From hurt to healing: Strengthening civil society’s gender-inclusive approach to earthquake trauma recovery in Türkiye
To support enhancing civil society’s capacity and insight to psychological first aid and effective support to earthquake survivors, UN Women organized a workshop on trauma from a gender perspective. Workshop participants noted that the content of the workshop was not only valuable in times of crises, but also in bolstering long-term resilience of women and girls impacted by the earthquakes.
In an effort to address the trauma arising from disasters, UN Women Türkiye organized a workshop titled “Trauma from a Gender Perspective; Recommendations on Psychological First Aid after Kahramanmaraş Earthquake”. The workshop, held on June 19th for the first time in Diyarbakır, a southeastern city in Türkiye saw active participation from various civil society organizations (CSOs).
The attendees of the workshop shared their insights and experiences, highlighting the significance of such initiatives in addressing disaster-induced trauma.
“The workshop shed light on coping with trauma resulting from disasters. As an expert experienced in addressing violence against women, it allowed me to revisit my previous knowledge. Understanding the connections between trauma caused by violence and disasters was eye-opening for me,” said Hazal Günel, Gender Equality Programs Specialist at the Community Volunteers Foundation.
The workshop covered various aspects of trauma studies, delving into the effects of disasters on women and girls and the need for gender-specific strategies in post-disaster interventions. Additionally, it focused on psychological first aid recommendations, empowering attendees to respond more effectively to the emotional and mental well-being of affected individuals.
Gülfer Kırbaş from Lotus Women’s Solidarity and Life Association, a CSO based in Kocaeli, a northern city in Türkiye, who actively engages with survivors in earthquake-affected regions shared her reflections on the workshop and said: “The workshop prompted me to reevaluate my work in both the realm of women’s issues and earthquake-affected areas. It provided an opportunity to acknowledge the right steps we have taken and share them with others, while also critically assessing our mistakes. As women’s organizations, we need more of these workshops that enhance our capacities and facilitate sharing experiences.”
“The workshop raised awareness about common issues in the civil society sector, such as getting absorbed in the events and losing boundaries while working with beneficiaries. It taught us that we are not alone, and feeling stuck and inadequate is a normal process. Most importantly, we learned ways to protect ourselves from these challenges,” says Ferzan Özyaşar from Housewives Solidarity and Development Association, who works in earthquake-affected areas.
The workshop was initiated in response to the demand from CSOs actively providing aid to earthquake survivors in the aftermath of the Kahramanmaraş Earthquake on the 6th of February. During consultations organized by UN Women in the aftermath of the earthquakes, representatives from civil society organizations frequently emphasized the need for solid ground to establish effective communication with survivors of the disaster, particularly regarding “psychological first aid.”
UN Women’s efforts align with the approach that civil society can make a more substantial impact on the lives of survivors, particularly women who are often disproportionately affected by disasters based on the needs identified by the organizations themselves.
“As UN Women Türkiye, our goal is to assist women and girls in their recovery during these challenging times and to support their emotional well-being and resilience in collaboration with our civil society partners. This being our departure point, we have consulted with the CSOs, and based on their identified need we took action to support them as they work with women and girls who experience trauma and loss with a gender equality perspective. Several of our CSO partners, themselves also experience trauma and loss and we hope that this workshop would help them to recognize and address their own needs to be able to continue to support women and girls,” said Ebru Ağduk, Programme Specialist of ‘Strong Civic Space for Gender Equality’ project, a programme implemented in partnership with CSOs to influence national and local women’s rights and gender equality agendas.
With the success of the Diyarbakır workshop, UN Women plans to expand its efforts, organizing similar workshops. The aim is to empower and strengthen the resilience of CSOs, enabling them to create a safer, more equitable environment for all, even in the face of traumatic disasters.