Amidst the long-running war, the labor market’s downturn, unfair wages, and exploitation, many Syrians are looking for jobs and education that offer temporary solutions and access to the most basic living conditions. Now, a group of Syrian women has capitalized on the availability of the internet, social media, and smartphones, succeeding in finding new ways to improve their circumstances, in defiance of the hardship that the war has imposed on them.
Social activist Salam al-Mustafa, a feminist researcher, said that the war forced many women to become providers for their families. They began to look for job options adapted to their individual circumstances, with many succeeding in creating their own business. In doing so, they are taking advantage of the “social media revolution” that allows everyone to become entrepreneurs, share information, and establish different businesses.
“This phenomenon has helped many women to prove their competence in a variety of areas that have sometimes been closed off to them. However, many challenges still remain to their online commerce efforts — the most important of which are lack of experience and their work online not being considered a viable job alternative,” Salam said in an exclusive interview with SY-24.
Many Syrians are grappling with the growing unemployment crisis, the sharp devaluation of the Syrian pound, and poor living conditions — overlaid with an astronomical rise in prices. Many women have resorted to the internet, heading to create Facebook pages that appear more like a global brand, which has become a source of income for them.
Laila began by sharing photos of her products — including clothing, shoes, and leather bags — with Facebook friends. She explained: “I recently joined many public marketing pages and forums, and eventually I started receiving a large response from customers. At the beginning, my work was limited to dealing only with female customers. I provided set prices for products, with an additional charge for home delivery. But now I am expanding my product range to target all types of customers.”
Laila continued that she intensifies her offers during certain seasons, especially the holidays. She makes clear profits for each piece, sometimes reaching double the cost price or even more. She adds: “We contract with wholesalers for a limited number of products to make sure that our goods are exclusive. This helps us gain the confidence of customers who depend on us to provide clothes and shoes that suit their tastes.”
“E-commerce solves many problems, especially for housewives and workers who do not have enough time to search for clothes and shoes. In normal commerce, they may end up buying products that they are not happy with, due to high prices and limited options. The situation is different with e-commerce because customers choose what they want and buy it immediately,” she said.
“The beginning was difficult, especially with the scarcity of customers. Many potential clients do not trust the photos of products that we place online and in brochures — indeed, most questioned their quality. But I have overcome this problem with a lot of patience and promotion for my goods and harnessing the knowledge of the community around me. My customer base has increased, especially after many clients visited me at home,” said Souad, in an interview with SY-24. “They could experience my products’ quality for themselves, which increased their confidence in my entire product range.”
Unprecedented high prices and loss of breadwinners for many Syrian families have reversed the previous status quo, placing more responsibility on women — many of whom find themselves in difficult living conditions.
“In the traditional community makeup of Syria, there was no real presence of women breadwinners, except in very few cases and under certain circumstances,” said researcher Reem Sabbagh.
Sabbagh pointed out that the work of women in e-commerce is a positive phenomenon because it saves time, effort and provides free marketing opportunities. “E-commerce is better for women than working as a sales representative, wandering from house to house, to display her goods,” she said. Sabbagh added that e-commerce is “more attractive than opening a shop in terms of cost and the potential for free marketing. Moreover, e-commerce represents the surest and easiest way to reach customers under Syria’s current circumstances.”
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.