Submitted by: Hatem Efe, Protection Program Manager
Email: [email protected]
Introduction to the project
Turkey, Southeast Anatolia Hatay Province
The project lasted between February 7th- October 31st, 2018. The activities were included in the following project, funded by a different donor, in 2019.
The project consists in training women and girls regarding their rights. These trainees are then empowered to disseminate this information in their communities. 16 volunteer women supported the project and a total of 1276 people were reached.
The project aimed to combat gender-based violence that refugee women and girls face in semi-urban and rural areas of Turkey. Specifically, it taught them about their rights concerning marriage, divorce, and legal aid. It also made them aware of their sexual rights and available protection services.
In compliance with the multi-stakeholder and partnership approach of the GCR, the project actively engaged refugee women by putting them at the center of project activities. Since the refugees participated voluntarily, the project was able to build on existing community structures and capacities.
Through this community-based approach, the project empowered refugee women to independently access services, creating a sustainable impact at a grassroots level. Women were able to reach more at-risk cases than any humanitarian or government actor could reach on their own, ensuring timely referrals to service providers. When Support To Life teams withdraw in the future, women can continue to educate their peers on their rights and refer them to relevant assistance.
- Inform refugee women and girls of available justice services and protection mechanisms concerning women's rights.
- Provide education on how to access these services and encourage women to seek them out.
- Empower refugee volunteers to disseminate this information amongst female community members.
- Share good practices with civil society organizations, government agencies, lawyers, and other relevant stakeholders on community-based interventions to overcome sexual and gender-based violence.
- 60,000 Euros financed by UNWomen
- One Project Manager, three project staff
- Five informative brochures
- Trainings delivered to volunteer women on refugee protection, legal framework, women’s rights, and gender equality
The project was implemented as part of the EU-UN Women Regional Programme “Implementing Norms, Changing Minds” on Ending Violence Against Women.
The main partner of the project was the refugee community, specifically refugee women.
Challenges and how they were overcome
Challenges faced included:
- Lack of gender awareness in the society made project implementation difficult. The activities oriented at empowering women were taken with scepticism and attempts were made to block the project. Being subject to scepticism or obstruction in the early months of the project was the biggest difficulty for the project teams, who were above all striving to inform themselves and others of their rights. News reports that discredited the content of information sessions and that argued the project had "covert" agendas were published on national outlets.This led volunteer women wishing to withdraw from the project due to fears of social isolation and rejection.
- Project staff observed that the volunteer women were busy with life challenges such as dealing with their daily duties and trying to recover from traumatic traces of war. It was difficult to engage women and keep their motivation high.
- The changing practices in the implementation of existing policies, which are still uncertain in some aspects, made it difficult to work in areas of rights and access to these rights.
How these challenges were overcome:
- Negative national media attention was discussed in order to maintain the positive attitudes of volunteers. Thanks to this open communication, no women left the project. Misinformed discourses in the news only strengthened the volunteers’ solidarity.
- Critical challenges included selecting and managing volunteers, developing methods to support volunteer motivation, and increasing overall participation levels. The project team met with the volunteers regularly to preserve their morale and discussed overall progress during monthly meetings. The goal of these meetings was to encourage teamwork by creating a collaborative, supportive environment.
- All relevant costs such as food and transportation were covered through small incentives to avoid placing an economic burden on the volunteers.
- To address unstable practices in policy implementation, representatives of associated government agencies were invited to meetings to discuss the most updated information about the project.
Results of the Good Practice
- Twenty-one female refugees were educated on gender awareness, gender-based violence, rights and services in Turkey, civil matters, and facilitation skills. This was accomplished through training and capacity-building activities.
- Within six months, volunteer-led peer education meetings informed 1,276 Syrian refugee women of their rights and referral mechanisms in Turkey.
- Seventy percent of these women reported an increased understanding of women's rights and justice services specific to sexual and gender-based violence.
- Working with local Syrian women made it possible to reach vulnerable women who otherwise would not have accessed necessary assistance.
- In order to create a sustainable impact, a lessons learned report was produced and validated in a meeting organized with the project team and the volunteer women in Hatay on October 17th 2018. Local government officials, community organizations and international non-governmental organizations were invited to the meeting during which good practices of the project were also presented. Therefore,this meeting was designed as finale meeting of the project in which Support To Life shared project results as well. The Best Practices and Lessons Learned Report was prepared and distributed electronically in Turkish, Arabic and English.
Inspired by the good result of this project, Support To Life developed a full fledged volunteer programme and started integrating it in all of its protection activities in Hatay and 7 other locations in which Support To Life is operational in Turkey.
Support To Life also developed its strategic direction to include Gender-Based Violence as a key problem area for refugee population and developed 2 specific projects targeting GBV survivors. These projects include not only volunteer programme activities, but also specialised support to GBV survivors such as case management, legal and psychological support as well as capacity-building and advocacy activities targeting local community leaders, local authorities and service providers.These projects are ongoing in 2019 and will continue in 2020.