We Hear You! Bringing Women Grassroots Voices to the heart of the Syrian Peace Process
The EU Delegation together with the Syrian NGO LACU, organised a webinar focusing on the challenges and opportunities to bring more women voices to the heart of the peace process in Syria.
The webinar was openend by the Secretary-General of the EU External Action Service, Helga Schmid, who expressed the EU's strong commitment and support to Syrian women: "Syrian women have shown remarkable resilience & courage. They deserve to be at the heart of the peace process. It’s our duty as the international community to empower them."
Many of the women connecting were supported by the Gaziantep Women Platform, an initiative which began in 2018 in Gaziantep with EU support to connect women peacebuilders. It then developed into a forum to train grassroots women in mediation and negotiation. Over 40 women have been trained to date and some succeeded in reaching prominent positions, including becoming members of the Constitutional Committee for Syria and delivering briefings to the UN Security Council.
Deputy Head of the EU Delegation in Geneva Carl Hallergard underlined that "The Gaziantep Women Platform is an example of true partnership between the EU and Syrians. The success of the initiative could not have been successful without the support of Syrians and the ambition of Syrian women. Syrian women remain at the forefront of peace-building, relief, human rights protection and advocating for gender equality. Their participation in the political process is essential to achieve sustainable peace."
The seminar was joined by distinguished women peace negotiators such as Christina Shaheen, Gender Advisor to the UN Special Envoy for Syria, and Monica McWilliams, Northern Ireland's Good Friday Agreement negotiator, who commended the EU's longstanding expertise in inclusive peace building, which Syrian women can rely on.
The panel included seven Syrian women, three of whom are members of the Constitutional Committee, which is meeting in Geneva as part of the political peace process. They shared their experiences striving for participation and peace, between family responsibilities and the negotiation table.
Over 200 participants connected, as the panellists highlighted the need to affirm women's role in the peace process – their voices are too often overheard and under-represented, while their inclusion is the foundation of a peaceful future for Syria. All thanked the EU for our efforts to bring Syrian women's agenda to the attentions of the international community, as we remain fully committed to empower Syrian women and to ensure their meaningful participation in the political process.
Gendered crimes and protection of children in Syria
On another occasion, the EU Delegation, the Permanent Missions of the United Kingdom and Qatar in Geneva and Legal Action Worldwide, organised a webinar to raise focus on the protection of the most vulnerable in conflict: children. Children suffer overwhelmingly as a result of armed conflicts, including indiscriminate attacks on and military use of schools and hospitals, of abduction, deprivation of liberty, recruitment and the use of children in war.
Ambassador Carl Hallergard emphasized: "Children are the future of Syria and for the future of Syria it is imperative to promote an environment where crimes do not go unpunished but are prosecuted."
Discussants featured testimonies from the ground, from the Hurras Network, the Maram Foundation, and UNICEF in Syria. The speakers testified that as girls and boys face different challenges in conflict, this needs to be considered when we seek accountability for the crimes committed: "Children, especially boys are more likely to be recruited by conflict parties if they do not go to schools. Girls on the other hand are disproportionately affected by rape and sexual violations."
Perspectives from eminent international experts included Hanny Megally, UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Michelle Jarvis, Deputy Head of Syrian IIIM, and Antonia Mulvey, Executive Director of Legal Action Worldwide, who agreed that education is a lifesaving net for thousands of children: "There is a need to invest in education to ensure that a whole generation has hope for the future." In the discussion with some of the 120 participants, the panellists highlighted the obligation to protect children and the role of international investigators and justice actors in upholding their rights and to address violations.