Qamishli women take up farming work besides household chores

A woman works in an agricultural land - October 16, 2023 (Enab Baladi)

A woman works in an agricultural land - October 16, 2023 (Enab Baladi)


With the sunrise, Aliya starts her day by joining the village women in lighting the fire to prepare bread. This is the first step in a day full of difficult work, she told Enab Baladi.

47-year-old Aliya al-Mohammad resides in the village of Himo in Qamishli countryside, northeastern Syria, and leads a life similar to her neighbors.

Aliya quickly goes to her work in the greenhouse until it is her turn to prepare the bread. She assists her husband and son in harvesting fruits and takes care of plants by fertilizing them and removing weeds.

She finishes her work around 11 am and returns home to start preparing breakfast, adding that her work is not done, but rather, there are many tasks waiting for her throughout the day.

Aliya told Enab Baladi that hard work in the countryside does not stop at household chores but also includes farming and harvesting during the season, as well as animal husbandry. These are tasks she takes on after breakfast.

She sees this work as requiring a lot of effort and commitment but considers it an inseparable part of her life in the countryside.

Aliya decided to work in a small agricultural nursery owned by her son in partnership with his friend, earning a daily wage of 15,000 Syrian pounds.

For various reasons, including her neighbor working with her and the proximity of the nursery to her home, Aliya finds her current work less exhausting compared to other jobs. She also enjoys spending some pleasant time with friends, drinking tea and coffee while planting seedlings.

Aliya saves part of her earnings from working in the agricultural nursery but mostly uses it to cover household expenses during times when she does not earn much from working in agricultural lands due to poor seasons or potential losses.

Women are one of the society segments that strongly need support in the labor market. The conditions of war have imposed additional responsibilities and burdens on them that contradict their abilities and qualifications, according to Aliya.

She added that before the war, women were mainly concerned with family matters and raising children, especially in rural areas that maintain traditional lifestyles.

Mahassen Ismail (41 years old), residing in Amuda in Qamishli countryside, has a story similar to Aliya’s. She initially became involved in agriculture by cultivating grapevines on a small plot of land owned by her husband’s family.

Thanks to her experience in the field, she succeeded in developing and improving farming techniques and using agricultural tools. Afterward, she managed to cultivate other crops, such as wheat and achieved great success.

Mahassen found herself alone in supporting her two children, as her husband has health problems that prevent him from working.

She believes that agricultural work is her only option for making a living, considering the difficulty of finding other jobs. The income from agriculture is the main source for covering the educational expenses of her young children, who require substantial expenses to complete their education.

The daily wage for casual workers in the area ranges from 15,000 to 40,000 Syrian pounds, while the exchange rate of the US dollar against the Syrian pound is 14,200, according to the S-P Today website, which specializes in currency exchange rates.

Gender bias in employment

A study conducted by the Civil Society and Democracy Center on the status of women in non-governmental organizations in al-Hasakah governorate revealed that women face bias in the recruitment process, as selection is mostly directed towards men, which frequently excludes women from competitive opportunities.

In addition, it seems that civil organizations in al-Hasakah governorate do not initiate new projects to empower and qualify women in various fields of work, hindering the development of their skills and effective participation in different sectors.

The study emphasizes the importance of promoting gender equality in employment opportunities and providing the necessary support for women’s empowerment, especially in vocational training and skill development.

Neglecting women has a negative impact on their efficiency and opportunities. This reality may be the result of not giving opportunities for young women to enter the labor market and acquire skills, which is happening to a limited extent, according to the study.

36% of female workers are involved in agriculture

Reports from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) indicate that treating women equally in agricultural and food systems can have a tremendous positive impact on the global economy.

According to a report released last April, achieving gender equality in these systems could boost the global economy by a trillion US dollars.

It suggests that achieving gender equality in these sectors can reduce levels of food insecurity, potentially reducing the number of people suffering from food insecurity by 45 million.

The report shows that the percentage of female workers in agricultural and food systems represents 36% of total female workers worldwide, compared to 38% of males. However, women in these sectors suffer from marginalization, as they often have less stable working conditions compared to men.

Women’s work in these sectors is often irregular, part-time, low-skilled, or associated with manual labor.

The report also adds that the wage ratio for female workers in agriculture is approximately 82 cents for every US dollar earned by men in this sector.


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