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Turkey, Zeytinburnu Municipality - Snow Finch Project

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Nov 19, 2019 / 0 Comments

The project aims to provide refugee women with adequate labor skills for securing sustainable income. In addition, it also envisages to fulfill their basic needs. Trips in the city and sale stands provide social cohesion and socialization.


Lead Authority or Organization: Family, Women Support and Disabled People Centre (AKDEM) and Zeytinburnu Municipality  

Area: Zeytinburnu / Istanbul, Turkey 

Beneficiaries: Refugee women (Syrians and other nationalities) living in the Zeytinburnu district

Timeline: November 2015 – ongoing

Human Resources: 11 staff members: 4 trainers from Zeytinburnu Public Education and Evening School; 3 staff from AKDEM; 2 trainers from Refugee Rights Association; 1 health trainer from Public Health Center.

Funding Amount: $115,000 (2015–2017)

Source of Funding: Zeytinburnu Public Education and Evening Art School: 19% of total funding. Public Health Center and Refugee Rights Association: 4% of total funding. Municipality of Zeytinburnu: 77% of total funding. The Olivium Shopping Center provides sales stands for free.


Context and Challenges


Zeytinburnu is Istanbul’s district with the highest concentration of refugees at 8.63% of the total population. Refugees usually work in the informal sector with low-skilled jobs for a low rate, such as the textile sector. Informal employment and informal businesses are the main challenges in the local economy. Therefore, strengthening refugees’ labor and adaptation skills is crucial for better socio-economic development of the district. For this reason, this project targets women because of their high level of vulnerability compared to other refugee groups, and aims to increase their integration in the local society by increasing their self-esteem through targeted trainings.


The Family, Women Support and Disabled People Centre (AKDEM) conducts adaptation programs for migrants and refugees in the Municipality of Zeytinburnu. The AKDEM Integration Department was established in 2009 for assisting the needs of migrants—foreseeing the potential problems that refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless people may encounter—and conducting applied integration programs which lead to better social cohesion.


Actions and Reported Results

The project has been led and organized by Zeytinburnu Municipality and the Family, Women Support and Disabled People Centre (AKDEM) since 2015. Its purpose is to help women who have already taken part in other AKDEM activities, such as Turkish language courses, to develop their skills in order to improve their livelihood. The following activities were implemented:

  • Technical workshops and skills development. Four workshops of 520 hours each (on felt-fabric, bead, soapstone, and waste material) were established. Three trainee groups, composed of twelve women each, attended workshops and courses. These women, aged 35-55, are many different nationalities, such as Bulgarian, Iraqi, Moroccan, Albanian, Pakistani, Georgian, Syrian, Uzbek, Afghani, and Russian. 
  • The Migrant Women Club. Established in 2015 under AKDEM’s activities, the Migrant Women Club created the “Kar Sercesi” (Snow Finch) brand for selling products produced by refugee women trainees in the local market, and then sold by refugee women in the local shopping mall. 
  • Complementary courses. Besides workshops for skill development, women also participated in sanitation, gynecology and family planning, nutrition and healthy life, official rights, household economics, child development and health, and Turkish language courses. Each course is a total of 21 hours. 
  • Socialization and social cohesion. Cultural trips in Istanbul help refugee women familiarize themselves with Turkish history and create the right environment for socialization. This way, their sense of belonging to the host city and society increases.

In 2017, the project entered a new and effective phase with the assistance of UNHCR. Thanks to the provision of ten textile machines, a technical workshop will be established, and work and production paths will start among beneficiaries. Marketing and sales trainings will also be organized for the project team members leading to a holistic way of implementation of the project, to include both the Turkish host community and refugees.


Reported Results

  • Improved economic situation among refugees. The promotion of the “Snow Finch” brand and its products contributed to improving the economic situation of refugee women.
  • Increased refugee socio-economic inclusion and sustained livelihood. Beneficiaries have produced over 1,000 handmade products. Their sales helped refugee women have an opportunity for ensuring a sustainable livelihood.
  • Steps toward social cohesion between host and refugee populations. Sales stands are mostly set in the shopping mall and all events are organized by the Zeytinburnu Municipality to ensure a fruitful hub for gathering local people and refugees. Local women have an opportunity to listen to the story of the “Snow Finch” as well as those of refugee women who had to leave their homelands to survive, which increases social cohesion and mutual understanding.


Evidence and Beneficiary Feedback

AKDEM has succeeded to create a safe place where people feel free and at ease. Feedback was provided by beneficiaries regarding their improved self-confidence, knowledge, and awareness about the town environment and mechanisms. In particular, the connections made with local people while selling their products in shopping malls and stands gives refugee women self-confidence in addition to income opportunities. 


Lessons Learned

Challenges and Risks

For some of the beneficiaries, the lack of childcare during workshop hours was one of the biggest challenges, as it would have prevented them from a regular attendance. Therefore, AKDEM opened a kindergarten inside the center to encourage mothers to participate. As a lesson learned, taking into account traditional gender roles for women while the training program is designed is crucial to ensure reaching project goals. 

The second challenge was a small number of local women who complained that the activities for refugee women only, which provided a remarkable lesson for the project to adopt a more inclusive approach in the future.


Key Ingredients of Success

The name of the project is, in itself, a success. “Snow Finch” is a bird of passage which does not leave its land until the circumstances get so atrocious its home is inhospitable. The analogy between the snow finch and refugee women provides a significant level of awareness and sensitivity. Moreover, due to the approach of the project (ensuring skills development, language, family planning and genealogy, sanitation and child caring courses), refugee women are supported in many aspects of life. This multifaceted implementation of the project is certainly a key ingredient of success.


Innovative Aspects

“Snow Finch” answers to a vast number of beneficiaries’ needs. First, the project targets one of the most vulnerable segments of refugees, which is composed of women, and indirectly their children. Once women successfully complete Turkish language courses for better integration, they are able to attend other, more advanced courses related to other needs, such as sanitation, family planning, child development, and home economics. The large number of trainings and courses offered is the most innovative aspect of the project, as women receive all trainings related to their needs, in addition to skill development workshops, with a step-by-step approach. 



  • An agreement with local employers can guarantee jobs for beneficiaries after the completion of their trainings.
  • The target group should also include local women in order to reduce tensions between locals and refugees, to ensure social cohesion and integration, and for the creation of job opportunities for women from both the host and refugee populations.


The project is an example of collaboration among public institutions (Zeytinburnu Public Education and Evening Art School and Zeytinburnu Public Health Center), the private sector (local shopping mall), and NGOs (AKDEM and Refugee Rights Association). 


This post is part of a series of case-studies published in the CMI 2018 Refugees' Compendium and featuring host communities experiences in hosting refugees with relation to local economic development. The information in-here was provided by focal points in the relevant institutions, NGOs, local governments, etc


Read the story on the compendium


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