Co-Leadership Model of North and East Syria Means Women Lead at Highest Levels

This report was published by Syrian Democratic Times on 8 March, 2021

How has North and East Syria achieved a higher rate of women’s participation in government than even countries like Germany, France, and the United States? Through the region’s co-leadership model, a policy of inclusion of women at the highest levels.

In North and East Syria, women lead at the highest levels of government thanks to the co-leadership model. They hold these roles not as tokens, but as decision-makers, respected voices, and influential thinkers. They hope to inspire women everywhere across the world.

The co-leadership model of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) requires that each position of power be held by two people of different genders. No position is held by just one person alone. The model has brought more women into public office than ever before. It has been written into the constitution of the Syrian Democratic Council that a minimum of 40 percent of all government positions be held by women. 

The co-leadership model acknowledges that in the Middle East, systemic oppression has historically prevented women from seeing themselves as leaders. Systemic oppression has kept girls from getting educated and becoming literate. Systemic oppression has pressured women and girls into staying silent even in their own families, and not exercise their power as leaders.

The women of North and East Syria are playing a leading role in international diplomacy. Photo (left to right): Ms. Ilham Ahmed, President of the Executive Committee of the Syrian Democratic Council; Ms. Sinam Sherkany Mohamad, Co-Chair, US Mission of the Syrian Democratic Council; Ms. Elezabeth Gawrie, Deputy to Head of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES).

The co-leadership model pulls women into important roles. These are women who may never have seen themselves as decision-makers before. Now, because it is a requirement that women must be represented, women are given permission to step forward and step into a public role in their world. This is justice, and this is radical inclusion.

Everywhere across North and East Syria, women are rising to the challenge. They have shown their strength and capacity — in every role, from the highest government offices to farmers and members of economic cooperatives. The co-leadership model brings women’s minds and judgment, women’s experience and power and empathy, women’s new thinking and new problem-solving, as women in North and East Syria begin to shape the world.