Damascus, 8 March 2021
In 2021, International Women's Day falls at a time of extraordinary hardship for the people of Syria. This week will mark the tenth anniversary of a crisis which has caused unfathomable loss and driven widespread and growing humanitarian needs across the country.
It is also precisely one year ago today that WHO first characterized COVID-19 as a global pandemic. In Syria, as it has elsewhere, the virus has cut short lives, upended communities, and pushed a faltering economy to the brink.
Every person living in Syria today has been touched by these crises. But once again, the past decade has highlighted the unacceptable gendered and disproportionate impact on women and girls in times of suffering.
While we recognize these injustices, International Women’s Day is also an opportunity to pay tribute to the women and girls who have shouldered such burden, and to their crucial contributions.
During COVID-19, as leaders, volunteers, health workers, educators, humanitarian workers, carers, mothers, wives and sisters, women have heeded the call when people needed them most.
In Syria, women are invaluable in every facet of life: in homes, workplaces, and in society. Their courage under dire circumstances demonstrate once more that women make an unquestionable difference.
I also acknowledge, and give my sincere thanks, to the women who work for the United Nations and for its partners in Syria, often directly in their own communities. Currently 36 per cent of UN staff in Syria are women, and we will continue this year to prioritize progress toward workplace gender parity, including in leadership roles.
International Women’s Day is also a time to reflect on our collective responsibility to propel transformative change.
In Syria, the UN and its partners continue to focus on concrete and practical initiatives to promote gender equality and women and girls’ empowerment. No action is gender-neutral: every action we take through our humanitarian response and interventions must serve to advance gender equality and women's empowerment or it will only be detrimental.
As an example, this year, the UN will be increasing our existing support to local, women-led organizations, and focus on supporting initiatives which actively boost women’s economic empowerment and resilience. Empowering women not only helps progress gender equality; it is fundamental for the growth of sustainable development, peace and security.
At times the challenges to our mission may appear overwhelming. Yet we must not lose hope. For Syria to have a brighter future, women must obtain more equal opportunity to shape their own lives, and those of their families, community and country. I encourage, and offer our support where possible, for women to further expand their space in leadership and decision-making.
This vision for a more equal and inclusive world, when realized, I hope, will be the real and lasting celebration of International Women’s Day.
For further information:
Tawfiq Al-Nehlawi, UN Resident Coordinator Office – Syria, firstname.lastname@example.org Danielle Moylan, Spokesperson OCHA Syria, email@example.com
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.