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Social Justice

Senem Gül

Senem Gül Encourages Women Participation in Social and Economic Life

On 31 March 2011 Sabancı Foundation's "Turkey's Changemakers" program hosts Senem Gül, who established the First Step Women's Cooperative to encourage women to participate in social and economic life.

Senem Gül is an educator who once worked at a Community Education Center on a temporary contract. When her contract was discontinued, she had to be a stay-at-home mum for a while. During that time, she started to look for ways to participate in work-life and also help other women in that regard.

In 2002, Senem Gül took the cooperative model of a prominent women's NGO in Turkey, Foundation for the Support of Women's Work, and established the First Step Women Cooperative. Located in Nurtepe, a mixed and socially fragmented area with a high proportion of deprived immigrant families, the cooperative aimed to provide child-care and education facilities to empower local women.

Run on a volunteer basis the First Step Women's Cooperative addressed immigrant women's several problems. It offered classes on leadership, communications, computer skills, environmental awareness, and leadership to help immigrant women overcome social exclusion and marginalization. For women who want to work and produce, the cooperative offered workshops on candle-making, giftware box-making, and handbag-making out of waste materials. The cooperative also opened Child Day Care Centers that provided free daycare services for women who are willing to work but cannot afford to do so due to the high cost of child daycare.

As of today, the First Step Women's Cooperative attracted around 4.000 women in Nurtepe. Under the leadership of Senem Gül, the cooperative empowered women through education and helped them establish their own businesses by taking into consideration the motherhood issues.

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