Small grants help women-led organizations strengthen their institutional capacity to better respond to the needs of women and girls

Women-led civil society organizations have a key role in delivering essential services and cultivating social cohesion within their communities. Strengthening their capacities and ensuring the continued provision of quality services, especially amid COVID-19, also means strengthening the communities they serve in. The Leader Women Association and the Syrian Women Association are two women-led civil society organizations working to empower women and girls in Turkey. Supported by UN Women through a Small Grants programme, they are aiming to increase their institutional capacities to better meet the needs of women and girls in their communities.

Date: Monday, July 5, 2021

Women in southeastern Turkey gather for an experience sharing session. Photo: Leader Women Association
Women in southeastern Turkey gather for an experience sharing session. Photo: Leader Women Association

The Leader Women Association is a women-led civil society organization (CSO) founded in 2010 in Mardin, southeastern Turkey. It aims to improve gender equality; raise awareness and sensitivity around gender issues and women’s rights; and strengthen and mobilize local mechanisms to prevent all forms of discrimination and violence against women.

With its motto, ‘Every woman is a leader,’ the Association aims to empower both refugee Syrian women and girls as well as those from the host communities. The Association provides vocational trainings, language courses, social cohesion activities and essential protection services such as legal and psychosocial counselling. The Association also engages men and boys as agents for fostering gender equality in their communities. 

UN Women’s small grants programme helped the Association to build its gender-mainstreaming capacity through tailored mentorship sessions covering several topics. These included: gender and related concepts, gender mainstreaming in policy and practice, gender-sensitive programming and gender-based violence. 

Leyla Onur Yanar, the Head of the civil society organization from Turkey, Leader Women Association. Photo: Leader Women Association
Leyla Onur Yanar, the Head of the civil society organization from Turkey, Leader Women Association. Photo: Leader Women Association

Leyla Onur Yanar, the Head of the Association, says: “During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Association felt responsible for the community as vulnerable groups were hard-hit, and inequality widened. We communicated more closely with the community during this difficult period and tried to deliver timely and effective solutions to the emerging needs of women and girls.” She adds: “Thanks to the small grant, we could swiftly adjust our work to mainstream gender equality into all our policies and practices, which helped us better understand, identify and prioritize the different and changing needs of women, men, girls and boys in our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The financial and technical support we received also helped us improve our way of working, enabling us to reach a higher number of vulnerable women.”

The Syrian Women Association, another women-led CSO supported through the small grant programme, was established in 2015 in Gaziantep, Turkey to empower Syrian women and girls in Turkey and Syria by providing protection and essential services. 

The small grant support enabled the Association to align its policies with the highest standards available in humanitarian response with the overall aim of becoming eligible for donor funding and carrying out projects as an implementing partner. 

Lubaba Alahdab is the Executive Director of the women-led civil society organization Syrian Women Association. Photo: Syrian Women Association
Lubaba Alahdab is the Executive Director of the women-led civil society organization Syrian Women Association. Photo: Syrian Women Association

Lubaba Alahdab, the Executive Director of the Association says: “Our small grant enabled us to review and realign our policies with the sector standards. Thanks to UN Women’s support, the Association has become eligible for international funding to implement projects to empower women, girls, and boys. The grant also allowed us to mainstream gender equality into our policies and projects, diversifying our portfolio and allowing us to be more responsive towards the different needs and priorities of women and girls.” Lubaba adds, “The Syrian Women Association has become more responsive to gender analysis and gender awareness”. 

Lubaba Alahdab will put the knowledge she gained from the mentorship sessions provided through small grant support into practice by serving as a Technical Consultant of the Women and Gender Group and providing gender training sessions to Syrian organizations through the Syrian Network League, an umbrella organization that bring Syrian humanitarian organizations together.

Fatih Resul Kılınç, Programme Analyst at UN Women Turkey, says: “Recognizing women-led civil society organizations’ crucial role in gender-sensitive refugee response, UN Women supports their institutional and financial capacities through small grants to ensure women and girls have equal access to rights, opportunities, and services. This translates into better access to rights, opportunities, and services through women’s leadership. We are glad to see that our support to the Leader Women Association and the Syrian Women Association through the small grants have been instrumental in their capacity strengthening.”