50 women’s jobs safeguarded during COVID-19
SPARK provided Syrian and Turkish cooperative, Zeugma, with a financial grant, coaching for digitalisation and links to the leading e-commerce platform, Hepsiburada. Now, this women-led cooperative is recovering, increasing its revenue and creating new jobs.
Gaziantep, a small Turkish city on the country’s southeastern border with Syria, is home to almost half a million Syrian refugees and is known locally as ‘Little Syria’. In 2019, seven Syrian and Turkish women established a cooperative business called Zeugma, producing and selling Gaziantep’s famous heritage and cultural products, including soap, pistachios, almonds and tahini.
Historically, the city of Gaziantep has been famed for its cuisine, carpets and quality products. Zeugma, meaning ‘an ancient Hellenistic era’, employs 50 women part-time and 15 volunteers.
“Our Syrian women need to be included in business life for integration,” says one of Zeugma’s Turkish founders, Serap Kubli. “As Zeugma Women’s Cooperative, we are happy and proud to contribute to the integration process of immigrant women.”
The COVID‑19 crisis has led to a dramatic disruption in people’s livelihoods across Turkey. While Turkey’s government imposed preventive measures to control the outbreak of COVID‑19, the economic impact of the pandemic on businesses across the country has been huge.
Zeugma’s women entrepreneurs faced challenges in selling their goods and services. Many faced the harsh reality of downsizing or permanently closing their businesses. One Syrian member of the cooperative, Nesrin, underlined the impact of the pandemic: “COVID-19 has made it difficult for us to both produce and reach the consumers. It disrupted our plans.”
In this context, SPARK’s programme supporting business resilience through COVID-19, funded by the Qatar Fund for Development, provided Zeugma cooperative with a financial grant to safeguard the women’s jobs during COVID-19. With this grant, the business owners were able to develop new products and packaging relevant to the changing markets during global lockdowns and they purchased an industrial refrigerator. “This grant has been very beneficial for us as it contributes to the fixture payment you needed during the COVID-19 process and supports the continuity of the products”, says Serap Kubli.
The programme also delivered customised coaching sessions in marketing, financial management and business development. The Zeugma team attended a series of customised coaching sessions, for instance, the evaluation showed that During the coaching, the founders discovered they required digitalisation support to transition to e-commerce. They learnt how to assess their customers’ behaviour and improve their brand visibility online.
SPARK’s partner, Innovation for Development (I4D), then supported the enterprise to sell their products through Turkey’s leading e-commerce site, Hepsiburada. In Turkey, 42 women-led businesses and cooperatives have been registered to Hepsiburada and increased their sales by 10% or more. The programme supported 255 women-led enterprises, 1,551 women participated in the programme, of which 157 were refugee or migrant women.
“ COVID-19 created multiple challenges but this programme helped us challenge the pandemic,” concluded Nesrin.