Women from Rojava are also leading in the economic field

This report was published by ANF English on 9 March, 2024

With 78 cooperatives, women also play a leading role in building a solidarity economy in Rojava. The construction of the economy takes place under war conditions.

The Rojava Revolution is a radical democratic revolution that sees itself as a counter-model to capitalist modernity. This is also evident in practice. In this way, a solidarity-based economy is being built step by step in the region. Women’s cooperatives play a dual role, on the one hand, in the economic empowerment of women and, on the other hand, in the democratization of the economy.

The economic policy spokeswoman for the Women’s Congress of Northern and Eastern Syria Kongra Star, Gûlê Murad, emphasized that the economic model of Rojava is not a novelty, but the construction and organization of women’s economy is something completely new. One must remember that the development of women’s economy took place under war conditions. Murad told ANF in this interview. She added: “We strive to adapt and develop our cooperatives to the conditions of war in order to defend the achievements of women and to take ever further steps forward.”

With the Rojava Revolution, women began to participate in political, social, military and economic life. Under the leadership of Kongra Star, an organized women’s economy was officially created in 2015. This women’s economy continued to develop and grow despite setbacks caused by war and thought structures based on the old system. In Dêrik, Tirbêspiyê, Girke Legê, Amûdê, Qamişlo, Hesekê, Dirbêsiyê, Şedadê, Til Temir, Kobanê, Şehba, Tebqa and Raqqa, around 500 women work in agricultural cooperatives on around 63,000 hectares of land. The number may seem small, but if one includes the families that live on the women’s income, you get many times over. 131 women work in various cooperative projects such as bakeries, restaurants, tailors and shops. There are a total of 78 women’s cooperatives, 51 of which are in agriculture, two in canned food production and 25 shop and bakery cooperatives.

The result of a great battle

Murad spoke about the period before the revolution and said: “The economy was seen as a field reserved only for men. Therefore, women did not see the field of economics as their own. It was only through great struggle that we managed to attract women to the business sector. We moved from house to house, had one discussion after another and got to where we are today. The women were confined to their homes and acted within the limits set for them. If we look at it historically, the field of economics is a field that was peculiar to women, but over time it became a field from which women were most separated.”

Building an economy reduces refugee movements

Murad underlined the importance of officially organizing the women’s economy and pointed out that this was the only way to mitigate the refugee movement: “Women are now producing their own products and setting up cooperatives. They now make decisions in the area of economics and are real pioneers. One of our goals was to stop migration from the region through economic development, and we were able to achieve this goal. Women’s participation in the economy and the development of the women’s economy has encouraged women to explore new areas of life. We also take the policy of women’s self-sufficiency as a basis. By involving women in the economy, we have also ensured their economic freedom. We have strengthened their ties to the land through agricultural cooperatives. We cannot say that we have created a perfect economy that has reached all women, but it is clear that great strides have been made.”

Municipal economy adapted to the needs of life

Murad spoke about the intensive involvement of women in the economic development process, and said: “Before the revolution, there were working women, but this did not go beyond the civil service. They did their work for a few hours and then were locked back in the house. Women had no economic freedom, no say in the household. They were completely in the clutches of the patriarchy. Women, who had a say in the economy as in all areas of life, pioneered the economy, participated freely in life, and created a social economic model. In this way, a municipal economy could be built according to the needs of life.”

Strategic perspective on ecological energy production and self-sufficiency

Underlining that the development of the women’s economy based on a strategic perspective is achieving success, Murad said: “We used to develop the women’s economy only through agriculture, we waited for the rain and tried to promote economic development. As a women’s economy, we focus on agricultural cooperatives, but we have come to the conclusion that there should be a more strategic focus. We have recognized the need to create a solar energy system because we value a more advanced, comprehensive and self-sufficient system, and we will strengthen our organization in this regard. Water wells have also been drilled in every city, because if our agricultural cooperatives stagnate, we will have difficulty developing our other projects. If we develop in the area of agriculture, we will consolidate the foundations of the economy.”

Strengthening cooperatives

In the last year, in particular, the role of cooperatives has been strengthened. New water wells were drilled in Şedadê, Til Temir, Hesekê, Dirbêsiyê and Cizîrê. Murad said: “About 8,000 fruit trees were planted. The 25 existing bakeries and shops were strengthened. Agricultural cooperatives to support the family economy were organized in suitable locations. New training courses have also been set up.”

The attacks don’t stop

The cooperatives also suffer from the Turkish attacks on the infrastructure. These attacks were particularly aimed at destroying the economy in the region. Murad said: “As a women’s economy, we are creating an alternative form of production. And this work takes place under attack. Our economic model is not a novelty, but it is new in terms of the organization of the women’s economy. We strive to adapt and develop our cooperatives to wartime conditions in order to defend women’s achievements and take further steps forward. The economic achievements will increase the level of prosperity of society and eliminate dependence on foreign countries. Despite the various attacks, we will continue to work for the development of the economy and the development of the women-led economy for the benefit of society.”