Peace and security

Photo: ASAM
Photo: Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (SGDD-ASAM)

The protracted Syria crisis continues to affect massive populations, many of them displaced and seeking refuge, both within Syria and in neighbouring countries.

Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees in the world[1], with close to 4 million people registered by mid-year 2018[2]. Between years, 2017 and 2018, the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey arose from 3,2 – 3.5 million, out of whom around 50 per cent are women[3]. Over 95% of refugees live in urban areas and in some Turkish cities Syrian refugees make up more than half of the population, overstretching the capacity of local service providers.

Conflict, migration and displacement affect men and women differently. Women and men have distinct needs, coping mechanisms, priorities and protection risks. A better understanding of these differences is necessary to implement a gender-responsive and rights-based humanitarian response. Due to economic challenges, many Syrian women in Turkey resort to negative coping mechanisms such as working illegally, child labour and early and forced marriages.

The 2018-2019 Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) for Turkey says that children and women at risk have urgent protection needs and calls for resilience programming that advances gender equality. The Turkish government and international agencies are prioritizing access to self-sustainability and economic opportunities to improve Syrian populations’ livelihoods and support their integration into social and economic life. This transition from humanitarian to development assistance is well underway in Turkey.

UN Women in Turkey works to engender humanitarian action and to strengthen refugee women and girls’ resilience and their access to opportunities, rights and services, as required by international treaties and national legislation. UN Women participates in 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.

In 2017 and 2018, UN Women carried out a comprehensive needs assessment in seven Turkish cities most affected by the Syrian refugee crisis that gathered data on Syrian refugee women and girls’ needs, challenges, access to education and employment opportunities, and areas for improvement.

Providing a strong evidence-based baseline for gender-sensitive interventions by UN Women and others to address the specific economic and work challenges faced by Syrian women, the assessment found that Syrian women consider access to housing and employment and an inability to speak Turkish to be their biggest challenges. Only 15 per cent of Syrian women work in income-generating jobs, and 70 per cent speak no Turkish, significantly limiting their access to services and work.

In March 2017, UN Women began implementing the Gaziantep Women-only Centre: Providing Livelihood Support project to enhance the economic and social integration of refugee women and girls in Turkey. Funded by the Government of Japan, the Centre offers temporary protection to Syrian refugee women and offers Syrian and local women access to livelihood opportunities; language, basic skills and vocational courses; psycho-social support and referral services.

In February 2018, UN Women’s refugee response was reinforced by the Strengthening the Resilience of Syrian Women, Girls and Host Communities programme funded by the European Union as part of the EU Regional Trust Fund to the Syria Crisis. With its approximately USD 5 million budget for Turkey, the programme aims to help at least 5,000 refugee women and girls:

  • Increase their skills, qualifications and income opportunities;
  • Enhance their role in crisis prevention, conflict management and peace building;
  • Provide them with immediate and longer-term protection services.

With an expected outreach of 20,000, the programme will also bolster national and local capacities for better service delivery to women refugees.

UN Women plans to further expand its support for refugee women and girls and for local and national authorities across Turkey.

[1] Global Trends: Forced Displacements in 2017, UNCHR.