In May 2014 the whole world witnessed the worst industrial disaster of Turkey’s modern history when a mine exploded near Soma, in the Manisa region of western Turkey. Over 300 miners died and many more lost jobs when the unsafe mines were shuttered. The tragedy had both environmental and economic implications as once-fertile farmland areas, devastated by the mines, provided no means of income generation for newly-unemployed miners, or for widows in this poor working-class region where women do not traditionally work outside the home. The disaster left the whole community destitute.
Partnering with the Soma branch of the CYDD, a nationwide NGO in Turkey, AnARt developed a local microenterprise project in Soma funded by the Poverty Alleviation Fund and the Turkish Philanthropy Fund. In March 2015, a group of 24 women took part in a two-week initial workshop on production of contemporary crafts using their traditional skills. The two international designers leading the training have worked on similar projects in Gaza, Nepal, Tibet, Myanmar and India.
An innovative project brings hope
The March workshop resulted in a new women’s enterprise. Soma Artisans create and market unique handmade products using their traditional crochet and needlelace (oya) skills. Their stock include beautiful, useful objects in traditional styles with a modern flair. In one of their most popular lines, children’s lively drawings are adapted with embroidery by their mothers. The children’s creations not only decorate a range of bags and purses, but also inspire designs for toys and puppets. Features of the toys, such as eyes and ears, are made with crochet.
Within a year the Soma Artisans group formed a cooperative, Rota Handicarfts and Food Products Cooperative in order to diversify their programs and include more women.
The profit from sales both locally and internationally enable members of the cooperative to earn a steady income while extending the opportunity to a larger number of participants. Participation has been highly competitive; there is currently a waiting list of 185 women.
Music by Anadolu Quartet (http://www.anadoluquartet.com/tr/)
Uzun Ince Bir Yoldayim (Asik Veysel)
Sari Gelin (Anadolu Quartet)