A pilot for empowering Syrian women refugees

An UNDEF-funded project in Turkey works with Syrian women refugees in Reyhanli, near the Turkey-Syria border, so as to give them opportunities to organize, engage and support other refugees while preparing for the future, whether in Turkey or in Syria. The initiative thus focuses on the sizeable Syrian refugee communities who are currently seeking to build a life in Turkey and not planning to move on to Europe or elsewhere. The project is also intended to serve as a model for other Syrian refugee communities -- in Turkey, and in the frontline states of Jordan and Lebanon, where UNDEF plans to fund similar efforts in 2016. UNDEF Executive Head Annika Savill visited the project in September 2015 to propose an expansion forward, including bringing all the above sub-projects together in one house so as to maximize synergies between them and to serve as a community and resource centre for all Syrians in Reyhanli, currently numbering 40,000 -- a proposal that was approved by the UNDEF Board in November 2015. “It’s courage and work like yours that can transform a refugee from a statistic to a human being living in dignity,” Annika Savill told the group during the visit. The women are trained in international law, including human rights, women’s rights, child rights and humanitarian law; democratic mechanisms, project conceptualization and design; and communication techniques. The women have formed teams to propose, design, run and staff their own sub-projects, which will range from a legal practice to be run by lawyers among the refugee group who will review and validate legal and identity documents for Syrians in Turkey; a women’s committee to coordinate information and services for Syrian women in Reyhanli; a child letter forum and a theatre ensemble, both intended to address the trauma of war and the refugee experience; a number of vocational programmes and a training centre for young girls, including to prevent child marriages -- a growing problem among Syrians in Turkey struggling to provide for their families.