Improving the safety conditions and reducing the risk of gender-based violence in Syria


    March 22, 2022


    Together with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Signify Foundation provided solar-powered portable lights to approximately 11,000 households in rural and urban areas in Syria as it strives to help protect women and girls against gender-based violence (GBV).


    More than ten years after the civil war started, Syria still deals with one of the world’s most complex humanitarian crises, characterized by persisting high levels of displacement and widespread destruction of infrastructure, including homes, schools, health facilities, water and electricity supply and irrigation systems. Today, a harsh economic crisis comes on top of all this. This crisis leaves13.4 million people in Syria in desperate need of humanitarian assistance - a 21% increase compared to 2020.1


    One of the striking issues of this crisis is the continued gender-based impact, with women and adolescent girls paying a high price for harmful and discriminatory gender norms, including gender-based violence. What increases the gender-based violence is the status of many of the girls and women. An estimated 11% of households in Syria are currently headed by a woman due to divorce or the death of their husbands.2 This results in systemic discrimination in a context where they are already disadvantaged in the employment market and face an economic crisis that makes vital goods such as food unaffordable. 


    In many cases, the consequences of systemic discrimination against divorced and widowed girls and women have long-term consequences on them, creating a vicious cycle of further increasing the risks of gender-based violence, or homelessness.3

    UNFPA assessed Internally Displaced People (IDPs) sites, including camps and temporary shelters, and found that lack of adequate lighting at facilities and in public spaces, long distances to the facilities as well as the lack of privacy, and the fear of physical and sexual violence on the way to water, sanitation and health care facilities or even at home, are significant concerns for girls and women.


    To enable a safer environment for the vulnerable population, during 2020 and 2021, UNFPA, together with Syrian Family Planning Association in Duma and Empowerment Center for Women in Damascus, distributed the solar-powered lanterns to approximately 11,000 households in 20 locations across Homs, Hama, Lattakia, Tartous and rural Damascus. Sites have been selected in close coordination with UNFPA partners based on needs.

    We suffer from permanent power outages, and we are afraid a lot at night. This light is very useful as it will help me and all mothers to take care of our children at night. It is also important for the elderly people because it will help them move around in the house at night without any fear."

    Om Kareem
    a resident of Duma in rural Damascus

    UNFPA made sure the solar-powered lanterns were distributed to the most vulnerable people in the community, prioritizing pregnant and lactating women, elderly people, women with disabilities and households that have a woman at their head.


    UNFPA and Signify Foundation also provided solar-powered lights to facilities that are supported by UNFPA, including Reproductive Health Clinics and Women and Girls Safe Spaces. During the distribution, these centers also organized awareness sessions on gender-based violence, family planning, antenatal and postnatal care, COVID-19, menstrual hygiene management, and on how these lamps can support them in their daily lives.

    During the distribution of solar-powered lanterns - I

    We were previously depending on sulphur and wax [for lighting] which is expensive and unsafe, and it gets harder when you have children and a sick husband,” adds Om Omar, a mother of 9 children, who had to leave her house for 4 years and then returned to Kafer Battna in the Damascus countryside. “Most of our homes are Arab homes and our homes are partially demolished, and we face a lot of difficulties while we go out at night. These lamps will help me, my children and my injured husband to go out at night and feel safe."

    This collaboration improves the women’s general sense of safety and enables a better response during emergencies. Now they feel safer when they need to access to basic facilities such as water, sanitation, and healthcare after dark.


    Solar-powered lanterns also enable family members, especially elderly people, to move around the house more safely, children to do their homework and play, and women to breastfeed more easily. Moreover, the women can now safely cook and access other services and facilities, as well as visit family and friends in the evening.

    During the distribution of solar-powered lanterns - II

    This project again illustrates the value that energy and lighting solutions have in a humanitarian context. It also shows the unique power that partnerships between UN agencies and corporate foundations can provide by combining an enabling technology with in-depth community reach and commitment.


    Read UNPFA’s report here:





    About the author:

    Kinda Katranji

    Kinda Katranji

    Communication Analyst, UNFPA - Syria Office


    About Signify


    Signify (Euronext: LIGHT) is the world leader in lighting for professionals, consumers and the Internet of Things. Our Philips products, Interact systems and data-enabled services, deliver business value and transform life in homes, buildings and public spaces. In 2023, we had sales of EUR 6.7 billion, approximately 32,000 employees and a presence in over 70 countries. We unlock the extraordinary potential of light for brighter lives and a better world. We have been in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index since our IPO for seven consecutive years and have achieved the EcoVadis Platinum rating for four consecutive years, placing Signify in the top one percent of companies assessed. News from Signify can be found in the Newsroom, on X, LinkedIn and Instagram. Information for investors is located on the Investor Relations page.

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