Two new CARE reports examine resilience and changing gender norms among Syrians

26 February 2020 – Nearly nine years of conflict have brought about sweeping and protracted changes in the lives of Syrian people. Syrians are adapting to a ‘new normal’ as it relates to new livelihood strategies, new ways of accessing education, and new gender roles. Syrian women, both inside Syria and who are refugees in neighboring countries, have entered the workforce in much larger numbers, and are doing jobs often seen as being only for men, according to two new CARE reports entitled Understanding resilience and Syrian refugee women’s roles.

Nirvana Shawky, Regional Director for CARE in the Middle East and North Africa, says:

The death, injury, disappearance, and displacement of Syrian men has forced many women to adapt their traditional roles. Syrian women have had to learn new skills, forge new social networks, and change the way they perceive their own roles, and rights. They now have more power, decision making authority, and, importantly, a voice.

Ambassador James Roscoe, Head of Open Societies and Partnerships at the UK Mission to the UN, says:

As we begin to start contemplating a post-conflict Syria, it is absolutely crucial that women are at the front and center of efforts to build a sustainable peace. The evidence clearly shows that when women are not front and center of such efforts, there can be no sustainable peace. But as the report shows, ensuring women’s participation even at the community level will not be an easy trajectory.

CARE’s Understanding resilience and Syrian refugee women’s roles studies similarly found that women are taking on roles they simply did not have before: roughly 72% of respondents of the study in Syria and 83% of women in the refugee study indicated having had at least one new livelihood strategy since the start of the conflict. Nirvana Shawky says:

Syrian women have shown a strong willingness and ability to adapt to the realities of their new situation. Their newfound confidence, strength, and sense of competency must be recognized and reinforced. More than ever, it is critical that we provide Syrian women with our collective support, as they overcome severe hardship. They are the key to their country’s future.

Understanding resilience: Perspectives from Syrians identifies social capital as the most critical and consistently cited source of support from families and individuals facing conflict-related shocks and disruptions to their lives. Social networks are an indispensable safety net. In the midst of active conflict, people relied on one another to absorb shocks, stay safe and survive. People who have strong social networks in a location that they have been displaced to are more likely to effectively adapt to that new location.

In Syrian refugee women’s roles, many women report increased confidence and influence in family decision making, as both “the breadwinner” and “mother and father”. This has also brought about new feelings of empowerment and independence, and has changed some views on marriage and degree of agency they have in making decisions about their relationships. But this dual role also brings stress and exhaustion, as women fulfil both the role of full-time breadwinner, as well as primary caregiver and homemaker. This has compounded the psycho-social stress associated with nine years of conflict and for many, repeated displacement.

On the other hand, some women interviewed indicated a desire to return to the traditional role they had always imagined for themselves. While change was necessary for survival, there continue to be many pressures from both family and community for women to return to more traditional roles.

The studies also found that many women both inside and outside Syria reported that they found the change in their roles difficult, but positive, indicating that they were mostly happy to have the opportunities to work and earn income for themselves, despite the ensuing intense pressures. Working and contributing income has vastly increased the confidence of many women and their belief in their own abilities. Overwhelmingly, these women have a new-found sense of confidence, competence, and empowerment that needs support, whether it is exhibited in women as leaders outside the home, or as strong, confident women inside the home.


Notes to editors:

  • CARE carried out field research between April 2018 to August 2019 to further examine resilience strategies and challenges among Syrians affected by war, and to understand how to effectively support those capacities to ultimately enhance resilience. Overall, this research represents the views and experiences of 382 Syrians, including 214 women, residing in 11 Syrian governorates, as well as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
  • CARE has been providing aid in Syria since 2014, and has reached more than 5 million people so far. Over the last year, CARE has reached more than 1 million people in Syria, including more than 650,000 women. Our work is focused on food security, livelihoods, women’s economic empowerment, shelter, water and sanitation, maternal and reproductive health support, and psychosocial support for people in crisis.
  • About CARE: Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty and providing lifesaving assistance in emergencies. In 100 countries around the world, CARE places special focus on working alongside poor girls and women who are often disproportionately affected by disasters. Equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to help lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty.

For interviews, please contact: Fatima Azzeh, Senior Communications Manager for the Syria Crisis,, +962 79 711 7414

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