Following the principle of “Leaving No One Behind” in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals which gives great importance to “ensuring decent and productive work for all, particularly women, youth, and people with disabilities – all of whom tend to be ‘economically disadvantaged’ or ‘excluded’, RET has been implementing Women’s Socio-Economic Empowerment Project in Turkey to build the employability profile and improve sustainable income generation prospects of targeted refugee and host community women in tandem with raising their awareness regarding Sexual and Gender based Violence (SGBV) and Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) issues in Mardin, Çorum and Kilis. RET´s intervention is designed to strengthen the resilience and self-reliance of vulnerable refugee and host community women and their families through a holistic, multi-sectorial approach that led to socio-economic empowerment, social cohesion, and sustainable development.
Using a gender and conflict-sensitive approach, the holistic aspect of RET livelihoods intervention has allowed it to address the different dimensions of a woman’s’ life. As such, the program was not only about training women on specific job/business related skills, but also on addressing their child-care issues, and raising awareness on SRH and SGBV issues after which women could access individual counseling, psychosocial support, and when needed referrals mechanism for specialized support. Finally, participants attended cultural events and social activities to promote social cohesion. RET also ensured individualized follow up with participants to guarantee the continued engagement of women of concern. The types of vocational training workshops provided to participants were selected after a thorough needs assessment and feasibility study by RET to identify the demands and opportunities of the marketplace in Turkey. The training included Business Entrepreneurship, Social Entrepreneurship, Business Opportunities, Marketing, and Product Design Sessions. RET provided workshops on making handmade soap, Natural dolls, natural dyeing, and wood printing. Moreover, RET support participants in setting up small businesses to sell their handmade products and generate income. Advanced technical trainings were provided to women interested in setting up small local businesses providing them with knowledge on product design, marketing and entrepreneurship skills.
In order to ensure the sustainability of its program, RET founded a commercial enterprise and a patented brand “Leap Natural” with refugee and host community women participants in its workshops as a social entrepreneurship model so that natural and sustainable products women produced could be offered professionally to both individual and private sector customers. Another important dimension for sustainability of livelihood program is to ensure sustainable marketing networks and strong partnerships. RET has been building partnerships with private sector, governmental bodies, academy, NGOs and INGOs, celebrities and social media influences in Turkey for building new marketing networks and strengthening the existing ones. Concerning the Turkey entrepreneurial initiative, RET is planning to realize wholesale export of the products produced, to open “Leap Natural” shops in USA and Europe. RET will begin providing mentorship, marketing and product design assistance to other women entrepreneurs, start-ups and cooperatives under the umbrella of “Leap Natural” brand throughout Turkey.
RET helped empower refugee and host community to produce natural, sustainable, handmade and innovative products of high quality with professional packaging and branding, which are high in demand locally and globally. Thus, RET´s project increased the professional profiles of the women by providing them with skills trainings. The project decreased the vulnerability of refugee women through support mechanisms that would not only increase their employability and economic productivity, but also provide them with a more protective social environment.
I am a 42-year-old Iraqi woman. Even though I desperately wanted to continue my education, my family didn’t allow me and married me off. I convinced my husband about the importance of pursuing tertiary education, so we both enrolled at university to study Arabic & English. I then became a teacher. As my dreams were coming true, the conflicts in Iraq intensified, and we were forced to leave everything behind and flee to Turkey. The first years of our displacement were distressful and extremely challenging financially. Unfortunately, I couldn’t become a teacher here, but I didn’t give up searching until I came across RET block printing and natural dyeing atelier in Çorum.
With Leap Natural, I finally found a place to improve my sewing skills and gain a sustainable income. With this income from RET atelier, I supported myself and my family. More importantly, I enrolled my children in school. Being part of the LEAP family and having a livelihood as a woman helped me stand up and breathe again after many years of adversity. The women in RET’s atelier are my sisters. We support each other, and we dream together. It is never too late to start over to realize your dreams! so never give up!”
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