Women-Led Synergy for Justice Advances Accountability for Syria

Work being done abroad by Synergy for Justice and its executive director Christy Fujio is enhancing justice and accountability for sexual violence and torture. 

Christy Fujio ( Image Credit: Synergy for Justice)

The conflict in Syria has been going on for roughly ten years now, with little sign of it ceasing. American media coverage has more or less moved on from shedding any light on the topic. Although the general populace has moved on, certain organizations and individuals remain hyper focused on what they can do to help ensure that survivors are supported and justice is achieved.

Synergy for Justice is one such organization. For more than six years, the organization has been working with local partners and lending a hand to the crisis. At the height of the violence, torture and detention in 2015, the organization was founded by Christy Fujio, Dr. Ingrid Elliott and Dr. Coleen Kivlahan. 

The organization divides the work they do into four main focuses. They are: advancing accountability for torture and sexual violence, enhancing gendered justice outcomes and protection, empowering people to advance human rights, and strenghthening anti-traficking interventions. 

Synergy for Justice has a collaborative programmatic approach to their involvement with local stakeholders. They provide training and other assistance to Syrian actors and organizations. Some of their partners include Lawyers and Doctors for Human Rights and Amal’s Healing and Advocacy Center.

Since many of the cases of torture and sexual violence will go before international courts and tribunals, the training and programming they provide follows the international standards and ensures that cases will be ready to meet those stringent requirements. For instance, they provide training on how to medically document torture and sexual violence cases, using the “Istanbul Protocol” which is the standard acknowledged worldwide. Doctors are given training on how to medically document cases and prepare them for court .  Lawyers receive specific mentoring and training on how to build their cases with the aforementioned medical documentation and in general. 

Further, training is given on how to best help survivors to receive protection, healing and justice. This requires a survivor-centric, gendered approach to ensure that needs are met and people are not re-traumatized. Promoting awareness to combat stigma is another programming and training focus for the organization. Building alliances with key stakeholders and service providers will lead to more support for survivors and help them to heal and re-build their lives. 

Human rights plays an important role in the work done by Synergy for Justice. The organization supports and strengthens initiatives driven by local people in ways that align with their needs and values, including through anti-stigma workshops; advocacy support; messaging development; capacity building of civil society and government actors; awareness raising; strategy development; strategic litigation; safety and security training; psychosocial support; awareness-raising; trial monitoring; protection monitoring; and support for legal reform  pursuit of justice and human rights. 

“Our founding ideology – that synergies exist in multidisciplinary approaches and maximise positive impact and outcomes for all parties involved – is the thread that links all of our work.  All Synergy initiatives, including capacity building, mentorship, development of tools, and provision of sustained support for local actors, capitalize on the expertise and diverse perspectives that a multidisciplinary team brings,” said founder Christy Fujio.

Prior to founding Synergy, Fujio and the team of women she works with had been working with other organizations to support justice initiatives related to the Syrian conflict. Fujio herself had specifically worked in international development prior to becoming a lawyer, and has more than 15 years of experience building and supporting global programs in diverse settings to improve access to justice and protection services, including medical, mental health, shelter, and livelihoods. 

She and her team founded the organization wanting to put the focus on working with Syrian actors, working to meet the specific needs they identified. They wanted to support world wide programs with the organization.

“Working with women, supporting them, and elevating their voices is critically important to our justice and accountability work,” said Fujio. “Without active female agency in investigation and documentation of crimes, gendered justice and consistent positive justice outcomes for women survivors cannot be achieved in any context.”

The organization has recently been expanding. They have now registered as a non-profit in  the Netherlands. Fujio says they are hoping to expand to other countries in the future as well.


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Author: Kimberly Pike

Kimberly Pike is a writer, artist and self proclaimed cat lady living in Rhode Island. She is passionately writing about women's issues and helping to teach others about it.

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