A woman wearing a mask makes a wedding dress at a workshop in Ankara, Turkey, on Feb. 18, 2021. At a workshop in Ankara run by the municipality, Syrian women were trained to make wedding dresses, an experience aimed to integrate refugees into local workforce. (Photo by Mustafa Kaya/Xinhua)
by Burak Akinci
ANKARA, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- At a workshop in the Turkish capital Ankara run by the municipality, Syrian women were trained to make wedding dresses, an experience aimed to integrate refugees into local workforce.
"I have a dream, and I come here to learn what could make my dream a reality. I want to stand on my own feet and learn a profession," Heradi Sakih, a 40-year-old mother of six from Syria's northern city of Aleppo, told Xinhua.
Sakih wants to establish herself as a good seamstress and open her own workshop in Turkey where she and her family are planning to stay until the end of the civil war in her native land.
Organizers of the project, funded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, chose it because a person who can make a bride's dress can generally make any other clothing garment.
"The thing that we aim at is to integrate these women in Turkey's workforce. As migrants face a lot of hardships regarding employment, we expect them to have something to offer and make sewing their profession," said Senay Yilmaz, in charge of women affairs at the Ankara metropolitan municipality.
"We have been managing this UN project since 2017. So far, 375 girls have been schooled and 150 mothers integrated in the labor force by learning a craft," she explained.
While mothers train for six weeks at the workshop, two storeys below their children can play and learn Turkish in a day care center under the supervision of preschool teachers.
Since the start of the ongoing Syrian conflict in 2011, Turkey has been bearing the heaviest burden of hosting refugees. There are 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees across Turkey.
Even if the Turkish government granted access to some public services, most importantly health services, to the Syrian refugees, they still face challenges such as the lack of education and training opportunities.
The situation turned worse due to the COVID-19 pandemic as thousands of Syrians and local workers alike lost their jobs as businesses closed temporarily or indefinitely because of lockdown measures since the start of the outbreak in March 2020.
Some 1.6 million Syrians in Turkey are of working age, but very few have work permits. As a result, tens of thousands of Syrians are working informally in every field, especially construction, textiles and agriculture.
Hala Srouji, 22, is also from Aleppo. She had to leave there in 2019 with six other family members because of hostilities.
"The main reason why I am here is to learn a craft which may come handy later, a profession which can provide an income for my family", she said.
"My purpose is to be able to stand on my own and be something in this society where at the beginning we were shunned because we didn't speak Turkish," said the young woman.
Eda Altun, instructor of the workshop, also a fashion design teacher, is very happy for their achievement.
"In six weeks, each of them is becoming able to sew and make individually a wedding gown. Our objective is to obtain employment for these women through cooperatives and stores where the dresses can be sold," she indicated.
"The candidates are quite skilled and learn easily to sew by hand and machine and have solid bond and team spirit here that they will use for professional integration later on," Altun added. Enditem