Self-Reliance Support and COVID-19 Protection

Project: Supporting Self-Reliance, Social Assistance, and COVID-19 Protection Among Syrian Refugees in Southeastern 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 and other giving partners

Background: Turkey hosts the largest share of the world’s refugee population, including 3.6 million Syrians. Single mothers and widows from war-torn Syria struggle to transition from poverty to self-reliance. In the border province of Hatay only 8% of Syrian women have secured work, Turkish language skills, and vocational training. 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. The impact is devastating. Refugee widows earn just $160 a month. Without a dignified income, families risk housing eviction and poor health. 24% of Syrian children under 5 suffer chronic under-nutrition and 32% of Syrians cannot afford hygiene items to protect against COVID-19. (Data: UN Women, Doctors without Borders).  

Project Summary: Co-designed by RPI and Kids Paradise, this project has empowered urban refugees to forge a brighter and healthier future for their children. Under the livelihoods component, inspiring female heads of household participated in skills and language training, in-kind grants, marketing, and networking support in urban Antakya, Turkey. Due to the the COVID-19 pandemic, trainings focused on income generation activities feasible from home during the partial lockdown. To support job-seeking, women were trained in Turkish language, work permit regulations, and how to register with the national employment agency (ISKUR) and update their temporary protection status registration to the area of desired employment. With networking support women have begun securing work and production contracts from local businesses.

To support community protection from COVID-19, this project distributed soap produced by the trainees and COVID-19 information in Arabic to refugees living in substandard conditions in Antakya. Kids Paradise printed and distributed the Turkish Ministry of Health’s flyers, verbally explaining key messages when necessary for illiterate caregivers. In this phase, soap production trainees were screened for symptoms, observed social distancing, and received stipends, reusable soap production kits, local face masks and gloves.

Under the social assistance component, the project worked with private landlords to prevent the eviction of single mothers and their children. Apartment rentals were subsidized while mothers engaged in livelihoods capacity building activities. Women and children participated in psychosocial support and individual mental health sessions as needed. Participants learned how to access government resources (e-Devlet public services portal and the Ministry of Family, Labor, and Social Services), national cash assistance programs (ESSN, CCTE), and temporary protection status documentation for infants.

During this project, RPI expanded its knowledge of foreign fashion brands sourcing from this region of Turkey. We look forward to offering our support and that of our refugee-led partners in the formal recruitment, training, and protection of Syrian refugees in the supply chain.

5,530 Syrian refugees have participated in this project, including 5,261 who benefited from soap and COVID-19 information in Arabic and 269 women and children who participated in self-reliance and social assistance activities. 84 children will benefit indirectly.

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