Self-Reliance Support and COVID-19 Protection

Project: Supporting Self-Reliance, Social Assistance, and COVID-19 Protection Among Vulnerable Female-Headed Syrian Refugee Households in Southern Turkey

Facilitated by RPI and implemented on-site by refugee-led partner Kids Paradise


Giving Partner(s): Generously supported by the New England International Donors Giving Circle on Refugees (2019 Grant) and other giving partners

Project Need: Turkey hosts the largest share of the world’s refugee population, including 3.6 million Syrians. Single refugee mothers and widows displaced from war-torn Syria to southeastern Turkey are struggling to transition from poverty to self-reliance. Many women risk being evicted from their housing and seeing their children struggle with chronic under-nutrition, which affects 24% of Syrian children under 5. On average, widows earn a mere $160 per month. As of 2019, just 8% of Syrian women in Hatay were working informally or formally.

In 2016, Turkey passed a landmark work permit regulation permitting Syrians with temporary protection status to access formal employment. Yet, up to 92% of Syrian women remain unaware of this regulation and how to access related services. Others lack working knowledge of the Turkish language, relevant vocational skills, or access to interim social support for mental health, childcare, and emergency cash needs. Turkey has one of the highest numbers of confirmed Coronavirus cases in the world. Yet, 32% of Syrian refugees struggle to afford hygiene items to protect themselves, and thereby their Turkish neighbors, from COVID-19. (Data Source: UN Women, Doctors without Borders, JHU).  

Project Summary: This project is empowering some of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees in southeastern Turkey. These inspiring women are the main breadwinners for their children in urban Antakya, Hatay. Through a combination of skills and language training, in-kind grants, marketing, and networking support with local businesses, this project supports women to earn a dignified living. As the partial lockdown in response to COVID-19 reduces new employment options outside the home, women are being trained in home-based livelihoods, while receiving knowledge on work permit regulations and the national employment agency (ISKUR) to support future job-seeking. Trainees and their children have access to group psychosocial support sessions and individual mental health sessions when needed. Women are learning how to access government resources (e-Devlet, MoFLS), national cash assistance programs (ESSN, CCTE), and updated civil documentation (Kimlik registered in area of employment, Kimlik for newborns). To date, 186 women and children have participated in these core activities and up to 214 children have benefited indirectly.

To support community protection from COVID-19, the project is distributing free soap produced by trainees and hygiene information in Arabic to 4,000 to 5,000 refugees living in some of the most substandard conditions in Reyhanli and Antakya. In this phase, trainees will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms, observe social distancing, and receive emergency stipends, local face masks and gloves. In the future, we hope to invite U.S. and European fashion brands to encourage the formal recruitment and protection of Syrian refugees in their Turkish supply chains with the support of our local partners.

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