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Diyarbakir Public Laundries and Education Support House

Diyarbakir
Turkey

 

Aiming to facilitate the individual and social rehabilitation of women survivors of displacement and their integration into urban life on an egalitarian and sustainable basis, the Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality developed a public laundry project (in 2001) and an education support house (in 2004). Since the city lacked the structural mechanisms to absorb and accommodate the sudden influx of displaced people, the already existing problems in the fields of poverty, unemployment, urban integration, housing, education, health, etc. intensified. 

Both the public laundries and the education support house are activities bringing a holistic approach to these women as social beings located within an entirety of social relations, not isolated individuals, and integrate individual, social, and institutional aspects of social inclusion and women’s empowerment. 

  1. The Public Laundry project operates public laundries in three of the poorest neighborhoods. Besides offering free laundry facilities to women on a daily basis, and thus relieving the burden of their domestic chores, the public laundries function as multi-purpose women’s centers wherein women socialize and are offered consultancy services on a variety of issues ranging from psychological disorders, unfulfilled suicide attempts, domestic violence and honor killings to unemployment, financial assistance, social insurance, and support for education. Women who use the laundries also join periodic capacity-building classes on literacy, skill-building, reproductive health, and hygiene. Furthermore, they benefit from consciousness-raising activities such as lectures, seminars, and workshops on gender discrimination and women’s rights in order to promote their gender consciousness and self-confidence to struggle against discrimination and for their individual and social rights. These activities also help to stimulate public policy initiatives

  2. In 2004, Baglar Municipality initiated the Education Support House (ESH) project to offer free educational support to disadvantaged children and juveniles of primary school age. The Project envisioned from the outset the interdependence of cognitive, psychic, social, and cultural dimensions of child education and development. Volunteer teachers and trainers were recruited from the Diyarbakir branch of the teachers’ union Egitim-Sen and the Dicle University Student Association. Direct educational support to students in parallel with the school curricula formed the bulk of ESH’s activities for the first two years. In addition, numerous culture and art workshops were opened (i.e. music, painting, cinema, photography, folklore, modern dance, intelligence games, IT, handicrafts, literature, children’s rights, and media), and socio-cultural activities were organized (attendance to movie theaters, concerts, theatre plays, festivals, and tours) to provide children with different means of self-expression through which they would feel freer, more comfortable, and self-confident. These activities facilitated the development of their cultural and artistic sensibilities and skills. The Education Support House designs its activities so as to promote effective participation of children in family and social life; to contribute to children’s cognitive, emotional, and social development in cooperation with all units that make up children’s social environment (family, street, schools); and to raise children’s awareness of internationally recognized rights and develop social awareness and responsibility on children’s rights

Financing: 

The Municipality covers the costs of these policies (more than 150,000 EUR per year) but has the support of activists as well as cooperation protocols with the Turkish Foundation of Family Health and Planning (TAV) and the Foundation for Mother and Child Education (ACEV) to offer literacy classes and training on issues related to reproductive health and family planning. 

Results: 

Since its founding, DIKASUM has offered services to thousands of women through public laundries. Meanwhile, the ESHs offered education support to more than 4000 thousand students in parallel with the school curricula, numerous culture and arts workshops, and a range of socio-cultural activities. In 2006, the Baglar Municipality constructed a new ESH building to meet the increasing popular demand, and to carry out its objectives under physically and technically better conditions. The ESH model has inspired 14 education support centers in the city and the region. The Public Laundries project has prevented suicide among women, enhanced social welfare, supported the struggle against poverty, and gave priority to disadvantaged people in this conflicted area.