Helping Turkish and Syrian Women Amid COVID-19

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SEATTLE, Washington — In the midst of COVID-19, domestic violence rates are rising in Turkey. To combat this, U.N. Women has launched awareness campaigns and utilized Instagram to reach women in lockdown and allow them to share their experiences. U.N. Women is also using digital campaigns to teach Turkish and Syrian women business and computer skills so they can start online businesses and provide for their families during the lockdown. Here are some ways in which digital skills are helping Turkish and Syrian women during COVID-19.

In the midst of COVID-19, domestic violence rates have increased in Turkey, affecting vulnerable women who have been quarantined for months. Instances of domestic violence in Istanbul increased by 38% between 2019 and 2020. In Syria, 17% of women surveyed said they had experienced gender-based violence during COVID-19. In addition, the pandemic has reinforced social norms that disadvantage women, such as increasing domestic work and affecting Turkish women who work in the field of healthcare. According to U.N. data, 50% of Turkish doctors and 70% of Turkish nurses are women. So, women in Turkey are heavily exposed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fighting Inequality Digitally

To combat domestic violence, the U.N. is working with one of Turkey’s largest companies, Aygaz, to spread awareness to the public about increased violence against women. This campaign is an extension of the Say No to Violence Against Women Manifesto that Aygaz released in 2016 to spread information and resources about inequalities against women and offer support to women in need. In addition, the campaign is now highlighting the greater pressures that Turkish women in healthcare are experiencing as they fight COVID-19 on the frontlines.

In addition to the work done with Aygaz, U.N. Women launched an Instagram campaign in May 2020 to give women who are affected by inequality a platform to share their stories and receive encouragement and support while interacting with a common community. Using Instagram, U.N. Women broadcasts questions such as, “What can be done to take the burden from women’s shoulders? How can we make our homes more equal living spaces?” This gives women a chance to voice their concerns. This campaign also helps broadcast important information about violence against women, aiding in the fight to spread awareness and provide help. U.N. Women’s Instagram account increased by 40% since broadcasting.

Digital Skills Improve Economic Opportunities for Women

During the lockdown, U.N. Women is working to provide Turkish and Syrian women online resources to learn skills such as setting up their own online businesses, improving computer literacy and applying various financial skills. COVID-19 has financially impacted many households in Turkey and Syria. Any chance for women to learn business skills improves opportunities for women to earn for their families. This program will extend on work the organization accomplished between 2019 and 2020 during which the U.N. aided 2,800 Turkish and Syrian women in learning skills to help them start online businesses.

In addition to business knowledge, women are also learning online banking skills, coding and even the means to access online shopping and social media sites. In partnership with Habitat Association, U.N. Women has provided training to 2,000 young Turkish and Syrian individuals, making quarantine easier for them as they are able to connect to communities, work from home and access various services digitally.

Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, digital solutions can improve situations for Turkish and Syrian women. As violence increases against women at home, spreading information and awareness about their situations is as important as ever. In addition, utilizing this time to teach Turkish and Syrian women valuable business knowledge and digital literacy skills is invaluable as they continue to prevail through the lockdown.

Anita Durairaj
Photo: Wikimedia

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