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 Centre, which serves refugee and local women in Gaziantep, near Turkey’s border with Syria. SADA Centre was established by UN Women, and is run in partnership with the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (SGDD-ASAM), and Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality, with financial support by the European Union (EU) Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis, the ‘Madad Fund’, and the Government of Japan. 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 Centre here in Gaziantep is like a wonderful dream for me. I studied sociology and gender studies at university and here, 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 Centre brings together women from different cultures and countries, and our reach is broader now than when we opened in 2017. Our vocational and livelihood trainings, Turkish language courses, positive social environment and nursery strengthen the refugee and local women we serve. Thanks to financing from our donors, 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 Centre arises from what our beneficiaries’ demand. Project planning should always first consider women refugees’ needs and expectations. When we set up the Centre, 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 Centre and be motivated to use it.

By only serving women and girls, women friendly areas like the Centre 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.”

SDG 5: Gender equality

Close to 1800 women and 800 girls women have registered to SADA Women-only Centre 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 5 which aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls; 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.