“Too often we see support going to the same people —instead of to women on the ground who are doing the real work.”
Researcher and social entrepreneur. Kholoud is a researcher and consultant at CanDo International, a non-profit social enterprise empowering local humanitarians responding to the crisis on the ground in Syria by connecting them to direct funding and resources. Kholoud was formerly a senior academy fellow at the International Security Department at Chatham House and worked as a senior consultant for the Local to Global Protection Initiative (L2GP). She grew up in Syria, and now lives in Europe.
How did you begin your career?
It started while I was in Syria where I worked for the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration agency. I worked with Iraqi refugees in Syria, and then later went on to work with Syrian refugees in other countries.
What is the focus of your research?
I have been researching the international and UN system and how these agencies have been replicating the same mistakes in every conflict and every war. Despite the rhetoric of “localization” and how important it is to include local actors in the resolution of wars and conflicts, in practice this has not happened.
Can you speak about your past research findings?
We found that 75% of the humanitarian work implemented in Syria is being done by Syrians themselves, yet they only receive 1% of direct humanitarian funding flow – this contrast is startling. While the Syrian humanitarian actors are actually risking their lives and working on the ground to save more lives, they are ignored by the international funding system.
What is the best model for funding—and if people want to donate for humanitarian aid what is the best channel?
There are so many creative channels. I have been working with CanDo to create the first crowd-funding humanitarian platform where people can choose their campaign and donate to programs on the ground that are locally driven and led inside Syria. The goal of this program is to engage people and avoid the multi layers of the humanitarian aid system, where funding goes to intermediaries rather than the people actually making a difference.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
As a Syrian, it is difficult to think about the future and what I can do, we face so many barriers and limitations. The international community has put Syrians in limbo regardless of where we live and what we do. For example, I cannot work in the neighbouring countries of Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, even though I can add value to their economy. Most of us do not know where we will be in the next five years. Ideally, I would like to work for a large organization that has the vision and means to change the current system. I would also like to focus more on my writing.
What do you think is the most important thing that must be done going forward to achieve peace in Syria?
The most important thing is the real engagement of the Syrian people, starting with women. Syrian women have proven time and again that they are the ones making real change on the ground. But their efforts go unrecognized and unsupported. Too often we see support going to the same people—instead of to women on the ground who are doing the real work. We need to start shifting the agency, and look beyond the same names to truly empower those doing the hard work on the ground.