⇒ On YouTube ⇒ playlist
In Syria now, it is a time of division, violence and suffering. When we were there in November 2010 and in August 2011, we recorded many stories of cooperation and development. Nowadays, only sad and violent stories are narrated about this wonderful country. What then shall we do with these stories we collected in Syria in what now seems to be a different "age" altogether? Well, we decided to re-edit the videos we had made, include them in the Handbook we are developing and share them through the Internet. These videos will help us remember what Syria was before the civil war. And we hope that these stories will help restore trust amongst communities in Syria, and build, amongst those who love this country, the motivation to do whatever they can to restore peace and cooperation.
The Village Business Incubator project was one component of a vast cooperation program between EU and Syria aimed at expanding mutual trade, but included also social development, policy modernization and the protection of the cultural heritage. In 2012 the EU has suspended the cooperation with the Syrian Government; but the projects with Syrian civil society are continuing.
The village of Ein El Tineh is located in Lattakia, one of the poorest provinces of Syria. The high level of male migration here, has led to women becoming self-confident as independent economic actors. Here, between 2009-2011 two non-government women's organisations implemented a project of international cooperation - AIDOS, an Italian organisation and Firdos, a Syrian organisation. Through this project, village women had been assisted in enhancing their business and other livelihood skills.
In many developing countries, women generally work more than men but they are mainly employed in the least paid and most wearisome jobs where they are exploited by bosses that are largely male. However, it has been widely acknowledged that, in the rural areas, small enterprises run by women are more efficient and more innovative than those run by men. This is because traditionally women are more motivated to re-invest profits in new income generating activities while men more often tend to "drink" up their earnings in fast consumption; or "burn" them up in competitive power fights. So, when women take more leadership in local development, we generally see greater prosperity for the whole community, with children and the elderly receiving a larger share of the benefits.
Managed by Firdos and AIDOS, this international cooperation project received substantial grants from the European Union and led to the development of a model of rural incubators for small enterprises; incubators that are managed by women and mainstreamed into major policy programmes aimed at developing rural areas across Syria and the Middle East. Although, in many areas, there is a strong cultural resistance to women becoming decision makers in previously male dominated sectors, the urgent need for economic development is giving way to the acceptance of much-in-demand managers that are, (surprisingly?) the rural women.
By leveraging on the entrepreneurial capacity of women, it is possible to trigger a process of cultural transformation that allows more women to access skills and education and to become social decision makers. The good news is that a more empowered woman stimulates a virtuous circle of stronger and healthier families, which then set the stage for more prosperous and peaceful communities.
On the contrary, oppressing women will generate a vicious circle of weaker families that set the stage for poorer and more violent societies. The spiral of violence and misery is the kind of bad news that is, unfortunately, setting the stage now in Syria and getting into news headlines across the world.
On YouTube ⇒ Village Business Incubator - playlist