Syria Also Has Its Leaders
Every week, Amera Malik travels some 100 kilometres back and forth between her hometown of al-Nabek city and Damascus. There she heads for the Syrian International Academy in the neighbourhood of al-Mezzeh where she has been studying for five months for a diploma in international relations. Amera is keen not to miss her weekly classes, whatever the circumstances.
The 32-year-old, who already has a degree in political science, dreams of becoming one of the future leaders of Syria. Although like most Syrian women she grew up in a male-dominated society that rarely supports the aspirations of girls and women, she is absolutely certain that it is her destiny to play a future leadership role in her society.
Amera grew up in al-Nabek city, the largest and most important city in the Syrian region of Qalamun. Amera said that her family had had a great influence on her personality and the choices she had made in both her studies and her work.
Her father was largely absent but her mother’s strong personal support for Amera and her sisters gave them the freedom to make their own decisions and choose their path in life.
“My childhood, which was the result of the exceptional circumstances in which I lived, contributed to the growth of my leadership skills and a high sense of responsibility, thanks to my mother who supported these tendencies in my personality,” Amera said.
Amera became particularly interested in community leaders and politicians during middle and secondary school. She researched them and their lives, and decided that she would be a Syrian diplomat one day.
As a result, Amera went on to study political science and graduated in 2009. She worked in a variety of fields to develop her knowledge of citizenship, advocacy, conflict resolution and negotiation as well as women’s rights, especially those related to Law 1325 and CEDAW. She became a well-known trainer in these fields and worked as a coordinator for several related schemes, such as the Leader project in Damascus and as-Suwayda and for several media campaigns within Syria.
As a result of her work, Amera became deputy mayor of al-Nabek in 2012, the first woman to hold this position. She was elected to the local council along with 23 other men out of 70 candidates, only four of whom were women. Her work was far from easy. The chauvinistic treatment from some co-workers made her try even harder to establish herself during her first months in the office.
Amera has also held several positions including the executive director of the Syrian Peacemaking Forum and the director and founder of Radio Souriat, operating inside Syria since 2014.
Amera’s love and passion for community work and leadership in Syria is obvious to her family, friends and wider circles.
Her friend Randa said, “She has faith in what she does and dedication to her work. She has a great potential for giving and an ability to face challenges that can’t defeat someone with the power of Amera.”
Randa goes on to describe Amera as someone “who managed to overcome the harshness of society and to transform the ridiculous restrictions imposed on women into tools that have set an example for many around her, something which hasn’t changed even amid the current war, destruction and despair”.
Ahmed, another friend, describes her character as “social and active”, adding that she is “enthusiastic and able to spread enthusiasm and optimism around her and more importantly she is confident in her work and ideas and able to conduct discussions and dialogues in a smart, diplomatic way that satisfies all parties.
“She knows exactly what she wants from life and seeks to achieve her dreams no matter how tired or desperate she is. She has a tremendous ability to gather her power, move on and defeat all circumstances,” he concluded.
Amera’s experiences of discrimination have also reflected those of many other Syrians in recent years.
“Three years ago, I was trying to get admission to the Master’s degree in International Relations at the university of Damascus, but I always got rejected. The public reason was my GPA and the hidden reason were my views and political opinion,” Amera said, adding that she dreamt of getting a doctorate. “I can get one outside Syria but I remain committed to staying inside my country, despite all the personal pressures that have affected my work and many aspects of my life in one way or another.”
Today, with her ongoing work in the field of community development and public affairs, Amera believes that while she has achieved some of her dreams she still has much to achieve and work for.
“I hope that I can stay in Syria and use all my accumulated knowledge to build a better Syria,” she said. “It deserves sacrifices and now needs us more than ever.”