From the war in Syria to top 100 of Paris
Date: Wednesday, September 25, 2019
“We are enthusiastic, happy and eager to produce more! Now we are able to turn our skills into income. We are the women of SADA! We are Turkish, Syrian and Afghan, but the most important is we are together, and stronger than ever!,” says Ümmühan Gül with the excitement of being part of the crew.
Ümmühan is a member of the SADA Cooperative. They work hard to produce and find more customers. “We always try to give a touch of Turkish, Syrian and Afghan motifs. We reflect our harmony on our items,” says Hadice who is a founding member of the Cooperative.
“We are delighted to be chosen as one of the most successful 100 initiatives. This is the result of women’s power and solidarity,” says Zukaa, another member of the group.
Success from scratch
Ümmühan, Hadice, and Zukaa are among the 50 women of the SADA Women’s Cooperative, set up in March 2019 by Syrian, Turkish and Afghan women in Gaziantep. Currently active in three sectors, the cooperative produces shoe-leather bags, does catering and makes home textiles. After only three months in operation, the Paris Peace Forum selected the Cooperative as one of the most successful 100 initiatives in the field of economic inclusion.
“When I first came here, I was full of fear and uncertainty. A new country, new culture, new people … Here, I got great support and enrolled in vocational training. I started a new life for myself and my children. I developed my skills, and now, I can produce and earn some money,” says Delal another member of the group. She escaped the war in Syria and came to Turkey with her husband and their five children. Now, Turkey is their home.
The SADA Center
Delal and many other women have benefited from the SADA Women’s Empowerment and Solidarity Center. Financed by the European Union and the Government of Japan, the Center is a safe space, providing an enabling environment for refugee and host community women. Coupled with UN Women’s gender-responsive approach, the SADA Center offers protection, livelihoods support and fosters social cohesion among the communities. UN Women’s partners – the Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality, the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants and the International Labour Organization – have all played key roles in making SADA a unique empowerment hub for women.
As of July 2019, more than 5,200 women have benefited from SADA’s services and 3,000 women have completed vocational training. Fifty percent of the women supported were at-risk individuals with vulnerabilities.
A bottom-up Initiative
In March 2019, women of the SADA Center established the SADA Women’s Cooperative. “We have been learning and making great efforts to produce quality products. It’s now time to give our work a boost and to make a living from that. This was once a dream for all of us and now it is becoming real,” says Safiye, a member of the Cooperative. Safiye enjoys not only the production but also how the cooperative functions: “The cooperative is run equally by all of us. We make decisions together and we create our marketing and sales strategy collectively”.
SADA Women’s Cooperative has an executive board, an audit commission, and a marketing team, who are selected through a vote. The women have shaped the business model. Everyone has a say, as Safiye mentions, even on the products` design.
The Cooperative is now ready for the Paris Peace Forum. Two selected women will be representing the Cooperative in Paris. Like all other women, Nadriye is proud to be a part of this initiative. She explains how much the experience at SADA has shaped her and how this initiative helps to realize her dreams. “Before coming to the SADA Center, I was always at home, never going out. Here, I am producing and contributing to something beautiful. I also made Syrian and Afghan friends. Before coming here, I had many prejudices about them. Now, all of those are gone. The closer you are, the better it is.”
Like Nadriye, other women also talk about how SADA and the Cooperative helped Turkish and refugee women come closer to each other. They interact with each other and learn from each other’s cultures. “Before coming here, I never greeted Syrians, even though they lived in my neighborhood. Here I learned that we can live together and learn a lot from each other. I show them our traditions and they show theirs,” says Meltem, adding that all-in-all the exchange made possible through SADA is fun and pleasant.
“Now we will present what we do at Paris Peace Forum. We want to make a breakthrough at the forum and we are all very excited. We built many links in Gaziantep, and we try to introduce customers to our products as much as possible. We attend different festivals and fairs and open stands to present our products. Now we are targetting all of Turkey and beyond. Our aim is to reach out to international markets,” says Hadice. As the founder member of the Cooperative, she works in the organization with other women to promote their work.
“As the last word, I would like to say that we made it all from scratch,” says Hadice. “Women can succeed and stand on their own feet. They have to try! They have to go out of their homes, get rid of their prejudices and try new things. This cooperative enabled us to draw a future plan and the future is bright as we, the women of SADA, stand collectively strong,” she says.
 The Paris Peace Forum is an international event on global governance issues and multilateralism, held annually in Paris, France. The Forum pushes forward innovative solutions by inviting public and private organizations around the world to showcase more than 100 projects, which have put in practice specific solutions to governance challenges.