From where I stand: “Gender equality should be an integral part of refugee response programmes”

30-year-old Turkish activist Seda Dolaner works in refugee response programmes for the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (SGDD-ASAM). Since 2017, Ms. Dolaner has been the Coordinator of the SADA Women-only Center, which serves refugee and local women in Gaziantep, near Turkey’s border with Syria. SADA Center has been established by UN Women, with financial support by the Government of Japan, and is run in partnership with SGDD-ASAM, International Labor Organization (ILO) and Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality. Ms. Dolaner speaks to UN Women about her experience with refugee women and girls and the importance of integrating a gender perspective in refugee programmes.

Date: Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Photo: UN Women
Photo: UN Women

“Working at the SADA Women-only Center here in Gaziantep is like a wonderful a dream for me. I studied sociology and gender studies at university and here, every day, I work with refugee and local women and promote gender equality every day.

I strongly believe that gender equality should be an integral part of refugee response programmes.

The SADA Center brings together women from different cultures and countries, and our reach is broader now than when we opened in 2017. Our vocational and livelihood training, Turkish language courses, positive social environment and nursery strengthen the refugee and local women we serve. Thanks to financing from the Government of Japan, we work in close collaboration with local authorities, the Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality, UN Women and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The work we do at the SADA Women-only Center arises from what our beneficiaries demand. Project planning should always first consider women refugees’ needs and expectations. When we set up the Center, we paid attention to cultural background and local sensitivities, and combined this with our refugee field response experiences so that local and refugee women would benefit from the Center and be motivated to use it.

By only serving women and girls, women friendly areas like the Center give women an opportunity to express themselves –many, due to tradition and cultural obstacles, for the first time. This is why our efforts are very valuable.

That’s why I say that gender equality should be an integral part of refugee response programmes, and not ignored as it usually is. Just understanding and meeting the real needs of local and refugee women makes a lot of sense and makes our efforts relevant.”


1147 women have registered to SADA Women-only Center so far to benefit from vocational courses, trainings and other counselling services. Ms. Dolaner’s work is related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG 10 on reducing inequalities, which seeks to facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people; and SDG 16, which aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.