Investing in the occupational dignity of east Aleppo women: an ethical and responsible choice

Women at the Business Core is a Pro Terra Sancta project reserved to a peculiar selection of donors: companies and corporations. In a fairly economical and sanitary critical situation, helping to create an occupational dignity for a very frail group of beneficiaries in the even frailer Syrian society, is a courageous act and an important affirmation of intent. We talked about the issue with the project manager Teresa Cinquina.

Teresa, could you explain us the context where “Women at the Business Core” was developed?

Our new project focuses on east Aleppo neighborhoods in Syria, one of the most depressed areas of the city since it was under the control of the opposition to the Government from 2012 ‘till 2016. The battle of Aleppo in 2016 is the apex of a violent phase for Syria and east Aleppo blocks were the main target of the bombing meant to suppress the militia as more than 70% of the buildings was destroyed. With the militia it was the women and their kids to be bombed, those women that, willing or forced, were took as brides in order to regrow the Islamic state population as per propaganda. These “jihad brides”, usually teenagers coming from a very poor and uncultured background, were left with no protection or future in 2016 when Aleppo was conquered again by the State. The UN granted the militia an humanitarian corridor to flee North toward Idlib whilst their women and kids where left distrained. Many mother chose not to recognize or register their children as the feared the bullying coming from their linkage to the jihad. Meanwhile those unwanted children were growing and seeking repair into the ruins. In 2017 the phenomenon was denounced by Muftì Mahmoud Khan and ft. Firas took action by founding two rehabilitation centers for those unanimous forgotten kids. He ignited a children recognition process and made many women register their “sons of the sin” in order to let them be part of basic state services as the scholastic and sanitary system. Meanwhile we were also able to provide psychological support and rehabilitation to both mothers and kids but this is only the first step towards a way more complex action plan.

A very important first step indeed. Pro Terra Sancta is currently shifting its attention from children to women support. What type of activities are you proposing to help them?

Yes, supporting kids is not enough. Since 2018 our Association coordinated and fosters projects concerning Aleppo’s mothers in order to make them self-sufficient. We offer them sanitary and psychological assistance: many of these women were raped and mentally abused both from the militia and their families, as they were identified as sinners. They were rejected and marginalized by their society. We already have alphabetization courses for kids entering school but usually is their mother having problem in communicating as they are analphabets and they risk to stay emarginated. That’s why we started Arabic courses for adults and “life skills” courses, meaning all the abilities needed to comprehend and interact with people. Now is the time to help these women follow their own career path and help them open and manage with profitability their own business. They need to regain their dignity and their role in the society.

Why proposing corporates to finance this project?

We think that there’s no better responder than businesses. We are currently living a very delicate moment: 101.000 people unemployed due to coronavirus  and 98% of them are women. This is exactly why we want to open a dialogue with those who really know how important is to work, with those making sacrifices in order to grant their employees a secure job. During the pandemic personal difficulties became everyone’s difficulties and the awareness towards gender gap and women un-employment has risen. This is the best moment to invest in marginalized and underestimated human resources: the women from east Aleppo joining our professional formation program are extremely motivated in professionally succeed. They really want to be able to maintain themselves and their kids but, most importantly, they want to regain their dignity, that dignity the militia took away. They are formidable and secure economic propellers and we are already thinking about activating a micro-credit program. Businesses financing our program “Women at the Business Core” will be part of a group building solidarity bridges between those that are now working and those that will work in the future. Companies giving these women a chance will contribute to the economic and social development of Aleppo, Syria and the world. They will assess themselves as sensible to the role of women in businesses and they will set a positive and relevant example for competitors. 

What other benefits will Businesses get by financing “Women at the Business Core”?

Promoting corporations and companies will have a real and measurable social impact with socio-economical sustainability and gender equality outcomes. We are transparent and accountable for how we use the funds we raise. Clearly, there are major tax deductions to consider when financing our project (see: https://www.proterrasancta.org/wp-content/uploads/2003-promemoria-Benefici-Fiscali-agg-2-mar-2020.pdf ). Becoming one of our donors means also your contribute will be advertised online and offline on our main communication channels in a differentiated way based on the amount of the contribution itself. The program we designed for this very frail and vulnerable group of women is a complete one: to the professional formation phase will follow an occupational integration or the eventual opening of a business to whose we will contribute by helping in its management. We are indeed hoping to improve the project with a corporate volunteering program concerning tutoring and advisory whenever the situation in Syria will be favorable. This implementation will be offered to our benefactors as an opportunity to challenge and train their employees in problem-solving efficiently while facing difficulties and with very few resources. “Women at the the Business Core” is a grate social responsible and ethical investment. The women of east Aleppo are only waiting for you to give them a chance to regain a dignity for themselves and their children.

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