Job training: turning points for women

©FAO/Kaya Tekin
©FAO/Kaya Tekin

FAO continues to support women through vocational trainings provided in the third phase of a project for Syrian refugees and Turkish members of host communities.

Two of her sons were kidnapped. Schools were closed. Syria was in the throes of conflict, and there wasn’t much of a future there for Rasha Kumar and her family. She and her husband sold their house in Syria and fled to Turkey, hoping to start again.

“I came here for the future of my children,” she says. “I moved to İzmir and started looking for jobs when I was out of money.”

Her husband, a construction worker, can work from time to time, but an injury to his left arm has left him with little movement. Kumar knew she needed to find work.

“My neighbours informed me about the culinary courses provided by FAO,” she says. “I thank FAO for these trainings, as they help us to stand on our feet. I learned to make Turkish dishes during these trainings, and now I am selling the food that I cook at home to restaurants.”

An FAO programme to train women from refugees and host community

Kumar’s training in gastronomy is provided through an FAO project titled “Increase Self-Reliance and Improve Agricultural Livelihoods of Refugees through Employment Opportunities.” The project is funded by the European Union and the Government of Turkey, and it is jointly implemented by FAO, the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

The vocational training that is provided through the project helps women from refugees and host community play more active roles in society and achieve economic empowerment through participation in business life. These trainings are turning points for women – especially those who have not worked in the past and who have not had income.

The women who attend these events receive theoretical and practical training on selected topics in areas of agricultural production in which there is a shortage of skilled labour in the pilot provinces. After completing eight weeks of theoretical and on-the-job training, the trainees then participate in job fairs to increase employment opportunities. The project has trained approximately 300 women in its third phase.

‘My biggest aim is to support my children’s education’

Rabia Baş, from the host community of İzmir, has been working in greenhouses for almost her entire life. Still, in greenhouse training organized by the Provincial Directorate of Agriculture and Forestry in İzmir as part of the project, she has learned new skills.

“Whatever you do, a person needs to receive the proper training,” she says. “Even though we started greenhouse farming at the age of 8, we learned a lot from the training provided by FAO. For example, I kept in my mind that ‘cucumber flowers are burnt.’ The flowers were burning due to increased humidity, and we need to put a moisture meter to measure the conditions in our greenhouses. I learned this after 15 years. During the training, we learned so many significant and technical details.”

In the greenhouses, Baş works alongside her husband, and together they are able to cover their daily needs. Baş also works as a tailor during winter months to support the family budget.

The greenhouse work is difficult, she says, but it’s also rewarding.

“Our working hours are defined by the sun. We wake up during the sunrise and sleep during the sunset. We don’t have a clock. This is what farm means,” she says, later adding: “Working in the plantation is already very difficult. Working with soil is one of the most difficult professions, but in the meantime, it is also a very beautiful one. Because the most important thing is to produce.”

Working in the greenhouse, Baş says, she and her husband are able to meet the needs of many more people than just themselves.

The work also puts her in contact with other women farmers, women cooperatives and women organizations. Perceptions are changing about women in agriculture, she says. The work not only gives her the ability to provide some of the family income, but it also helps her give her two children a great start in life.

“My biggest aim is to support my children’s education,” she says. “I want them to have a profession.”

During the training organized by Provincial Directorate of Agriculture and Forestry in İzmir, Rabia Baş from the host community, who received greenhouse training and Syrian woman Rasha Kamar, who received gastronomy training, provided their views regarding the challenges and barriers they face as women and how these training effected and made a difference in their lives.