SADA Women's Cooperative helps refugee women and Turkish women to join the labour market and encourages solidarity between these two communities.
Submitted by: İbrahim Vurgun Kavlak, General Coordinator, Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants
Introduction to the project
March 2019 – November 2019
The aim is that the SADA Women's Cooperative will sustain itself independently after the project ends.
Only 15% of Syrian refugee women have regular, irregular or seasonal work. Another 12% stated that they are engaged in some income-generating activity or production. They often work for a low pay, with long working hours and bad physical conditions in the informal labour market. Only 17% of women who are not active in the formal or informal labour market said that they are looking for a job. Others, for reasons including childcare responsibilities, cultural biases, illness or disability, care of other dependents and housework, are not actively seeking any employment.
Since cooperatives are enterprises that place people before profit, they uphold values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. They practice honesty, openness and social responsibility in their operations.
The SADA Women Cooperative was officially established on 25 March 2019 in Gaziantep province by the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM) with the partnership of UN Women and ILO (“Resilience of women and girls from refugee and host community”). Its goal is to assess the needs of Syrian women and adolescent girls, explore challenges that they may encounter in their daily lives and reveal opportunities for greater social cohesion.
The idea is also to support Syrian women and girls to reach long-term and sustainable income-generating activities via the cooperative. There has been an active women refugee committee at the Gaziantep ASAM office, and the idea of building a cooperative was driven out of the focus group discussions under the supervision of ASAM’s social workers.
Since it was very rare to establish a cooperative within the refugee population as an income-generating model, SADA Women Cooperative was very avant-garde in the field. The women committee continues to hold its meetings, with a growing membership, and with the help of the cooperative’s impact in the city.
The idea of a women cooperative is not only a livelihood activity, but also a way of resistance and solidarity between women. The cooperative has been in the process of launching their own products. The objective will be to sell products produced at the SADA Centre, after working on improving market strategies under the supervision of ASAM.
In cooperation with UN Women and ILO, ASAM also provides facilities and logistic needs of the cooperative through textile and kitchen workshops. Women that had participated in Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET), ASAM and ILO organized seminars on cooperative establishment were targeted and 50 founding members were selected.
The cooperative structure strengthens solidarity between women, social cohesion among different refugee groups and host community, as well as offers income-generating activities. This women cooperative is therefore supporting women in terms of economic empowerment but it is also contributing to social unity and co-existence due to the multi-cultural structure of these cooperatives formed of Syrian and Turkish women. In addition to the inclusive aspect of the cooperative in terms of memberships, the project focuses on the livelihoods sector, but also includes protection and social cohesion levels. Activities that can strengthen the solidarity between the refugee women and women from the host community by creating a sense of dialogue and co-existence are organised.
The project was funded by UN Women.
ILO and ASAM are responsible for the technical aspects and implementation.
- Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipalities
- International Labour Organization (ILO)
- UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women)
How challenges were overcome
The legislation related to the establishment of a cooperative under Turkish Trade Law does not include the refugee population. The law does not allow refugees to establish a cooperative on their own.
However, through the division of labour inside the cooperative among women from the host community, from Syria and Afghanistan, SADA Women Cooperative has an equal management and working system.
Results of the Good Practice
- ASAM is exploring other ways to provide support to Syrian women wanting to integrate into the Turkish labour market through projects such as this. The process involves the identification of potential sectors for economic activities for a pilot cooperative intervention; identification of potential members among Syrian refugees and host communities; provision of legal and technical assistance for registering and operating the cooperative.
- SADA Women Cooperative is the first women cooperative in Turkey that brings together Syrian, Afghan, Iraqi and Turkish women under the same roof. The women are supported by income generating activities but also through community based protection, social cohesion and psycho-social, legal and health services. ASAM brings more integrated responses with regards to refugees' needs compared to economic migrants' needs. The cooperative has been sustaining its work under the ASAM Women-Only Community Center. Through the participatory approach, women are able to participate in the decision making processes, feel ownership and take active roles in the project.