Fashion shows are not often associated with development projects, but it made perfect sense as a group of Syrian women refugees in Turkey showcased the skills they acquired through a vocational training in apparel manufacture. The project was funded by Japan and implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
The event was however much more than a display of fashion creations. It was an opportunity to reflect on how the training has helped Syrian refugees regain the sense of pride and hope that has been washed away by the events that forced them to flee their country to find refuge in Turkey.
“When the war started in Syria …the Turkish people approached us in a brotherly manner and we felt very close,” said Mecid Abdulkrem, a graduate of the vocational training, at the event. “We started living in camps and times were difficult. This course was very important for its psychological and vocational contributions. Now we have hope for the future and we would like to thank all stakeholders of the project.”
The project aims to improve the livelihoods, social stability and resilience of Syrian refugees living in Turkey – in particular women and youth – by providing them with skills to help them find work so they can provide for themselves and their families. The training course focused mainly on sewing machine operation, equipment maintenance, pattern-making and production management. Around 1,000 people graduated from the course, out of which 350 attended a seminar on how to set up a business and apply for work permits. All the graduates were also registered for the employment pool, run by the Turkish Labor Agency, an important step in finding a job.
The Ankara event was the second of two fashion shows organized this week. The first one was held in the Kahramanmaraş refugee camp where the vocational training center was established as part of the project. Combined, vocational centers have trained more than 2,100 refugees, making a real difference to their lives and that of their families.