor activities were also carried out, including candlelit marches in both Jaramana and al-Hameh and the distribution of leaflets on GBV-related issues.

During the 16-day campaign against GBV, the SSSD team targeted women through awareness-raising sessions on sexual harassment and abuse, early marriage and intimate partner violence, the importance of education for girls and women’s right to work, with a view to women’s empowerment in various aspects of life.
In addition, external activities were carried out that aimed at raising awareness among adolescent boys and girls about the concept of gender discrimination and the importance of gender equality. Such activities included a mixed-gender football match held at the Jaramana Municipal Stadium between the CC adolescents and a similar mixed-gender basketball game played at the Jaramana Basketball Court. The two games were punctuated by several recreational activities and dances performed by the CC adolescents, awareness activities about women’s rights, with emphasis on women’s right to work and the importance of gender equality in terms of opportunities, services and available/provided resources.
With the participation of the Women’s Committees, children of the Child Protection Club and some school girls, wall paintings were executed on the wall of the Haitham Abdu-s-Salam School, expressing the rights of the child and the right of the girl to education. The first mural featured raised hands representing fundamental rights, each hand representing one of these rights (the rights to equality, to education, to health care, to opinion, to play, etc.). The second mural, entitled Teach them…, reflected the importance of education for children regardless of gender. The third mural featured the campaign’s motto Safety and Equality at Home, at Work and Everywhere. The fourth mural represented a group of children carrying their notebooks. The fifth mural was a graffiti with the slogan Education IS Safety. At the end of the activity the children distributed GBV leaflets to passers-by and all participants were thanked for their assistance.
In order to emphasize the importance of reporting GBV in case of exposure, a candlelit vigil was carried out in the vicinity of the Swords Square, Jaramana, with members of the Women’s Committees and children of the CP Club holding placards about gender equality, women’s rights, No to Violence signs and the importance of GBV reporting.
After that, the march began around the Swords Square, led by the Damascus Scouts Band, with the participation of SSSD volunteers and the CP Club, carrying placards with GBV-related slogans. At the end of the march, the Scouts performed their music in the courtyard and Women’s Committee members and female passers-by raised placards against gender discrimination. Anti-GBV leaflets were distributed and a panto sketch featured a battered woman who resorted to law to solve her problem. “Violence against women is inadmissible,” said a man from the audience. “With determination and perseverance women can overcome violence against them,” said a woman.
After that, a drama sketch about early marriage was presented, highlighting the problems facing girls married off at an early age. The performance was an occasion to discuss the causes and consequences of GBV. “This marriage is unlawful and must be invalidated,” commented a man.
We concluded the activity with a final march around the Square with the participation of the Scouts, the CP Club and Women’s Committee members.
In order to emphasize the complementary roles of men and women, the right of women to choose the work they want and their ability to exercise all professions, one of the streets of the Karm Smadi neighbourhood was specially prepared and the CC female volunteers dressed in the outfit of occupations usually reserved for men (wall painter, gas seller, mechanic, blacksmith, etc.). Every volunteer carried a slogan (“I can,” “We’re equal, aren’t we?” “What prevents?”) in order to emphasize gender equality. One of the women said, “There’s nothing shameful in work. It’s one of women’s rights. What you’re doing is really wonderful!” Another woman shared a personal experience. “I was truly thrilled by what I saw because I had experienced a phase in my life when I had to connect a gas cylinder, repair faucets, etc., all by myself,” she said. One woman enquired about the reason why women were dressed like that, while other women were surprised that women could exercise such professions. So, it was explained to them that the aim was to express the importance of women’s role in community and their ability to play it effectively.
With the participation of members of the Women’s Committee, we also held placards highlighting the obstacles facing women and preventing them from assuming their role in community. “Deprivation of resources and opportunities harms women and, consequently, causes social disintegration. It also leads to total marginalization of women,” said one woman.
In the meantime, one of the SSSD volunteers, dressed in folk clothes, poured Arabic coffee for passers-by. Leaflets were also distributed. At the end of the activity, CP Club members presented a dabké dance.
Finally, we asked for some supportive messages, such as: “Say what’s on your mind,” “Don’t let the 16-Day event pass like that,” “Be strong,” etc.).
The event was closed at the Waqf Hall, Jaramana, with the CC children and teens performing a group dance and thanking the beneficiaries for their attendance and participation.

Within the 16-day event against GBV, the SSSD GBV team carried out an external activity at the Nargis Hall entitled Let the whole world hear your voice! The activity targeted all ages and groups and included the exhibition of anti-GBV drawings, anti-GBV songs, the traditional storyteller (hakawati) who introduced the reason to celebrate the event and comic sketches aimed at highlighting gender equality.
One sketch focused on women’s huge domestic burdens and the need for husbands to share those burdens since marital life is a partnership based on cooperation between spouses. Another sketch addressed the need for women to balance between their occupation and/or domestic work, on the one hand, and self-care, on the other.
The event was concluded with one of the women singing and adolescent girls performing a dance. To conclude it all, a puzzle about the importance of women’s role in community was collectively assembled.
One of the women expressed her sheer joy with this multi-activity, light-hearted event, through which it was possible for women to learn about the reasons for the celebration and express some of their talents.
The CC’s adolescent boys and girls participated in the celebrations by organizing a silent march, carrying banners with anti-GBV slogans. The march started at the CC and headed towards the secondary school, then off to al-Hameh main square. It included stopping at 5 “stations,” namely, the stations of intimate partner violence, early marriage, depriving girls of education, depriving the female of her right to work, sexual harassment and the importance of reporting on GBV. At each station, the march would stop and children and adolescents would distribute leaflets about the topics addressed to people of the local community.
The march had a positive and effective impact on the local community as it was the first event of its kind in the area to address sensitive issues concerning women and the various forms of violence they are exposed to.
In light of women’s deprivation of resources and services in the community and the common view that such activities are not reserved for women, but only for men, women and girls were invited to a sports club at al-Hameh to participate in an activity entitled Take care of your form. The activity focused on the importance of physical exercise for women who should, therefore, do certain exercises on a daily basis, along with their demanding, busy schedule, whether outside home or inside, with housework and raising children. The coach taught women simple, wholesome movements and postures that can be done at home in addition to self-defence movements to neutralize harassment attempts.
The participants’ enthusiasm was truly remarkable. “This is a very special activity because most women do not exercise, they’re busy doing housework and attending to children. Besides, most men do not allow their wives to go to the club because they do not trust the people there,” said one of the women.
Among the activities carried out, there were legal awareness sessions, held in cooperation with the legal support team at STD. The sessions shed light on the rights of women guaranteed by Syrian law and informed about the sanctions reserved for harassers and rapists in Syrian law. Women’s participation was intense. They emphasized that a woman should stand for her rights against anyone who tries to compromise them.
There were also health awareness sessions on the risks of early marriage to the health of girls. The sessions were facilitated by a female doctor who answered the women’s questions about types of STDs and how to prevent them. The session had a positive impact on women. The doctor was able to answer many important and private questions for women. One woman expressed her delight and keen desire to see such campaigns repeated on a regular basis because women, in her own words, “are often unable to find answers or solutions to the questions they have or problems they face, especially regarding gynaecological issues and wrong practices they cannot speak about openly.”
Among activities carried out, worth mentioning is the visit of the Women’s Committee members, al-Hameh, along with women who participated in awareness campaigns, to the Jaramana CC, during which the women of Jaramana were participating in an awareness campaign on women’s empowerment. The activity started with a presentation on how to make the ceramic paste. Some women taking part in the visit presented some of the handicrafts they had made themselves by recycling some household items. The visitors offered various kinds of sweets to the Jaramana women as well as a present on the occasion of the 16 Days of Activism Against GBV: a canvas embroidery expressing women’s right to life.
The visit was a new experience for the women. This activity held outside their area enabled them to meet the women from the Jaramana CC and share with them new experiences and success stories, which gave them a positive incentive in an atmosphere of warmth and affection. “I’ve been living in Damascus for 8 years now, but this was the first time I visit Jaramana,” in the words of one of them.
Beauty is a feminine quality, true, but in light of the heavy burdens of working women, the latter tend to neglect it. This is why an awareness session on beauty care was implemented to show that working women who spend long hours outside home can balance between work and beauty care. A nutritionist introduced misconceptions and wrong habits vs. good habits and healthy food for the benefit of working women. Women enthusiastically participated, by asking various questions to the nutritionist who, in turn, proposed wholesome solutions.
A beautician also participated by presenting simple methods that a working woman can use to maintain a healthy skin. She also presented simple, elegant hairstyles that a working woman can make in a very short time. The activity was concluded by offering the women some symbolic presents. “This is the first time I hear someone telling me I’m beautiful,” said one of the women at the end of the activity.

During the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, the SSSD team operating at the ‘Adra Industrial Zone and ‘Adra Workers’ Housing carried out several awareness and recreational activities.
Based on the fact that women are half the society and raise the other half, and since knowledge is our safe-conduct to the future and education is indispensable for girls, a library was designed in the form of a girl’s head and assembled at the Farah Community Centre, ‘Adra Industrial Zone. This event was part of the 16-Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, in recognition of women’s right to complete their education and raise awareness against depriving the girls of their lawful right to get educated. The CC’s women arranged the books on the bookshelves and set up a mechanism to borrow books. One of them said, “You truly made my day! Even though I am old, I really want to borrow books, read and broaden my culture!”
At the end of the activity, two video clips were presented, one discussing the importance of education for girls and the other explaining the obstacles to girls’ education. Products of women who followed the vocational training courses at the CC were also exhibited.
Regarding external campaigns, several awareness sessions were held at the ‘Adra el-Balad School on GBV-related topics, in addition to recreational activities targeting children and adolescent boys and girls.
At the Abu Rashed Hall, ‘Adra Workers’ Housing, various awareness-raising activities on GBV-related topics were conducted, such as an awareness presentation on reproductive health issues, in view of the absence of a nearby medical point that women can visit. Breast cancer was also focused on, with methods of self-examination presented, as well as and the importance of periodic checking at the doctor’s. Drama sketches, songs and recreational activities were also presented.
Other activities were held at al-Laith Hall, ‘Adra Industrial Zone, with awareness and recreational activities.
One of the girls: “Thanks to the Farah Centre, thanks to their support and encouragement, I returned to my school. To all who participated in such a wonderful humanitarian work I say: THANK YOU!”
The event was concluded with a promo presentation of all campaigns carried out from the beginning of the year. Thus, the women could recapitulate all the major topics discussed with them during the year, most notably the early marriage campaign, the girl’s right to education campaign and the importance of reporting GBV and intimate partner violence. The women recalled many of the details discussed during those campaigns and the information they had learned.

Sett Zeinab
The 16-day event to combat violence against women coincided with the opening of the Sett Zeinab Community Centre, which was an occasion to introduce the community to GBV-related topics and the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence.
The Centre was prepared to receive various age and community groups. The event lasted from December 1 to December 10 and included awareness sessions on various GBV-related topics, targeting various groups, as well as recreational activities and singing in which all the CC’s children and adolescents, boys and girls alike, participated.