As of June 2013, at least 70,000 Syrians have been killed and four million have been internally displaced due to the Syrian civil war. Some women have been ripped from their communities, landing in cities away from the ties that give them some kind of support and security. Others remain within their home communities, but without their husbands, often forced to live with their husband's families, where they are sometimes mistreated. They can even be forced into marriages not of their choosing. However, there is hope for these women.
Through Matar, our non-governmental arts organization in Syria, we give work to between 60 and 80 women who have skills in embroidery, sewing, crochet, knitting, and drawing. Matar means rain in Arabic, and rain in the Middle East is an indication of prosperity. By giving these women psychological, social, and economic support through a safe space in which they can create and use their skills, we can empower them. We also teach women stitching skills, making it possible for them to take home $100 a week, equivalent to a nurse’s salary in Syria. Our organization aims to help repair broken communities and strengthen the position of women within them. People uprooted from their homes find new communities through their collaborations in Matar, and women build both self-esteem and cultural heritage through their work.
Studies show that women's education and empowerment correlate strongly to social and economic development, which is why Matar is run largely by women. This model has had a huge response in communities from Damascus, to those across Syria. Eventually, our goal is to set up children's education programs because children are Syria’s future and they shouldn't be left uncared for or find themselves unequipped to shape the new Syria we want for them and our grandchildren. In a way, we’re not only providing for families, but also promoting crucial dialogue. Our hope is that we can also inspire troubled areas around the globe—not only to refugees, but also to women in communities with serious gender equality and poverty.
If you'd like to support our efforts, consider taking a look at our handmade purses, pillows, coasters, blankets, and more.
This project is part of GOOD's series Push for Good—our guide to crowdsourcing creative progress.