Maya Dayoub is the Partner Relationship Coordinator at the Syriac St. Ephrem Patriarchal Development Committee in Syria. Here, she talks about the Committee’s participation in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence project:
This is an annual global campaign beginning on 25 November, which is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and ending on December 10, which is International Human Rights Day. The campaign aims to raise awareness on the topic of gender-based violence, and to strive toward a society free of violence against women. This year’s campaign was entitled “Speak, We’re With You,” and it was addressed to all the members of the family and of society, but especially women and girls, trying to promote the concepts of gender equality as well as rights and duties. To that end, there were several activities organized for this year, including awareness-raising sessions on gender-based violence that were going on continuously at the First Step Center in Arbin, which is affiliated with the St. Ephrem Patriarchal Development Committee.
On the conditions applicable to both trainers and trainees:
For activities aimed solely at women, such as psychological support sessions or female reproductive health sessions, the trainers were all women. We wanted the women to be more receptive to the information and we also wanted to abide by the context and culture of our intended audience in order that they might better accept us. Trainers were chosen on the basis of experience and academic specialization.
On the difficulties faced by the Committee during the implementation of the project:
Many of the women we worked with had been subjected to treatment that they didn’t know was a form of violence. In the different contexts in which we worked, whether in Eastern Ghouta or just in Syrian society in general, our hardest task was explaining all the various forms that violence could take and how to avoid them, in order to build a safe and secure society. Social customs, traditions, and inherited ideas were the most difficult things to get past, because these limit women’s roles within society. This is the biggest external obstacle to this sort of project.
It's no secret that there’s some difference in the outlook toward women among different religions, but these are nothing compared to the habits and customs that govern every class of Syrian society as a whole. That’s why we have to take differences into account while carrying out the activities and services we provide, and we must respect the concepts, belongings, environments, and background of the communities where we work.
In terms of the positives, it’s just being able to offer services and raise awareness about women’s rights, which translates into increasing the extent of their roles as an essential part of society, present and capable of contributing to the development of their societies.
On the impact left by the project:
We were able to communicate the fundamental ideas to all the beneficiaries we targeted throughout the course of this work, and to all the women who attended the awareness sessions. There were discussions about their life experiences, how to overcome and respond to difficulties, and about the different forms of violence they’d been subjected to.
On a personal level, I, as Maya, came to understand the needs and look at real-life models of Syrian society, and to see that no matter the differences between us, in the end we can find a way to communicate, or to arrive at a point of common understanding between us.