Kawthar Jafar

Syrian civil activist and human rights defender

Civil activist and human rights defender, journalist, and local council administrator in Al-Bab, Aleppo countryside. I am the Public Relations Officer for the Movement Team and the Youth Sada Team, and I work in the field of supporting and advocating for Syrian women in public affairs.

It is no secret to anyone the scale of the catastrophe that struck the cities of northern Syria, the rise of victims, and the collapse of buildings over the heads of their inhabitants in harsh climatic conditions. Local councils, rescue teams, and points of the Civil Defense Center have estimated that there are thousands of victims, along with a large number of people who were hurt and a lot of damage to homes, residential buildings, and infrastructure.

In the first few days after the earthquake, I worked in a local government office and coordinated with groups and associations to set up shelters, get emergency supplies, and help all the people who were affected. Specialized committees were also put together to look at the earthquake-damaged buildings and work with hospitals and health centers to help the injured and provide health services. Psychologists were also brought in to help survivors deal with the stress, fear, and terror caused by the earthquake. In addition to working with social services to give out tents, pre-made rooms, heating materials, blankets, carpets, clothes and jackets for people of all ages, diapers, and period pads, they also give out diapers and tampons.

As part of my work with two volunteer groups, “Hirak Team” and “Sada Youth Team,” we help provide services, help, and responses in all of the affected areas. We also work with foreign press agencies to cover and report on the terrible situation in northern Syria.

As an activist and defender of human rights, especially women’s rights, we first set up virtual groups and communication channels for women in the name of rapid response volunteers in northern Syria, which included all active activists in society.We also worked on the ground by going to the cities that were hit to find out what women, especially pregnant and breastfeeding women, and children needed. This helped us make a plan for coordination and cooperation with the agencies that were helping, and it helped us connect service providers with women’s needs.

In 2017, I did the most work as a member of the local council to help women in the areas of health, the economy, and social life.To reach different segments, I have more clout, a larger support base, and good public relations. This was essential to responding to the needs of women in the aftermath of the disaster. These needs are still seen as a secondary matter by the community and donors as well, and the response to the needs that women monitor and advocate for is still weak to moderate at best.

The security situation inside Syria hinders women’s participation in many areas, including bombings, assassinations, threats, and the absence of law, which leads to a lack of protection and a safe environment for women. The climatic conditions and the earthquake led to the suspension and cessation of all activities related to the participation of women.

This period brings greater responsibilities, but we are capable and willing. As for priorities:

  • Supporting active women’s groups working to prioritize women’s needs on response agendas
  • enhancing participation through local meetings so that women are able to pressure, participate, and develop plans and key points related to women’s needs and place them in public affairs.
  • Promote women’s political participation and work in consultation with them to plan a gender-sensitive response. Especially women in the third track in northern Syria.