The Turkish branch of Grameen, a groundbreaking microfinance program that helps entrepreneurs who cannot afford to set up businesses, is reaching out to Syrian refugee women in the country. At over 3.5 million, Syrians make up the majority of the refugee population in Turkey and mostly depend on charities and illegal labor to earn a living.
Grameen will provide loans amounting to TL 1.1 million in total in a program to support Syrian women, including those with their own ideas to launch a business.
Halil Orhan, head of Grameen's Turkey branch, says they want to help resolve the "refugee crisis." Since 2003, Grameen Turkey has offered microloans to women without the capital to start businesses. Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Orhan said they gave out microfinance loans to more than 180,000 women. He added that they cooperated with CARE International, one of the world's biggest international charities, for the microcredit program they will start in southern Turkey.
The pilot project will focus on Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa and Kilis, three Turkish cities on the Syrian border that have been receiving a steady flow of displaced Syrians from Turkey's southern neighbor mired in a civil war since 2011. "For the first year of the project, we will deliver TL 1.125 million to 900 women, including 540 Syrians," Orhan said. "To increase participation to this project, we contacted women who received microloans from Grameen and asked them to tell any Syrian refugee woman they know capable of starting up their own businesses about the program," he said. The project also aims to boost friendship between Turkish and Syrian women, to instill self-confidence and a will to make economic decisions in refugee women. So far, the program has reached out to 100 Syrian women, and Orhan says they want to reach out to 900 more by September in the one-year program.
Grameen operates with 93 branches in 63 provinces of Turkey, mainly catering to women. The loans are mostly used by women to set up handicraft businesses since these types of businesses tend to take up less time, allowing them to spend more time with their families. Grameen offers unconditional loans to women based on a system of mutual trust. Women can access up to TL 1,000 per year once they sign up for the program, and this amount can increase to up to TL 5,000 in subsequent years. Though the loans may be regarded as small, Grameen allows women to create groups of five, with each individual receiving up to TL 1,000, to help them pool their resources and maintain solidarity.