Response to Syria Crisis in Turkey - Women and Girls Safe Spaces
The project in brief
UNFPA Turkey Country Office
In 17 provinces of Turkey
The project started in 2015.
Women and Girls Safe Spaces were handed over to the Ministry of Health (MoH) at the end of September 2019. The Ministry stated that the Women and Girls Safe Spaces would continue to be implemented. However, UNFPA will continue capacity-building activities for service providers of Ministry of Health if requested.
Since 2015, 37 Women and Girls Safe Spaces have been established in Turkey to provide sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence and empowerment services to refugee women and girls.
Turkey hosts over 4 million refugees of which 71% are women and children and 25% are at reproductive age. Women and girls are vulnerable to gender-based violence (GBV) and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) problems. Therefore, addressing their needs emerges as a crucial aspect of humanitarian response.
The main goal of this intervention is to increase access of refugee women and girls to SRH and GBV services in Turkey. The objectives are as follows:
For all refugee women and girls in Turkey:
- To improve their SRH well-being.
- To ensure that they have access to all services if they experience any type of GBV.
- To empower them to ensure a life free from all forms of GBV and discrimination.
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In 2016, UNFPA renewed its Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Health which formed a legal basis for the establishment, implementation and hand-over processes of Women and Girls Safe Spaces.
In 2017, MoH started implementation of the SIHHAT project, funded by an EU direct grant under the FRIT, which included establishment of Migrant Health Centres. This allowed the development of an integrated model for Women and Girls Safe Spaces in Turkey where most Women and Girls Safe Spaces either moved or established under the same roof with Migrant Health Centres through a unique partnership between UNFPA, MoH, NGOs / universities (as UNFPA’s implementing partners) and two donor agencies. Moreover, both Migrant Health Centres and Women and Girls Safe Spaces provided services free of charge, this simplified integration of Women and Girls Safe Spaces and Migrant Health Centres. The integration of Women and Girls Safe Spaces to Migrant Health Centres both facilitated access of women and girls to services and provided cost-efficiency through sharing resources.
Regulatory changes, allowing Syrian refugees to work in Turkey, facilitated available personnel to decrease the burden on Turkish health human resources and mitigate language barriers in service provision. Regulation enabled UNFPA to employ Syrian refugee women as health mediators to connect Women and Girls Safe Spaces and community. They eased the access of Syrian women to centers by increasing recognition.
- Ministry of Health of Turkey
- Harran University, Hacettepe University, Eskişehir Osmangazi University, İstanbul Bilgi University
- Association For Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants, Kamer Association, Refugee Support Center
- DG ECHO
- Swidish International Development Cooperation Agency
Challenges and how they were overcome
Language barrier, exacerbated by limited number of Arabic speaking health personnel, was the main challenge in the service provision.
Another challenge is that socio-cultural differences and language barriers cause women become reluctant or not “have permission” to go outside. Also, most refugees have cultural sensitivity and confidentiality concerns for services (particularly SRH and GBV) and require more sensitive approaches.
How they were overcome
To overcome the language barrier, UNFPA prioritized employing Arabic speaking health personnel. In cases where they are not available, translators were employed. In addition, in Women and Girls Safe Spaces Turkish language courses have been offered to women for adapting social life.
Syrian health mediators help to solve communication problems and reduce socio-cultural barriers. When they identify cases with needs, they accompany them to the Women and Girls Safe Spaces. Over time, service providers build trust with their beneficiaries, which helps women to talk about more intimate issues such as GBV. Also, child care spaces are created in centers. Moreover, UNFPA prioritized to employ mostly women in the Women and Girls Safe Spaces to make a more comfortable environment for women.
Results of the Good Practice
1) Health status and literacy of women and girls were improved. 462,202 women received SRH and counselling services and 276,932 of them participated in awareness raising activities on SRH. 679,723 beneficiaries get hygiene/dignity kits.
2) GBV awareness was increased and survivors were supported with protection services. 481,577 women received GBV prevention and response services including psycho-social support. Among them 33,937 women who were identified as GBV survivors were supported.
3) Beneficiaries declared they were empowered by Women and Girls Safe Spaces:
We learned that women have rights, and this was empowering to learn.
I have learned lots of things here. I feel stronger.
How the project meets the GCR Objectives
Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries
Although Turkey is not accustomed to such a huge influx of migrants, both government and non-governmental organizations have performed very well to provide health services to migrants. However, influx caused a gap between service provision and demand for both Syrian and host community, so the burden of migrants on health service provision has increased. Therefore, UNFPA started to support government of Turkey by establishing Women and Girls Safe Spaces in order to provide complementary services to Syrian refugees, which also indirectly increase the accessibility of host community to health services.
Women and Girls Safe Spaces and Migrant Health Centres of the Ministry of Health share the same spaces, which decreased the cost of operations of both institution and increased the availability of personnel to be employed, especially Arabic speaking ones.
UNFPA also, supported the Government of Turkey and NGOs through capacity building trainings for service providers on SRH (the Minimum Initial Service Package, Emergency Obstetric Care, Safe Motherhood, Gender Based Violence, Clinical Management of Rape etc.), GBV and psycho-social support issue. Moreover, UNFPA provided dignity and hygiene kits and reproductive health supplies. As a part of the hand-over process, Women and Girls Safe Spaces standard operating procedures which were developed in the initial years, were adapted and shared with the MoH to be endorsed.
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
Awareness raising sessions and counselling services provided in Women and Girls Safe Spaces centers enhanced women and girls self-reliance by increasing their knowledge on how to improve their health, well-being, status at home and the rights of women and empowerment. Prevention of child, early and forced marriages was one of the critical problems identified and addressed during the empowerment sessions at Women and Girls Safe Spaces. Moreover, they have the chance to improve their human capital and resilience by attending courses provided in Women and Girls Safe Spaces centers such as Turkish language courses, some vocational training, life skills courses, literary courses, etc
As a part of an exit plan, Women and Girls Safe Spaces centers with all premises, equipment and professional personnel were handed-over to MoH in September 2019 and the Ministry is willing to continue implementing this model.
Dr. Selen Örs Reyhanioğlu, Humanitarian Programme Coordinator, UNFPA Turkey Country Office