Turkey - Women’s Centres: Carpentry, Handicraft and Business Skills Development

Turkey - Women’s Centres: Carpentry, Handicraft and Business Skills Development

In 1999, a devastating earthquake struck the Marmara region of Turkey causing 30,000 deaths and leaving 200,000 people homeless. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) funded the International Centre for Sustainable Cities (ICSC) Vancouver, to complete a shelter-assessment mission, and to determine the role for Canada in aiding recovery in this region.  ICSC recommended Canada support six Women’s Centres that had been set up in temporary post earthquake settlements, by the Turkish NGO the Foundation for the Support of Women’s Work (FSWW). The identified need was to teach women handicraft and small business skills that could help them earn income to support their families. In researching the project further, ICSC discovered four instructors were needed and culturally, only females could instruct the Turkish women in these rural temporary settlements. 

BWB Involvement

BWB recruited four female instructors in this case to teach carpentry, handicrafts, video making and small business skills to the women in the earthquake settlements.

Three BWB women instructors from British Columbia and one from Ontario spent two months in the Mamara temporary settlement camps.  While there, they taught Muslim women trades and skills in carpentry, handicrafts and small business and film to better earn an income and be able to support their families. The woodworking instructor trained the women in making wooden toys and household articles, the crafts instructor showed women how to recycle newsprints into basic writing paper and cards, and the business instructor taught women how to launch an effective small business to market their products.  The final instructor was a filmmaker, who taught the women how to use video as an educational tool and to document projects at the Women’s Centers.

BWB was also asked to research the European Mother Centre International Network (www.mine.cc) and to develop a strategy to create a similar Mother Centre Plan at an existing daycare in Istanbul.  BWB worked with the FSWW to expand the daycare to include a drop-in lounge for mothers, a kitchen and coffee shop, a business centre for mothers to learn computer and office skills, 10 short term accommodation suites for women and an exercise room for mothers.  This mixed-use building had a combination of program areas as well as revenue producing opportunities.

Our Impact

The ICSC found that daycare and micro-enterprise projects made a significant difference in the lives of the Muslim women, and that with improved instruction, these women could earn more to support their families. Turkish Muslim women developed not only marketable skills that would carry them through their lives, but also a sense of self-reliance and self-esteem. Three quotes from different participants include 1) “I’ve gained self esteem through the skills learned in the course, now I feel I could manage on my own if something happened to my husband.”  2) “The time in the carpentry work shop has helped me cope. It is good therapy for me – first time since the earthquake.” 3)  “...we are the pioneers.  We are learning the skills that only men knew before”.