At the cooperative named SADA established by 50 women of Syrian, Turkish and Afghan nationalities in Gaziantep, women collectively produce both to heal their wounds and generate income.
SADA Women’s Cooperative enables women members of various nationalities to develop both culturally and economically to become individuals serving their families and societies.
Operational since 2017 in Gaziantep, SADA Women Development and Solidarity Centre provides training on communications, leadership, collective work and cooperativism.
The project is led by UN Women and supported by International Labour Organization (ILO), Association for Solidarity with Asylum-Seekers and Migrants (ASAM) and Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality.
At the cooperative where every woman is the boss, decisions are made jointly, and the profits derived from the sales revenues are equally shared by women.
“I used to work as a lawyer in my country”
Stating that she was a lawyer in her country, Meryem Hamdouch, a Syrian mother of four said: “I’ve been in Turkey for 7 years. Earlier, I worked as a lawyer in my country for 6 years. After the onset of the war, we took refuge in Turkey. Earlier, I attended several courses which included conversation course, computing course etc. Then, I joined the cooperative association. This is a cooperative of SADA. When I was taking the computing course, the trainer told me that if I wanted a special job of mine, I could join this organisation. And I replied that I would love to. Then I was invited to a meeting where we talked about the cooperative, then we participated in the training. At those meetings, we were taught to stand on our own feet strongly, be sisters without discrimination of nationality be it Syrian, Turkish or Afghan. Syrians, Turks and Afghans, we all stood together and established our own cooperative. Thank God, we are advancing smoothly.”
“We are happy to be here”
Stating that she learned about the cooperative and its work through a friend, Hatice İyitütüncü, a mother of three, said: “First I started here as a trainee. Then, this turned into a cooperative. We work here with Syrian and Afghan colleagues. We were also given training on cooperative operations. Here, we received training even on our children. We are doing fine things here. Above all, it is nice to come together here to do something. We produce home textiles. We are happy to be here.”
“Much changed in my life”
Having arrived in Turkey 6 years ago, Zöhre Huseyni, an Afghan of 22 years of age, said she was happy to be working at the cooperative and added that “I and a friend of my make designs here. I met with this cooperative through a friend. Earlier, I always worked at home. Then I started visiting this place. I make the drawings of products sewn here. Much changed in my life after coming to this place. I am happy to be here.”
“We have all become sisters”
Having arrived in 2012 in Turkey due to the civil war in her country, the life of Zuka Najjar, a Kurd from Afrin, changed at a meeting she participated at SADA. Emphasising that her thoughts changed following a meeting at SADA with women like her, Najjar said: “After the meeting, I understood that women must try to learn to stand on their own feet. I understood that life did not stop on account of war. Following the training, we established the cooperative. We have 50 women of Syrian, Turkish and Afghan nationalities. Here, we are all like sisters. We do all work together. Whoever is talented for or likes which department has chosen that department. As I like kitchen, I chose the kitchen workshop. Now we ae producing together, and none of us is a stranger here, we have all become sisters. My family is in Syria, but once I arrived here, they became my second family. I did not know the local dishes for the time I lived in Turkey, now I have started to learn, and I loved it. At the same time, my friends from Turkey are learning about Syrian dishes. Here, we all produce and sell collectively. My job is to price the orders and promote products.”
“Women heal their wounds together”
Noting that they have indulged in dreaming with collective production at the cooperative, Bilge Çoban, ILO’s field coordinator, stated that SADA stood as a model for it was established by women of three nationalities.
Underlining that the social norms of the region we were living in were not much conducive for women to participate in employment, Bilge Çoban emphasised that women, through this collective work, stood to demolish such social norms.
Expressing that collective work, production and sharing changed women unbelievably, Çoban said: “Since women from Syria, Afghanistan and Turkey established the cooperative operating in three sectors namely shoe-making, textiles and kitchen, it is a first of its kind in Turkey. Such field projects are highly significant in integrating two communities, bringing them together and achieving social acceptance and peace. We are working with women who fled the war, lost their spouses or were divorced. Women at the cooperative heal their wounds together. They represent hope for one another. They dream collectively, and pursue their dreams.”