Syr­ian women knit­ting for bet­ter fu­ture cre­ate a brand

Hand­i­crafts pro­duced by a group of Syr­ian refugee women at a char­ity-run cen­ter in Is­tan­bul re­sulted in a new brand and the women now earn a liv­ing and ac­quire new skills

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page -

SOME 62 Syr­ian refugee women make a liv­ing with the ini­tia­tive at a char­ity-run cen­ter in Is­tan­bul. Sew­ing or knit­ting hand­i­crafts to sup­port their dreams, Syr­ian women now have the brand called ‘Hayal’ (Dream), to pro­vide steady in­come to care for their fam­i­lies.

THEIR lives for­ever changed by the on­go­ing civil war in Syria, women of that coun­try started over again in Turkey, a neigh­bor that em­braced more than 3.5 mil­lion dis­placed by the con­flict that erupted in 2011. A char­ity-run cen­ter in Is­tan­bul that helped train them in new pro­fes­sions en­abled them to cre­ate their own brand of hand­i­crafts. Hayal, or dream in English, now helps women earn an in­come and sharpen their skills.

The Cen­ter for Refugee Women in Edirnekapı, Is­tan­bul is run by Turkey’s lead­ing non-profit, Women and Democ­racy As­so­ci­a­tion (KADEM), and the state-run Dis­as­ter and Emer­gency Man­age­ment Author­ity (AFAD) that over­sees hu­man­i­tar­ian needs of Syr­ian refugees. The cen­ter of­fers ser­vices to refugee women, from so­cial sup­port to life­long learn­ing classes. One such class en­abled them to knit what­ever they wanted. Their la­bor of love soon turned into end-user prod­ucts and in­spired the idea to build a brand.

KADEM Pres­i­dent and as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor Sare Ay­dın Yıl­maz said that women were pro­vided with “so­cial in­te­gra­tion projects help­ing them to re­cover from the suf­fer­ing they were ex­posed to” by the con­flict. Hand­i­craft classes are among the cour­ses of­fered to help them ac­quire new skills and earn ex­tra in­come for their fam­i­lies. “These women quit so­cial life be­cause of war and lost their self-con­fi­dence, their ex­pe­ri­ence [back in Syria] and their eco­nomic free­dom. They need to re­gain liv­ing stan­dards they had in their coun­try. They need a steady in­come to care for their fam­ily,” she told Anadolu Agency (AA).

“We train them so that they can over­come ob­sta­cles, while adapt­ing to their new lives here. We first taught them Turk­ish and then launched sew­ing classes as it is among the most com­mon pas­times for women,” she added. Sixty-two refugee women took knit­ting and sew­ing classes, and the women were soon able to cre­ate dis­tin­guished pieces, in­spir­ing the cre­ation of Hayal. It is now on sale in shops in Turkey and abroad.

Amal Greir, a 47-year-old refugee who arrived in Is­tan­bul from Homs, Syria, nine months ago, is among the contributors to the new brand. Greir and her three chil­dren fled to Turkey af­ter her hus­band’s death while in de­ten­tion by the regime forces. The fam­ily took shel­ter in an or­phan­age in Turkey. “I was a bit adept in knit­ting be­fore but I im­proved here. I now have a pro­fes­sion. I can work else­where too. Hayal means hope for us,” she says.

Na­dia Hamik, a 50-year-old woman, arrived from Da­m­as­cus. “I learned how to make hand­i­crafts for the first time in my life. I have to work for my fam­ily. We had so many trou­bles in Syria, but I feel fine again here,” she says.

Goufran Ashour, a 21-year-old, ar- rived in Is­tan­bul from Da­m­as­cus five years ago with her fam­ily. In her first year at Is­tan­bul Univer­sity where she stud­ies to be a sci­ences teacher, Ashour spends her free time at the course. “I wanted to learn some­thing on the side. Plus, I can earn some money,” she says. Ashour ac­com­pa­nied Bushra, her el­der sis­ter, to the knit­ting and sew­ing classes. Bushra says she made a new cir­cle of friends in the classes. “I met new peo­ple and learned a lot. This is a good way to feel like liv­ing again. We sell things we make and earn money for our fam­i­lies. I ad­vise other Syr­ian women to at­tend these classes.

Women and chil­dren make up the ma­jor­ity of refugees, and they are also the most vul­ner­a­ble among refugees. Ac­cord­ing to a KADEM sur­vey of women refugees, 94.4 per­cent did not work in Syria and only 22.7 per­cent ex­pressed will­ing­ness to join the la­bor force in Turkey.

Women sit at a ta­ble cov­ered in their hand­i­crafts.

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