ISTANBUL — Turkey shelters around 2.7 million Syrian refugees, of which nearly half are working-age women eager to help their families survive.
The Union of Turkish Textile and Ready Wear Exporters and Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management stepped in last year to offer an opportunity for female Syrian refugees, introducing them to a training program in machine knitting. They also engaged textile firms in Gaziantep, Sanliurfa and Kahramanmaras, along the country’s southern Syrian border, to help support graduates with employment.
Funded by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the Japanese government, the project aims to reach out to 1,000 women with three-week training sessions by the end of this year.
The effort came at a time when Turkey issued work permits for the Syrian community to prevent illegal labor, which is common in the garment sector, the country’s second-largest industry.
In Istanbul, where the largest Syrian community outside Turkey’s official refugee camps resides, volunteer groups like Small Projects Istanbul empower Syrian women to earn livelihood support and rebuild their lives.
The group runs a crafts collective at its Olive Tree community center in the Fatih district. That assists Syrian refugee women to develop skills in handcrafts, adding a contemporary twist to traditional motifs and designs in a variety of soulful accessories, such as silver- and copper-plated woven drop earrings, handmade woven bracelets and 925 silver rings, all available online at smallprojectsistanbul.org/olive-tree-womens-craft-collective.
Millions of refugees have fled Syria’s armed conflict since 2011. The refugee camps along the Turkish-Syrian border can hold only 270,000 people, so the majority of them have moved into cities and joined Turkey’s large — and largely unregulated — apparel manufacturing sector.
The country’s textile sector employs scores of refugees, most at low wages. There are allegations that labor and human rights abuses — including child exploitation — are widespread in the absence of adequate government protections.