Peace and security

SADA Women’s Cooperative actively attends events to introduce items that the women produce. Photo: UN Women Turkey/Tayfun Dalkilic
SADA Women’s Cooperative actively attends events to introduce items that the women produce. Photo: UN Women Turkey/Tayfun Dalkilic

For more information about UN Women’s Gender Sensitive Refugee Response in Turkey, check out the comprehensive programme brief here.

A bridge between East and West, Turkey has experienced both in- and out-migration flows throughout its history. Traditionally a transit country for regular and irregular migrants, Turkey is now also a destination country. Since the outbreak of the Syrian Crisis in 2011, Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees in the world, including some 3.5 million Syrians[1] registered under temporary protection status[2].

These refugees are young and urban: Around 2.1 million (60 per cent) are under the age of 25[3] and more than 95 per cent live in urban areas. In some Turkish cities Syrian refugees are more than half of the population, overstretching local service providers’ capacity.

Women account for 1.6 million (46 per cent) of Turkey’s Syrian refugees.

Despite Turkish Government efforts, Syrian women and girls in Turkey face barriers to meet their basic needs, recover from war traumas, and participate in Turkey’s social and economic life. In response, many turn to negative coping mechanisms such as informal work, child labour, and early and forced marriages.

Conflicts and crises affect women and girls in different ways than men and boys. The war in Syria is no exception.

A gender-sensitive refugee response is essential to address women, girls, men and boys’ specific development and humanitarian needs, priorities, rights and capacities. Prioritizing most-at-risk women, with a focus on their long-term resilience in the host country, is key to addressing refugees’ humanitarian-development needs, and lies in the heart of UN Women’s Refugee Response. 

UN Women in Turkey works to engender humanitarian action and to strengthen refugee women and girls’ resilience and their access to the opportunities, rights and services required by international treaties and national legislation. UN Women participates in Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) coordination mechanisms such as the Syria Response Group and Syria Task Force, and in working groups in Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, Emergency Social Safety Net, Protection Cluster and Livelihoods Cluster.

UN Women in action in Turkey

To strengthen Turkey’s refugee response, UN Women implements programmes and projects that benefit the most vulnerable Syrian refugee women and girls and engages in policy dialogue with local and national authorities to address their challenges.

Since 2017, through projects financed by the European Union and the Governments of Japan and Iceland, more than 13,000 refugee and host community women and girls received gender-sensitive refugee response services including protection and access to livelihoods, and over 4,000 women and girls participated in social cohesion-fostering activities and events.

UN Women’s Refugee Response Programme in Turkey consists of holistic multi-stakeholder projects implemented in partnership with the Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality, Southeastern Anatolia Project Regional Development Administration, International Labour Organization (ILO), Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM), Refugee Support Center (MUDEM) and other local and international civil society organizations.

Within the Programme, women’s centres in Gaziantep and İzmir provide a protected space where at-risk women with little or no access to existing services can get:

  • Outreach
  • Psychosocial support
  • Social, health, education and legal counselling
  • Referrals to public and other services
  • Childcare
  • Basic and vocational skills training
  • Turkish language training and conversation clubs

The Programme has also supported enhanced protection service delivery capacity so multi-purpose community and youth centres in Şanlıurfa (Urfa) can reach more refugee and host community women.

In addition, the Programme uses local community meetings to engage men and boys to support gender equality and women’s empowerment. The meetings include discussions on women’s participation in economic life, father-child cooking workshops, and activities that provide men and boys with gender equality messages.

Through gender sensitive refugee response training informed by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Gender Handbook and local practices, the Programme enhances front-line responder capacities, and helps civil society organizations, UN agencies, local authorities and government institutions design and implement more effective refugee response interventions.

UN Women also carries out capacity building and mentoring programmes for women-led organizations. Importantly, UN Women amplifies refugee and host community women’s voices in decision-making and advocacy platforms by providing leadership training to grassroots refugee women’s groups and directly engaging them in international events as speakers and influencers.

[1] As of May 2020.

[2] Republic of Turkey Ministry of Interior, Directorate General of Migration Management, Temporary Protection (2020). Available at:

[3] As of March 2020.