What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?
The neighborhood where the cooperative is located is one of the largest districts of Istanbul, Turkey. The population mostly consists of the domestic migrants with various ethnic backgrounds. Unplanned urbanization and poverty are the main problems as well as unemployment which also cause high crime rates. Women form almost half of the population. The main problems faced by women are limited social services, violence and family pressure. And the registered disabled population is about 12%.
The project aims the mothers of the mentally disabled children. Because their being have to take care of their children as well as their “traditional” responsibilities resulted from gender roles, these women can hardly get out their homes and cannot benefit from any social, economic or cultural opportunities. Therefore it is aimed to support these women in increasing their economic and social participation.
On the other hand, women have critical role in tackling with environmental challenges. Whether they live in urban or rural regions, they are the most vulnerable groups against these challenges. Because of their house/family care responsibilities, they are the important users of the natural resources. Besides; their roles as natural producers and teachers, they have a key role in providing sustainable live standards for the future. Therefore it is needed that the women should have awareness on environmental matters.
Besides; disability is perceived as a shame and being kept as a secret. This perception along with poverty results disabled children’s limited access to special services.
Tell us about the person—the social innovator—behind this idea.
In Nurtepe, a poor and violent district of Istanbul characterized by large, clashing migrant populations, Senem has encouraged women to come together and, through education and skills training, form a cooperative that is pursuing improvements in their communities—including schools, playgrounds, parks, public transportation, walkways and more. Senem believes that success in neighbourhoods as culturally diverse and violent as Nurtepe can be a building block for empowering women and establishing effective citizen participation and improved governance at the regional and national level. Senem’s community centre model, called “First Step,” provides leadership training and workshops on such topics as communication and rights, health and nutrition, domestic violence, and how to best work with policemen. Women also learn how to write petitions to local authorities and practice how to negotiate with government authorities when the inevitable first answer they receive is “no.” Also included is a child development component, where children can learn and develop and become better prepared for entry into the school system. This gives women the free time and opportunity to learn and receive training for themselves, and develop action plans for specific community betterment issues.
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