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World

Helping Syrian Women Adjust To Life Without Men

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Many men in Syria have died in the civil war. Others are imprisoned or exiled. Women left behind must now support their families and rebuild. An education center in the rebel-held province of Idlib is trying to help women take on new roles. It's called Women Now for Development, and we spoke with the center's director, Muznah al-Jundi. We reached her earlier this week at her home in Idlib.

Miss al-Jundi, thank you so much for being with us.

MUZNAH AL-JUNDI: (Speaking Arabic).

SIMON: What do you try to teach women?

AL-JUNDI: (Through interpreter) In our centers in the towns of Maarrat al-Nu'man and Saraqib, we work on helping women on economic and on psychologic levels.

SIMON: What kind of skills do you try and teach - specific jobs?

AL-JUNDI: (Through interpreter) We have a variety of courses that we provide. For example, with our computer classes, we teach women Photoshop, internet security, English courses with different levels, French and Arabic and also math. We also have a skill-building program to help women become leaders in our society, so it's a leadership program.

SIMON: Is it difficult to try and help women take on a new role in their families and society?

AL-JUNDI: (Through interpreter) Our, centers were received very warmly because we were one of very few centers who provided opportunities to women and girls in Syria. Under the Assad regime, it's very difficult for women and girls to get opportunities. So especially among women, our centers were received very warmly. Maybe there is some pushback, but I would say generally, we don't have a social problem with that, especially after the revolution. There is an acceptance to women taking leadership programs in Syria.

SIMON: What is life like in Idlib now?

AL-JUNDI: (Through interpreter) Everyone is really worried and anxious. Since we came back home to Maarat al-Nu'man after the ceasefire took effect, we've been really worried. We're waiting for the unknown.

SIMON: Are you concerned with the Assad regime remaining in power?

AL-JUNDI: (Through interpreter) Of course I'm concerned. As people who oppose the Assad regime, we would be targeted if this regime took over Idlib or Maarat al-Nu'man, where I live. We would be definitely killed. So of course I'm very concerned.

SIMON: What does the province of Idlib need?

AL-JUNDI: (Through interpreter) What we want is stability. What we want is stability and peace. We want to live in peace, especially after we fought this long to be free people without the control of the Assad regime. We want our children to go to school without fear. We want to live in our homes, rather than living in camps. So that's what our - basically, what everyone needs to see now.

SIMON: Do you hope your work can change attitudes about women in Syria?

AL-JUNDI: (Through interpreter) We have operated for the last five years, and we have one dream. And our dream is to empower women to make the change that we want to see. This continues to be our dream.

SIMON: Muznah al-Jundi, director of the Women Now for Development Center in Idlib province in Syria. Thank you so much for being with us.

AL-JUNDI: Thank you.

SIMON: And thank you to our interpreter, Raed Jarrar.

RAED JARRAR: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.