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Support Women's and Girls' Empowerment

by Support to Life (STL) Hayata Destek Dernegi
Support Women's and Girls' Empowerment
Support Women's and Girls' Empowerment
Support Women's and Girls' Empowerment
Support Women's and Girls' Empowerment

Selam is now 20, she was 14 when her family had to leave Syria and find refuge in Turkey. She is also the youngest member of KEKIK, STL’s Women’s cooperative that operates in Southeast Turkey -Mardin’s Yesilli district. She is a skilled cooked and an ambitious worker. I, as a member of STL’s communication team, recently had the privilance of having a conversation with her. I will try to give you a sense of who she is, as she is someone whose life you impacted with your donation.

Selam describes the times before the war;

“My family was well off frankly. I was a 6th grader, had good grades. Then the war broke out, we found ourselves cought in the middle of it all. It happens so fast. They took our houses, cars; our land, everything… We had to leave. Telling you all this, you taking these notes, it only takes a few minutes and there is no way I can communicate how it all felt, how difficult it all was.”

“Now we’ve been living in Turkey for 6 years. Of course, upon arrival, our first priority was to find shelther, and then a means of livelihood. Me and my siblings all began looking. That’s when I heard there were going to be gastronomy courses in Kabala district. I was thrilled.”

Being determined as she is, Selam learned Turkish began taking her Gastronomy classes. She made friends too. She learned the Turkish cousine and she thought her friends the Syrian one. The cash-for-education mechanism used was instrumental in mitigating her family’s financial precarity, while she was gaining new skills.

“Support to Life had a very helpful role in my life. They helped me obtain a vocation; they provided financial and moral support, enabled me to socialize. They helped us begin new lives in Turkey.

In our women’s cooperative KEKIK, Turkish and Syrian women are working and producing together side by side, earning a living and building a cohesive, multi-cultural society from bottom up while doing so.

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Manar (11) was diagnosed with Sipini Bifida at birth. Thus, she has restricted mobility. Until she came into contact with Support to Life, her father Jud (34) had to carry her to school on his back. When Manar and her family’s path has crossed with support to life, things took a turn for the better.

Jud (34) says; “We consulted with another organization to assist us with Manar’s situation. They referred us to Support to Life. Support to Life began following up with Manar’s case and by getting in touch with the right organizations, in the end, they were able to provide us with an electric wheelchair. Before, I had to carry Manar on my back, so that she could go to school. I would come back from work, take her to school and then go back to work. Now she can go to school by herself.

That wasn’t the end of it though. Jud had to build a ramp for Manar. He explains, “As I’ve been working on the construction sector, I know how to build these things. I built the ramp myself. And thankfully, the school administration and the local municipality took action to pave the road to Manar’s school. She can now navigate the road safely.”

Lastly, Manar had to learn how do drive her electric chair of course. That’s when her grandpa’s teaching skills came in. Manar’s grandpa explains, “It’s just like driving you know, I told her how she should look over her shoulder before making a turn, for safety.”

Manar is already 11, but she lost a couple of years when they moved to Turkey so she is studying 4th grade with her younger sister. This does not bother her though; she has a positive outlook. She is a fan of art classes and wants to be a fashion designer when she grows up.

STL works in a solution oriented manner. We may not have a ‘special needs fund’ allocated for each of our field locations, and we may not always be able to find a private donor. But we explore all the possibilities. In the case of Manar, we simply facilitated her access to information, carried her case on to relevant organizations, spoke with local authorities and the school management to explore all the possible solutions.

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Mother’s day is a good day to once again repeat that we stand for equality, justice, and freedom for not just mothers, but all the women of the world, regardless of their ethnicity, nationality, or socio-economic standing. We strive to make possible a future where each and every woman is able to express herself freely, enjoy equal opportunities, and stand firmly on her own feet. In this report, we wish to make two women heard by you, our supporters.

Habibe is a 47-year-old woman currently living in the city of Mardin in Turkey. She’s been passionate about education all her life, and this has put her ‘at odds’ with her family at times. But she never lost her dynamism and strength, and still believes in herself, believes that she can achieve her dreams.

“My son is studying tourism, and I am studying sociology. We care a great deal about education. I have three children, they’ve all studied. I studied theology back in Syria. Even though my older brother forced me to marry a bigoted man, and even though he pressured me not to do so, I’ve finished school. After that I was the sole bread-winner in my household for many years. I came to Turkey two years ago, with my daughter. My daughter also has been unlucky with her marriage; she hasn’t been able to go to school. But I will make sure my son studies, no matter what. I’m unemployed since two weeks, I worked in a soap workshop before. But that’s alright, I can find a new job. I just received my papers from Syria, showing my bachelor’s degree. I hope to complete a graduate degree here. But first, I wish to correct the biggest mistake of my life – I will get divorced. Actually we are already separated 8 years a –I’ve been on my own, taking care of my kids throughout this war. But this divorce has symbolic importance for me. By doing it, I want to communicate a message to my family that insisted I marry him, and also to my kids that also try to hold on to life against all odds. As a woman, I challenge what was ‘deemed proper’ for me, I reject this wrongdoing and I will change it.”

Sena’s story also revolves around her ambitions to study and to achieve her full potential. At 21, she is much younger but sees no time to waste.

“My name is Sena, I am currently 21 and I live in the city of Adana in Turkey. I’ve been studying since 4-years-old. I had to leave 17 years of education back in Syria. I actually had an entirely different set of plans and dreams. I was studying to be a primary school teacher. When we had to leave due to war, I couldn’t finish my degree. But I didn’t just give in. There was an exam here in Turkey, institutions giving Arabic classes were about to recruit teachers. I took the exam and succeeded. I worked as a teach for about 5 months but then failed to get an extension on my working contract because I didn’t have a teacher’s degree. But I know that I can continue my education in Turkey. Right now, we work in a farm with my whole family. But I also study for my Turkish proficiency exams. Besides, with this job, I am saving money to go back to school. My biggest dream right now is to have a self-sustaining life by working as a teacher. My older sister has been successful, and I will follow her path.”

How we support women, who are seeking to make a change in their lives against all odds? Through vocational and language classes, employability trainings, job placements, social cooperatives… We also help them navigate the bureaucracy. If their state is particularly vulnerable and they have special protection needs, we act fast and ensure their wellbeing. Please continue supporting us so that we can keep supporting lives in 9 cities of Turkey, with our 300-large Support to Life team.

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Organization Information

Support to Life (STL) Hayata Destek Dernegi

Location: Istanbul - Turkey
Project Leader:
Fatih Kiyman
Istanbul, Turkey
$1,932 raised of $13,000 goal
14 donations
$11,068 to go
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