Sustainable tourism offers new opportunities for women and for local development in Turkey
Asiye Kürklü, 47, had spent much of her adult life as a wife and mother, raising her two children. Although she was making artisanal handicrafts and selling them, it was still her husband who provided for the family. As she wanted to work as a self-sufficient woman, she joined a women’s association in her village in 2010.
Misi, Asiye’s small, charming village with 1,200 residents and an ancient history, has great potential for attracting visitors from nearby Bursa, the fourth largest city in Turkey.
Recognizing this as an opportunity too good to pass up, Asiye and her friends founded the Nilüfer Misi Village Women’s Cultural and Beneficiary Association in 2010.
With the municipality’s support, they opened a restaurant, which offered traditional cuisine. Over 45 women from the village pitched in, taking shifts and working together.
“We wanted to see that we can achieve something. None of us have worked before. We got married, had children and raised them. Now, our children are grown up and we found ourselves in limbo. We wanted to produce something. We started off with a small business. When we saw that we can be successful, we wanted to take it to the next step”, Asiye recalls.
It was at this point that Asiye and her friends discovered the Future is in Tourism – Sustainable Tourism Support Fund, an initiative of the Government of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism, UNDP in Turkey and Anadolu Efes.
The fund has supported many local development actors across Turkey who develop sustainable tourism initiatives.
- Women involved in these projects improved their skills and competencies thanks to several training programmes provided by the fund. As a result, women were empowered both to be employed in sustainable tourism initiatives, benefit from more employment opportunities in their region and to found their own businesses.
- The Future is in Tourism-Sustainable Tourism Support Fund supported three women-led sustainable tourism initiatives across Turkey during 2014.
Asiye and her friends’ project, which they call ‘100% Misia,’ has been funded by the Future is in Tourism Support Fund in its first call, along with two other projects, ‘Seferihisar’s Traditional Cuisine’ and ‘Creating Women-led Sustainable Tourism Initiatives in Mardin’.
Local non-governmental organizations are the implementing partners of these projects and the fund provides them with the necessary guidance, tools, and resources.
In addition, the fund supports other areas of intervention in line with Turkey’s 2023 Tourism Strategy, such as diversifying tourism products, fostering a tourism season for the whole year and creating alternative tourism spots.
Projects supported by the fund also revive traditional production methods and highlight natural, historical and cultural sustainability; this approach is always underlined during project trainings.
The fund closely monitors the impacts of the projects and the extent to which they benefit the local community, and provides consultancy support on project management and communication.
Reviving silkworm breeding
Nagihan Dülger, 50, who is also a founding member of the Misi women’s association, says that they wanted to bring two things together with ‘100% Misia’: reviving silkworm-breeding in Misi and upgrading their restaurant where they serve traditional food. This way, they can vary the sources of sustainable income for Misi women.
“The fund also helped us to purchase equipment for two houses provided to us by the municipality,” says Nagihan. “One is called ‘Silk House’ where we breed silkworms, weave the silk and then make niche silk products. We also use this house as a store for our products.”
The second house, called ‘Cocoon House,’ is a traditional Misi house that serves traditional food to attract more tourists to the village.
Right now 46 women work in the Silk House and Cocoon House. Both houses are fully functional since September 2014.
Traditional flavours delivered online
Special traditional flavours and products produced by women in Seferihisar, globally known for being one of the ‘Cittaslow’, are branded as part of the ‘Seferihisar Traditional Cuisine’ project, supported by Future is in Tourism.
The project is implemented by the women’s Hıdırlık Agricultural Development Cooperative, in which 75 women are members.
The women used to sell their products, produced at home, through a website called seferipazar.com. Neptün Soyer, head of the cooperative, tells us how the grant from the fund helped them to advance what they have been doing as Seferihisar women.“There was an old house allocated to the cooperative by the Seferihisar Municipality, which we have renovated thanks to the grant. Now, we have our own kitchen where women can gather to prepare the traditional cuisine as a business.”
Fatma Berrin Karabulut, a member of this cooperative, tells us that she got involved in this project because of something her son said. “One day, my son said ‘Mom, if something happens to you and you are not around, no one will make tarhana in our house, there will no longer be that sweet smell of ‘tarhana’ in our house.’ This made me think that yes, we should teach these traditional foods to others so that they continue throughout generations. So when this project came up, it was big for us. We got trainings on several topics, like cooking and culinary art and it was a chance to be more professional in what we do.”
Along with these trainings, Future is in Tourism also provides the women with branding expertise so that they can improve their sales in online platforms and in bazaars.
They now organize ateliers every Sunday afternoon for tourists and anyone who is interested in learning how to cook and prepare the traditional foods of Seferihisar.
Women-led sustainable tourism initiatives created
Women in Mardin, in southeast Turkey, have created their own employment opportunities.
With support from the Future is in Tourism fund, they restored an old house in the historic city centre and created an exemplary women’s initiative on sustainable tourism when they turned it into a guest house, named İpekyolu Guesthouse.
The women developed professional knowledge in hotel management. “We learned everything from a to z,” says Berna Yağcı from Mardin. “For instance, we have now established a system for bookkeeping. A Website has been built for our promotion and to reach us. We are preparing our menus. These are what we wanted to achieve for the sustainability of the project.”
The project is implemented by the Foundation for the Support of Women’s Work. Fifty women and young people received job trainings to develop expertise in the tourism sector.
The İpekyolu Guesthouse now provides 13 women with sustainable employment.