Empowered Syrian women are paying it forward

Empowered Syrian women are paying it forward

08/10/2019

The crisis in Syria has left increasing numbers of women as the sole breadwinners and heads of their households. In rural areas, employment opportunities for women are limited. One way rural women can boost their livelihoods is to process food for sale by building small-scale businesses, either independently or with their neighbours.

Each governorate has unique ways of making jams, pickles, pepper molasses and other authentic Syrian foods. These foods are seen as essential for every Syrian house, and “homemade” is widely considered best. Selling homemade foods provides a good business opportunity, however, the challenge of generating an income from selling these foods and reaching a wider, local market is producing a large quantity in a systematic way, while maintaining traditions and respecting food standards.

FAO recognized the need to train rural women on key success factors in selling food products, namely production standards, branding, marketing and bookkeeping to ensure that rural women can earn a profit from processing food. With support from the Government of Japan, FAO offered intensive training programmes on food processing for female technicians as part of the “Women’s empowerment” project. Women technicians will then pass their knowledge on to vulnerable, rural women. Women’s enrolment in these programmes will give them access to resources and knowledge, as well as improve their skills and capabilities.

The FAO training courses on standardized food processing practices has encouraged young female technicians employed at the Rural Women Empowerment Department (RWED) to enhance their technical knowledge on food production. Razan Al Khoury, a 27-year-old technician at RWED, attended the training that took place at the Faculty of Agriculture at Damascus University. “We were trained on food production and standards to support rural women. We were taught how to make apple and orange jam by using simple techniques, which will work for rural women,” said Razan, who will later visit other governorates, such as Lattakia, Rural Damascus and Hama to train rural women.

“I have high expectations, I am confident that women will respond positively when I share the instructions I learned from this training. I believe that rural women should have the information we received to make their lives better through their small-scale food processing enterprises,” she stated. Razan added that she wants to influence rural women to become stronger and to be flexible with the ingredients and resources that they have on hand to produce a variety of food items. The positive response of the young technicians shows their willingness to support vulnerable women to become self-reliant, using food processing skills based on scientifically-approved standards.