GAP Project concludes

01 Sep 2006

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The second phase of the ‘Reducing Socio-Economic Differences in Southeastern Anatolia' project is completed.

New Horizons - Within the scope of the programme, many sub-projects from women's participation in economic life to giving vocational training to young people and rehabilitation of children working on the streets were successfully implemented. The $ 1.3 million project was financed by the Government of Switzerland, and conducted by UNDP and GAP Regional Development Agency. We talked with Aygül Fazlıoğlu, GAP Human and Social Development Department Coordinator, about the project's achievements, its impact on the region and the lessons learned in the implementation process.

UNDP Turkey: How did the second phase start?

Aygül Fazlıoğlu (A.F.): First, let me briefly explain how we had arrived at the second phase of the project. As the GAP Agency, we had first determined our priorities in creating participatory and equitable development in the Southeast region, and in 1995, in partnership with UNDP, we started the first 26 sub-projects. This $ 5.4 million programme which was supported by the Turkish Government, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the UNDP, focused on sustainable use of natural resources, protection of the environment, women-sensitive development, eradication of poverty and integration of disadvantaged groups in development efforts, enhancement of local entrepreneurship, improvement of human resources, and strengthening of local capacity. The first phase of the programme was completed at the end of 2004. The second phase was carried out from December 2004-August 2006, in 9 provinces of the GAP region. In the light of our experience and observations during the first stage of the programme, we determined our target groups in the second phase as women, youth, and children working on the streets.

UNDP Turkey: Let's start with the ‘women' aspect of your project.

A.F.: Within the framework of ‘strengthening women's socio-economic position' component, we concentrated our efforts and activities on marketing those goods whose production women are traditionally skilled at, those products which have sales potential, on building the marketing infrastructure and its sustainability, on strengthening the institutional capacity of other related women's NGOs, and on building a communication network among these women's civil society initiatives. To further promote this communication network, we launched the Mozaik Magazine. So far, Mozaik published five issues.

UNDP Turkey: You have ‘Multi-Purpose Social Centres for Women' (ÇATOMs).

A.F.: ‘Multi-Purpose Social Centres for Women' were initiated by GAP Agency in 1995. Their objectives are assisting women to take better advantage of public services, to participate in decision-making mechanisms, to find jobs and to strengthen their social position.

The most important problem in the women component of our project is the sustainability of the quality of the goods women are producing. To help solve this problem we held training courses for both ÇATOMs and other women's NGOs in market-oriented product development and quality, sales techniques, bookkeeping, product and packaging design, and marketing.

We also gave female agricultural producers training on setting up cooperatives. There are now several such cooperatives in Mardin and Batman, and work is underway in Gaziantep and Siirt. Women farmers have also set up a cooperative in Suvarlı town, in Besni, Adıyaman.

UNDP Turkey: This is the one that was set up within the framework of the ‘Fair Trade' agreement, isn't it?

A.F.: Yes. The presence of women farmers, especially poor women farmers, is one of the criteria of fair trade. For this cooperative, we're about to hire an expert from the university to train the farmers on increasing product quality. We'll also build a warehouse.

UNDP Turkey: Quality is the most important factor in selling a product. Have sales increased following the trainings in quality improvement?

A.F.: The trainings were completed last September. Currently, a marketing expert from our staff is searching for more markets for the agricultural products. We previously conducted souvenir production workshops for 40 women in Adıyaman and Mardin. The handicrafts created by these women found a considerably large market. At the bazaar set up by the Municipality of Istanbul only, YTL 25,000 worth of goods were sold.

Employment opportunity is one of the most important outputs of this project. In Batman, Mardin and Nusaybin, nearly 40 women were involved in setting up restaurant businesses. They have started earning some serious money!

We've also launched trainings on the production of accessories made of felt, and on fashion styling. This project has been successful in Antep. We had a smaller such project model in Urfa, then we found out that Urfa Municipality also had a similar activity. So we joined forces and the project is now running smoothly.

Also as part of the women component of the programme, we held meetings on ‘Determining the Strategies Geared Towards Women's Economic Development' in Ankara in 2005. We prepared an action plan for improving women's economic life. Soon the findings of this work will be published in a booklet to be distributed to related public institutions.

UNDP Turkey: Are there any sales to foreign markets?

A.F.: Suvarlı villagers in Adıyaman are doing ‘fair trade' of their raisins with a French company. The first party of their export will be realized in September.

UNDP Turkey: What would you say about the children component of the programme?

A.F.: Our aim in the ‘Children Working on the Streets' Project was to improve the living standards of children who work on the streets and to increase their school attendance. We carried out this project in Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa and Batman. We arranged for the cooperation of the parents. We collaborated with the Governorship and the Society for the Protection of Children in Şanlıurfa and in Batman. We received support from NGOs in Batman. We set up computer labs, play groups and workshops to encourage the social development of children.

The ‘Voluntary Parents Campaign', also in the context of this project, has been very successful. We gained significant support from both national and international institutions. With this campaign we reached 1893 children in three provinces. Society for the Protection of Children, ILO and the Ministry of Education had other projects in other provinces, we incorporated these into our programme. All together, 3079 children benefited from this programme. We provided school uniforms and satchels and announced the campaign on the website. We organized “Reading Days” in three cities to encourage children's reading and writing habits. Our partner in this specific project was Can Publications. Several writers and theatre groups participated at the festivities and read their books and performed plays. We set up five libraries with a total of 15,000 publications. “Reading Days” project reached 815 children in Batman, 759 in Şanlıurfa and 330 in Gaziantep.

UNDP Turkey: And the third component of the programme was ‘Improving Socio-Economic Life of Young People'.

A.F.: Yes, this project was started in May 2001. It was implemented by Habitat and Agenda 21 Youth Association, and supported by UNDP and GAP Agency. In the first stage, our objective was to assist young people in improving their social and economic conditions. Our target group was youth aged 15-25 from different social segments. And they are not only university youth; there are unemployed youngsters, or those preparing for university exams, and secondary and primary school graduates, too. We implemented four different projects in the areas of employment, socio- cultural activities, capacity development and social support. In this first stage we reached 40,000 young people. In the second stage, we focused on vocational training. We have carried out trainings on many vocations from cell phone repair to graphic and web design.

For example, in Siirt we made an agreement with Sancak- Arat Denim Company for them to conduct textile training for 600 young people following which they are placed in jobs. The first group of 70 people got their training in May and started work in June 2006. The second group of trainees was employed in July 2006.

Another activity of the project was the National Practical Training Programme, in cooperation with KAGİDER (Women Entrepreneurs Association). 18 young women from Adıyaman, Şırnak, Siirt, Batman and Şanlıurfa had training in 18 KAGİDER-member companies, such as Vip Turizm, Hey Tekstil, Altınyıldız, Eti Holding, in sales, marketing, finance and public relations. One of the girls even got a job offer from the company she had trained at, where she'll soon start.

We also launched the e-coaching programme which aims to give consultancy and support to young people in planning their careers. E-coaching reached 148 youngsters until June 2006. The programme will be resumed as of October 2006.

In each province we set up Youth Culture Houses, where young people were offered training courses on project development and preparation, and entrepreneurship. Youngsters who “graduated” from these courses have passed on their knowledge to their peers who now prepare their own projects to benefit from national and international student exchange programmes and produce financial resources from various funds.

Also within the youth component of the programme, we as GAP Agency have conducted, in cooperation with ÇATOMs, a scholarship project from which poor but outstanding students took advantage. Habitat Youth Platform's large national and international communication network contributed to the success of this project.

UNDP Turkey: You've been involved in this programme right from the beginning. What kind of changes or results have you observed in these 9 provinces since the beginning of the projects?

A.F.: First and foremost, the projects have revealed the potential capacities in the region. Furthermore, they have produced a demand. As GAP Regional Development Agency, our main objective was to create a model through our pilot projects, and initiate and encourage the local communities to implement their own projects.

There are some remarkable improvements in the region, socially as well as economically. We must not forget that it's easy to see the success of economic developments in a couple of years, but social progress does not reveal itself so quickly. We'll see the results in mid- and long-terms.

UNDP Turkey: Are the folks aware that the programme is completed?

A.F.: Yes, but they wish it to continue, especially in the areas of women and children working on the streets. Formally the project will be over at the end of August, but actually the women component is still in effect because some activities are not completed yet. The youth component also continues, with the support of Pepsi Cola Company. As of September 2006 the youth project will be resumed with Pepsi's sponsorship.

UNDP Turkey: Are you planning on a 3rd phase project for women and children, too?

A.F.: We are thinking of a more innovative programme, focusing specifically on fighting poverty. We want to focus on vulnerable groups, including women. For the 3rd phase, we have such ideas in mind, as implementing micro-finance models in fighting poverty and improving the life standards of the poor in urban areas. Children can also benefit from these, but the main target will be women.

UNDP Turkey: Has any work done yet?

A.F.: We held a forum in Adıyaman, on the issue of ‘Fighting Poverty, and Employment', to be able to determine the infrastructure of the 3rd phase programme. It was a workshop where regional, national and international experiences were shared. We are currently preparing the forum report. In the light of the findings of the report, UNDP and GAP Regional Development Agency will decide on the new steps to be taken, find ways to gain the support of national NGOs, and prepare a programme guideline. Then both UNDP and the GAP Agency will start searching for resource funds.

UNDP Turkey: How will the “Voluntary Parents Campaign” continue?

A.F.: The institution directly involved with ‘children working on the streets' is the Society for Social Services and the Protection of Children (SHÇEK). This institution (SHÇEK), as well as ILO (International Labour Organization) and some NGOs proposed to take over this project and implement it on their own. We are considering it. Presently, we have our own web site on this project; we've put a great amount of work into this, but on the other hand, there is a huge number of children needing help.

UNDP Turkey: What kind of difficulties have you experienced during the implementation of the programme?

A.F.: We experienced difficulties especially in the marketing aspect in the women's component. We could not form a team to establish links with national and international markets. We could not find an appropriate team to do this job within the local community. Those who came from outside did not find the social conditions, nor the wages satisfactory.

Another problem is that we can't keep sustainability in the market. This is not a weakness of the project, it has to do with human resources. In order to maintain sustainability, the target group must be determined, they must believe in the project. But our people want quick results, which is not possible. We have a marketing problem because people don't have enough resolution. We found a few short-term markets. But to be able to sell the same product to the same market for a second or third time, we must increase the quality of the product. Our women must produce better merchandise. So this is what we're working on now.

UNDP Turkey: What would you say about your relations with UNDP?

A.F.: We've had a very satisfactory relationship since 1995. We find UNDP and its staff very compatible. They are competent, cooperative, sharing and innovative people. UNDP and GAP shared a wonderful experience.

Having said this, I must add the significant role of the local administrators and civilian authorities in this programme. They gave very valuable support, especially in logistics and in trainings, to the implementation of our projects, alongside UNDP, GAP Agency and Habitat Youth Association.

UNDP Turkey: Lastly, as GAP Agency, what lessons have you learned in this second phase of the programme, which you will pass on to the third phase?

A.F.: Our guiding principle has always been to involve all stakeholders in every stage of the project. The project's success proves that we have worked with the right people in our social and human development efforts.

I believe, we should do more projects to integrate disadvantaged groups into the development process. We should implement more model projects in this area. All in all, the most important achievement of this programme was the fact that we reached the poorest segments of our target groups.