Microfinance empowers Syrian, Turkish women

HASAN AY
ISTANBUL
Published 22.07.2019 00:02

A joint project by a local nonprofit group and the international relief organization Care, helps Syrian refugee women and Turkish women set up their own businesses.

Some 589 Syrian and 199 Turkish women benefited from the microfinance opportunities provided in Gaziantep, Hatay, Kilis and Şanlıurfa provinces, which host a high population of refugees from war-torn Syria.

The Turkish Foundation for Waste Reduction (TİSVA) and Care International joined forces to reach out to women with business ideas and within six months, helped women with access to microloans, between TL 500 and TL 1,500. Overall, loans amounting to TL 860,000 were handed out to women engaged in small businesses. Most beneficiaries work at home, cooking meals for other businesses and preparing jams. One woman in Şanlıurfa converted one room of her house into a hairdressing shop. Others produced handicrafts like prayer beads while some chose to invest in dressmaking or selling ice cream.

Michelle Nunn, president of Care, was recently in Turkey to meet Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Mehmet Güllüoğlu, head of the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) which oversees humanitarian work for Syrian refugees. Nunn says Turkey took a greater share in responsibility on behalf of the international community in the Syrian crisis and they owed gratitude to Turkey for its leadership in humanitarian aid. Nunn said their work for refugee and local women was based on the Grameen model. Grameen Bank, a microcredit or microfinance organization conceived by Bangladeshi Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, supplies loans to entrepreneurs who cannot afford setting up businesses on their own. It focuses on helping poor, disadvantaged communities around the world and the program's Turkey branch concentrates on women from low-income families. It offers unconditional loans to women based on mutual trust. Launched in Turkey 16 years ago, the microfinance model ultimately aims to turn entrepreneurs into taxpayers with significant profits.

Nunn says microloans made inspiring economic and social changes in women's lives and helped them become economically independent. She says that it also strengthens solidarity between Turkish and Syrian women and boost their self-confidence, to make economic decisions by themselves. She points out that Turkish and Syrian women hold weekly meetings to exchange ideas and this contributes to social harmony.

Professor Aziz Akgül, chairman of TİSVA, said they wanted to reach out to more women. "We plan to reach out to 900 women by the end of September and more than half of them will be Syrian women. Our cooperation with Care International will also be extended to other cities like Mardin, Istanbul and Adana. If those succeed, we will spread the project to other cities as well," he says.

Akgül noted that "mutual trust" was key in giving out loans for free payoffs and said repayment rates were "100 percent."

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