Kafwa by Kesh Malek aims to give Syrian women not just job skills but also the leadership skills to help Syrian society repair itself years after the revolution began.
A programme in Northern Syria aims to put an end to the male domination of civil society and empower a new generation of female Syrian leaders.
The Kafwa project, which was launched in 2016 by the Syrian NGO Kesh Malek, hopes to encourage greater gender equality and the implementation of women’s rights across the country.
Working with human rights groups and Syrians living in exile abroad, it trains selected Syrian women to take on leadership roles within workplaces, activist groups, and charities.
“Despite a number of projects that help women in northern Syria, the majority do not go beyond training women on basic skills or handiwork, such as sewing,” said Zina Kayalli, who is Kesh Malek’s Gender Equity & Women Rights Program Manager.
“Our purpose is to form female leadership networks that consist of skilled, professional and educated women who have the potential to mobilise the community as a driver of change in decision-making positions,” she added, explaining that training focused on community mobilisation and engagement.
Kayalli explained that the reasoning behind the programme was not just to create leaders but also to help equip Syrian women with the skills to support their families, who are being raised under the constant threat of the Syrian regime war against its people.
One beneficiary of the programme is 24-year-old Amena al Hosayn, the mother of a three-month-old infant, who graduated from university despite the war but found opportunities hard to come by.
Despite living two hours from the Kafwa training centre, Kesh Malek arranged transport for Hosayn and the young Syrian says the skills she has gained have been invaluable.
Kesh Malek’s courses have trained her in management, leadership, and communication.
The literature graduate from Idlib University said she was eager to put her training to use given the shifting gender dynamics in Syrian society.
“The war has caused such a high number of deaths amongst the male population and now a lot of women and young children have no breadwinner to support them,” Hosayn explained. “By empowering women we can help towards the repair of our society.”
For Amane Omran, 34, from the city of Aleppo, Kafwa is one of the few projects providing Syrian women with the skills needed to apply for more advanced jobs.
“Kesh Malek has increased my skills and raised my understanding of certain specialities, which gives me higher chances when I apply for jobs,” she said.
But it’s not all plain sailing for the project and Kafwa’s problems come in two primary forms; one the regime war that has torn Syria apart as a country, and the second more common to most NGOs, is funding.
Since late April, the Assad regime has been trying- unsuccessfully- to wrest control of the northern region of Idlib and surrounding areas from opposition groups.
Despite failing to make significant gains against opposition forces on the ground, the regime and its ally Russia have complete control of the skies over northern Syria.
The aerial dominance has allowed them to carry out the frequent bombardment of urban areas, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilians.
The war, which started in 2011 after protests demanding greater freedoms were violently put down by the Assad regime, has killed upwards of 500,000 people and sent millions fleeing.
More than six million Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries and Europe, while approximately five million are internally displaced within Syria.