General Women's Union of Syria

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Also called the GWU, the General Women's Union is the major women's political organization in Syria.

The GWU was founded in 1967 by a consortium of women's groups. The organization is funded by the government and has developed projects focusing on children and education. The union is divided into fourteen branches throughout Syria, which assist associations and centers that deal with women's and children's issues and promote the active participation of women working in and outside the home.

The main focus of the GWU is to promote women's rights, to involve women effectively in the public sphere, and to end the exclusion of women and their marginalization in Syrian society. It has established child care centers, kindergartens, and vocational training and income-generating centers that train adult women in various skills and then sell the resulting products.

Internationally, the union has forged close ties with women's organizations throughout the Arab world. These groups meet, exchange ideas, share experiences, and prepare new strategies to improve women's lives in the region and allow them fuller participation. The union also works closely with the United Nations and international nongovernmental organizations. The GWU put together the National Syrian Women's Strategy, whose guidelines are based on the platform of the 1995 Beijing Conference for Women. The program is a plan of action, dealing with the implementation of various proposals from 1995 to 2005, when the next international conference on women is scheduled to convene.

Members of the union also participate in political debates about the Israeli occupation, the Palestinian situation, and the war in South Lebanon. Some of the GWU's strategies include: researching laws and legislation that deal with women, their citizenship rights and responsibilities, and any discrepancies between the ideals of equality and the current realities; working to ensure that laws are in place to protect and promote women and their human rights, and that they are enforced at all levels of government; helping women understand their rights and responsibilities and providing them with the knowledge and support they need to make the most of their opportunities; addressing social issues as poverty, health care, education, and family planning and their effect on women; enhancing women's ability to participate in decision-making at the national level and at home; and eradicating gender-related stereotypes that place women at a disadvantage.

See also Gender: Gender and Law; Gender: Gender and Politics; Syria.


Al-Ahram Weekly On-line no. 508 (1622 November 2000). Available from <>.

Machreq/Maghreb Gender Linking and Information Project. Available from <>.

"Syrian National Committee of Women's Affairs Post-Beijing." Arab Women Connect. Available from <>.

"Syria: Women in Public Life." United Nations Development Programme, Arab Region. Available from <>.

Mirna Lattouf

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General Women's Union of Syria

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