• Miko Alazas | Media and Communications Officer

Nurhan devoted her whole life working as a teacher. Now retired, she is on the lookout for a hobby. “Tailoring could be interesting. It would be a chance to sell the products I create.”

Emina’s past was a bit more tumultuous. Fleeing the war in Syria a decade ago, she has had to navigate finding herself in a new country.

Now settled in Izmir, Türkiye, she is looking to help support her family.

The two women of diverging backgrounds converged at a tailoring workshop, where they learned to weave fabrics of new opportunity.

The programme was designed to meet the need for qualified personnel in the clothing sector. Photo: IOM 2024/Yasin Almaz

Nestled along the country’s Aegean coast, Izmir Province is home to over 135,000 Syrians. İzmir is Türkiye’s third-largest city and one of its most economically progressive.

It presents the perfect occasion to harness the power of women – locals and migrants alike – to contribute to their communities.

In partnership with the Konak Municipality, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) established a clothing and textile workshop. 30 participants, the majority of whom were women, are participating in a three-month vocational training programme.

IOM provided the necessary equipment, such as sewing machines, irons and printing machines to kickstart the training.

“There’s a high demand for qualified personnel in the ready-to-wear clothing sector,” remarks Turan Ateş, Konak Municipality Research and Development Manager, highlighting how the workshop meets a need in the community.

Though the programme is arduous, Emina revels in having a new routine. “Normally, I spend my day doing household chores. Gaining new skills will improve my prospects for employment.”

Meanwhile, for Nurhan, the programme is opening up new perspectives: “It’s possible to find new purpose in life after retirement.”

Emina is hopeful about the opportunities that may arise following the programme. Photo: IOM 2024/Yasin Almaz

Approaching the conclusion of the programme, the Municipality intends to take it further. “We will market and sell the products, both nationally and internationally at trade fairs,” adds Ateş.

The story has piqued the interest of private companies, some of whom donated textile for the programme. The Municipality is in early discussions on the possibility of establishing job placement schemes.

As the participants learn together and exchange stories, the programme has also created a space for positive interaction between Turkish and Syrian communities.

“It’s nice to meet other women and interact in a positive environment,” says Emina, who is keen to become fluent in Turkish.

“It’s hard to be in a new country, having to overcome the language barrier,” Nurhan reflects on the challenges faced by her Syrian course-mates.

Ateş emphasizes that the workshop meets two objectives: foster social cohesion and provide equal opportunity to enter the workforce.

The programme concluded with an opening ceremony, which enabled further networking with the private sector. Photo: IOM 2024/Yasin Almaz

Today, the women are looking into what could come next. “I would like to keep sewing at home and sell my products, or even work at a textile company,” says Berrin.

“We can work in a factory or start a small business,” echoes Emina.

On International Women’s Day, we are reminded of the need to invest in women.

“When we equip local and migrant women with the right tools, we unlock their incredible potential to contribute to poverty reduction and development. This is a key driving force of the programme,” explains Pinar Genç Akcakaya, IOM’s Head of Field Office in Izmir.

Though Berrin, Emina and Nurhan may go their separate ways, their paths are now all forged with a new sense of ambition.

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The vocational training workshop was made possible through the financial support of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM).