Empowering Refugees: Joining a Team

My name is Esmeray and as long as I remember I have always wanted to study. Before, I even used to attend university, but then I got married and the crisis in Syria began and that dream drifted away. My husband had a job and he did not think it was proper for a woman to work, much less to study. I had to drop out and stay at home all day.

This was as the crisis in Syria was beginning and things soon got worse. We had to live with 9 other people in an apartment and soon after we were 15. No electricity, no food, no water. However, despite our financial difficulties I was still not allowed to work. As ISIS was closing in I wanted to cross the border to Türkiye where my family had already gone, but my husband did not wish to leave.

Finally, he told me that as I did not have children yet, we were not a real family and that I could therefore leave alone. So, it was on my own that I crossed the border to Türkiye. I remember the fear of being by myself that first night in an unknown place, terribly aware of the danger this represents for a young woman. Eventuality, I did manage to find my family in Türkiye and started to rebuild my life.

That is when I encountered RET International, not as a beneficiary of its program, but as an employee. They proposed a job, which perfectly matched my skills, and I decided to take it and be part of the solution. Staying at home, cut off from the world is very dangerous during an emergency, as it makes women extremely dependent and fragile. I had learned this first hand and would never go back. Today, I help other women who have been displaced by the conflict.


RET in Türkiye, thanks to the generous support of UNHCR and the Governments of Luxembourg and Great Britain, runs trainings for displaced young women in 20 Women’s Centres in the southern province of ?anliurfa. We have set up the different trainings to take place throughout the year and it is exciting for all of us in the team to see concrete action being taken.

My role is to translate and facilitate the communication between the young Syrian women, Turkish women and the employees of the Centres. This is necessary as the Centres were originally created for local Turkish women before the Syrian conflict. RET works within these Centres to build their capacity allowing them to open up to the Syrian community.

Having also fled from Syria I am well placed to understand the context these young women come from. Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is for example a constant threat. That is why we offer basic survival Turkish courses, which allow women to gain a minimum of independence, to live life in Türkiye, to communicate with the local community, to be able to buy food for the family, to explain their situation, to ask for directions, to access health services or assistance in case of SGBV.

The Centres also offer focus group discussions where young women can talk freely about their needs and the challenges they face. This type of open dialogue allows us to refine the scope of the educational services we offer in the future. Sadly, the international community projects that the crisis, already in its fifth year, is likely to last a very long time.

In addition, we created trainings on women’s health as well as on the already available services that the Government of Türkiye provides and to which Syrian women have access. RET also trains the teachers and the Centres’ staff to en-sure greater quality, as well as the necessary sensitivity and program customization for Syrian women.

As the crisis struck the region, many new needs have appeared. In addition to teaching “Survival Turkish” to the young Syrian women, we now teach vary-ing levels of Turkish to young people, ranging from A1 to C2 levels in order for the Syrian children and youth to access Turkish schools. Therefore, we had to create and adapt programs and train teachers in the most effective methods for the different age groups, and specifically for teaching Turkish to Arabic speakers.

Someday I may be able to go back to university, but in the meantime I feel part of a team and know my work is making a difference.