Enab Baladi – Eastern al-Ghouta
Siraj, a Syrian organization, is offering grants to help women set up their own projects to help them financially support themselves and their families, which is seen as a way of communicating with local councils in al-Ghouta.
Dozens of women registered at Duma’s local council from May 6 to May 22 to obtain a grant of 500 US dollars. This amount is seen by Iman Muhammad as a “very small one when you’re under siege”, which drove her to get together with six other women to start a business for manufacturing bridalwear after obtaining approval from the donor organization.
There are many different types of projects in Duma: a bridal store, a cybercafé for women, a small farm to raise animals and produce dairy products, a small library, a dental clinic and more.
Noor Suleiman planned her project to open a cybercafé for women after assessing the needs of women through the Internet. She told Enab Baladi that she believes that powers cuts and use of satellite internet (which is not available to everyone) have prevented people from communicating with their families outside the siege.
Noor and those who are helping her in her project aim to provide women with the chance to relax, according to her vision. She says that the café is also used by female activists and serves a large segment of women in al-Ghouta.
Bayan Rayhan, head of the Women’s Office at Duma local council, says that the projects aim to preserve the dignity of women in Eastern al-Ghouta, explaining that the organization will study the projects that have a high level of economic feasibility to assess whether they meet the special conditions for acceptance.
According to Rayhan, there are three conditions – the owner must have a clear vision, she should be able to manage the capital and the project should have a strong economic basis. She points out that the organization will arrange a special session for all applicants to write a full study of their projects and priority will be given to the most convincing entrepreneur.
Rayhan says that the value of the grants is “very low but partnership between women is the best way to start since partnerships makes for stronger projects”. She points out that the number of applicants in Duma has reached 35 women and it is expected that support will be given to all the projects submitted, starting with “the most organized”.
Restricting the work of women to sewing, embroidery and cooking is a “general problem” but this may be the opportunity women have been waiting for to overcome this problem by obtaining a grant.