Stories
03 Mar 2022
By: Melis Güner

Çanakkale is a city of tolerance, natural beauty with sea and mountains in the Dardanelle region of Turkey and is famous for various high-quality agricultural products. As the world needs climate action, responsible production and consumption, and gender equality, the city and its residents have chosen the path of sustainable development.   

A group of women entrepreneurs has started the Troida Women's Cooperative to contribute to rural development driven by the motto "Good agriculture, additive-free food, zero-waste kitchen, and women's employment!" This initiative supports disadvantaged groups like migrants and refugees in the region by distributing freshly produced tastes.  

"I was excited by the idea to support rural development, deliver clean products to producers and consumers, and minimize waste while empowering women,"

 tells Rebiye Ünüvar, a member of the cooperative and the deputy mayor of Çanakkale. Farmers in the agricultural city of Çanakkale have recently had challenges cultivating and marketing their products. "By using products from the regional producer, we contribute to agricultural workers' income and ensure that their items are sold," Nazmiye Gök, the cooperative president, explains how Troida contributes to rural development. In addition, efficient resource usage and increased production capacity are also effective in improving a society's wellbeing and happiness.  

This women's initiative aims to strengthen society through women empowerment. They believe that women have high resilience and potential, which help them contribute to the community.   
  

"Empowering women financially and socially strengthens the basis of society," says Nazmiye.

Gender inequality leads to low work opportunities. Therefore, women's empowerment has become a priority for the Troida cooperative. The cooperative tries to achieve gender equality by providing decent work conditions and increasing the number of working women. 

Since 2020, when the Troida Women's Cooperative started production, it has provided economic freedom and employment opportunities to 15 women. The women working here not only have a job, but they also have the chance to advance socially and culturally. They gain new skills by participating in various thematic trainings such as Occupational Safety and Hygiene Training, which IOM Turkey organizes as part of their business development plan. "We noticed that after trainings, those women decided to work here. They seemed more motivated and felt more powerful and productive," says adds Nazmiye Gok.   

"This is my first job. Producing and creating something is a wonderful experience that I have never had before in my life. I have spent a lot of time with my women colleagues, learning what work and labour means," gratefully shares Nursevim Yılmaz. "I learned sharing, solidarity, and unity from Troida."

In the cooperative, women entrepreneurs make various products from tomato paste to watermelon molasses with the manufacturing equipment provided by IOM Turkey. One of the most exciting things in this cooperative is women's creativeness and adaptation capabilities: "The beauty of working with women is that their flexibility and potential help us increase our productivity with creative ideas," explains Rebiye Ünüvar.  

Any wasted food can be transformed into delicious tastes at the Troida cooperative. Fruits are used to make jam, marmalade, and molasses, and then leftovers are used to make vinegar. Finally, the waste becomes fertilizer. The watermelon molasses and pickled watermelon peel are interesting examples of their new generation products. The Troida Women's Cooperative promotes responsible production and consumption, considering those who do not have enough food and the unavoidable consequences of climate change. 

"Products should be responsibly manufactured, and each product should be returned to nature. Nature will give us back in this way, and the circle will be maintained."

Supporting disadvantaged groups and migrant communities is one of the cooperative's top priorities. "We hope to support them economically by providing job opportunities and products. Migrants' integration into society is beneficial to the entire country," concludes Nazmiye. One of Troida's long-term objectives is to employ migrants. Although there are some administration barriers, the women are determined and making significant efforts to overcome these challenges. 

"We support women of all ethnicities, nationalities, beliefs, and ideologies, and we want to become stronger together and say no to discrimination," says Rebiye Ünüvar.

"In the beginning, we were concerned whether we would complete this project. But once first products were produced and placed in jars, we felt delighted," Nursevim Yılmaz says happily. Women, who embarked on this journey with many doubts initially but with a strong belief in themselves, today are supporting many families with their labour force and products while contributing to recycling. They received business plan, consulting service, training, and equipment support within the IOM Turkey's Community Supportive Agriculture Project. They are moving toward achieving new development goals with solidarity, faith, and cooperation.

"Producing is wonderful, but supporting the purpose is much better. It's an honour to be a part of such a project," says Dilek Zeynali, a member of the cooperative and employee.