Project #3: Assistance to Southeastern Turkish Womenʼs Handcraft Cooperative

Project # 3:


Title of Project: Assistance to Southeastern Turkish Womenʼs Handcraft Cooperative


Approximate Start and End Dates: Start Date: already underway, End Date: June 2013


Location of Project: Istanbul and Ömerli-Mardin, Turkey

Requested Funding amount (up to $400): $400


Project Description:

The following are a few key points of a new project that I am tremendously excited about:

  • This past May, a former student of mine invited my wife and me to help a womenʼs work cooperative in Southeastern Turkey to create and market new designs and products.

  • These ÇATOMs (Multi-Purpose Community Centers) were established by the Turkish government to improve the situation of women in the area.

  • The current work they are producing and selling is made extremely well but lacks a contemporary design approach that we could assist them with.

  • We are seeking funding from a variety of sources to buy new tools and materials for the ÇATOM to produce new work.

  • The new designs will debut at an annual exhibition/sale of all ÇATOMʼs work in Istanbul in June 2013.

    It is thrilling to be involved in a project like this where lives are being significantly improved through craft. We hope that you see the value and potential of this project like we do!


    This past May, I was invited by a craft school in Istanbul, Turkey to give a workshop on paper-resin jewelry. In the workshop, I had ten students all from different backgrounds: some hobbyists, some designers, and even a teacher of handcrafts from the southeast of Turkey. Her name is Müjde. She teaches in a womenʼs cooperative in the southeast of Turkey. I learned that there are many women's groups in Turkey who are trying to help rural area women to become more financially independent. These women have little education, so they have difficulty getting good jobs. They get together at this cooperative center and make handcrafts. They have great handskills but they have challenges designing because they donʼt have any design education. This cooperative sent one of their teachers to my workshop in Istanbul to learn the resin-paper technique because they know that they need to learn new techniques. These women generally make jewelry, accessories, and tablecloths through knitting, felting, crocheting, and tatting. However, they keep repeating the same things over and over again. They need designers! So, my wife and I, who is also a designer, decided to help them by brainstorming with them to create new designs.

    In June, we traveled to the village of Ömerli, outside the city of Mardin in the southeast of Turkey, where Müjdeʼs ÇATOM is located. We spent three days there, brainstorming new designs, meeting the other women of the ÇATOM, and learning more about the area. The entire time we all felt like old friends—the personal connection and positive energy was incredible! We returned to the USA in July and have been sharing our recent experiences with many friends and colleagues. It appears that our enthusiasm has been contagious because everyone has been so supportive and encouraging. Several people are even anxious to get personally involved themselves.

    Right now, not many people want to buy the ÇATOMʼs work because they don't make anything original. There is only one problem. We can consult for them for free, but we don't have money to buy materials for them! They need financial support to buy materials because just having some design ideas will not earn them money—they have to actually produce the design. Therefore, my wife and I decided to apply to this grant so that we can help them in providing materials as well. This funding will make a significant positive change in the lives of the women involved.


As this project develops, we have a dream of producing a book about the whole process. This book would have the potential of expanding awareness of the work of the ÇATOMs to an international audience. In the meantime, more information and current updates are available at


The following is general information about Southeastern Turkish womenʼs cooperatives (ÇATOMs) as they are currently structured and supported by several government agencies. The following background text is taken from the following webpage where additional information is available: < centers---catom>

The GAP (Southeasten Anatolian Project) Administration, created by the Turkish national government, is currently engaged in a range of projects that integrate the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development through strategies for poverty alleviation and that focus on participatory approaches and capacity building for disadvantaged groups from a gender perspective. The creation of the Multi-Purpose Community Centers (ÇATOMs) is one of the most significant among these projects. First launched in 1995 in the region, there are now 30 ÇATOMs active in 9 provinces. The target population of these centers are women and young girls.

ÇATOMs are community based and participatory centers established in: the neighborhoods of cities mostly inhabited by rural migrants; district centers; and centrally located villages. Inhabitants of these neighborhoods are mostly persons working informally in marginal, temporary, seasonal and precarious jobs for minimal wages/incomes. Children also have to work to support their families. Any improvement in the social and economic status of women directly improves the family welfare overall. Therefore, besides being a must in terms of human rights, projects designed to improve the status of women contribute significantly to social welfare as well.

The objectives of ÇATOMs are as follows:

  • Creating opportunities for women to become aware of their problems and launch initiatives

    for their solution,

  • Ensuring that women take part in the public sphere and benefit more from available


  • Enhancing female employment and entrepreneurship,

  • Contributing to equal opportunities by empowering women,

  • Starting the process of gender balanced development and developing replicable models

    relevant to local circumstances for participatory community development.

    In the establishment and management of ÇATOMs, local requests are observed and cooperation is made with local lines of the Government while technical assistance is provided by the Development Foundation of Turkey (TKV). In addition to community participation, inter-organizational cooperation is also emphasized and efforts are made to expand cooperation and launch joint projects with local, national and international organizations. The aim is to develop a healthy dialogue between the neediest sections of the population and governmental/civil society organizations.

    ÇATOMs are centers where women are empowered in economic and social terms. Each ÇATOM is a space specially developed for women and this space is used for training, income generating activities and organization of participating women. ÇATOMs are important centers not only in social areas (including female literacy, health education, legal rights, etc.) but also for encouraging women to participate in the labor force. Since the ÇATOM remains there after a cohort of participants completes their courses, their information and skills can be renewed, updated through informal networks, and sustained. Women and young girls earn income by producing either at ÇATOMs or in their homes and may ultimately find jobs. Training and micro financing facilities for those with entrepreneurial skills can even help them start their own businesses. For the past several years, about 200 women have found jobs and 8-10 women have started their own businesses each year.

© 2021   Created by Brigitte Martin.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service